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Chief Executive's Upfront
Future Options For Concrete Industry Standards

Sunday, 9 February 2020  
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As New Zealand struggles to maintain its suite of structural design and material production Standards, is it time to consider a new more streamlined framework for these critical documents?

Rob Gaimster, Chief Executive

This was the question posed by Dave McGuigan, Concrete NZ’s Manager – Structural Performance & Engineering Systems, at the 2019 Concrete NZ Conference in his paper - The Building Code System and a Future Direction for Standards That Support the NZ Concrete Industry. I would like to explore Dave’s thoughts here.

New Zealand operates a performance-based building code system that permits users multiple ways to demonstrate compliance with the New Zealand Building Code. Standards are one way to do this.

The concrete industry is Standards-centric and is expected to remain so, where the use of Standards is encouraged to achieve consistent outcomes.

There are numerous New Zealand Standards for the design, production, testing and construction of concrete. However, many have not had any maintenance for several years. The average age of concrete related Standards since their last revision or amendment is 18 years. This presents an opportunity to consider developing a new framework of concrete Standards.

An option proposed by Concrete NZ is for the suite of concrete Standards, comprised of around 16 documents, to be rationalised into four of five ‘primary’ concrete Standards.

There are several factors contributing to New Zealand’s struggle to maintain its structural design and material production Standards, such as:

·       There is limited support coming from central government agencies. Recent initiatives by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to implement a long-term Standards development programme have stalled.

·       Participating in Standards Committees is voluntary. Potential Committee members are in demand for commissioned work, meaning their willingness to become involved is constrained. As such, financial rewards may be necessary.

·       New Zealand does not operate Standing Committees, which can facilitate succession planning and inform research to support Standards amendments.

In comparison, other jurisdictions routinely maintain Standing Committees and issue updated versions of Standards on regular cycles. For example, the American Concrete Institute document ACI 318 Building Code Requirements for Structural Concrete is routinely revised every three to four years.

Acknowledging that New Zealand struggles to develop and maintain structural Standards, and with a focus on NZS 3101Concrete Structures Standard, adopting a concrete structures design Standard from another jurisdiction (with modifications if required) could be considered. Three alternatives to amending NZS 3101 are:

·       ACI 318 - cited in the International Building Code, and used widely across the United States, Asia and South America.

·       Eurocode 2: Design of Concrete Structures – used across European nations and some Asian countries.

·       Develop a joint AS/NZS concrete structures Standard.

An overarching objective should be to maintain consistency with the other primary structural design Standards used in New Zealand and this could point to a joint AS/NZS for concrete design as the most viable option.

The Loadings (AS/NZS 1170), Timber Structures (NZS/AS 1720.1), Composite Structures (AS/NZS 2327) Steel Structures and Aluminium Structures Standards (AS/NZS 1664.1) are either jointed, going through the process of being jointed, or are giving serious consideration to being joint Standards.

New Zealand concrete and/or masonry Standards end up having a different approach to their development, it should not disadvantage the concrete industry as long as the particular Standard provides a user-friendly method of demonstrating compliance with the Building Code.

It could however lead to a lack of coordination and consistency between the different families of Standards that designers and material suppliers need to use, and the concrete industry Standards may require a different funding mechanism for their ongoing development and maintenance.

During 2020 Concrete NZ will, with an emphasis on NZS 3101, look to analyse options around funding, maintaining and rationalising the current suite of New Zealand concrete Standards, as well as adopting concrete Standards from other jurisdictions.