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Revolutionising geotechnical design

Colin Serridge reports on the forthcoming second generation of European geotechnical design codes

Words by Dr Colin Serridge
26 June 2024

The Eurocodes, the foundation for geotechnical design across Europe and beyond, are being overhauled. (Photo by Saad Salim on Unsplash)

The Eurocodes are a cornerstone for structural and geotechnical design across Europe and beyond. Developed by the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) and originally published some 20 years ago, the Eurocodes comprise ten standards that specify how structural design should be conducted within the European Union. The Eurocode suite has been undergoing a major overhaul to produce the second generation of Eurocodes.

Evolution of Eurocode 7

Of particular interest to geoscientists and geological engineers is a suite of codes that fall under Eurocode 7, ‘Geotechnical Design’ (EN 1997; see box ‘Transition to second generation’).  Revision of this code began over ten years ago, initially spearheaded by Evolution Groups (EGs) comprising major National Standards Bodies, including the British Standards Institution (BSI). The EGs reviewed the first-generation Eurocodes, identifying areas for improvement, clarification, and simplification (including removal of unnecessary jargon), as well as greater harmonisation of design approaches.

Various task groups then took the EGs’ proposals forward, updating and drafting new versions of the standards. Finally, a series of reviews and consultations with both the public and National Standards Bodies, including the BSI Committee B/526 in the UK, ensure a comprehensive approach. The new Eurocode 7 aims to offer a detailed methodology for geotechnical design, promoting a more defined and consistent design environment where risk is formalised.

As a precursor to publication of the second-generation Eurocode 7, an updated lead code ‘Basis of structural and geotechnical design’ (BS EN 1990: 2023) was published in August 2023. This new lead code covers the basis and theory for geotechnical design (previously included in EN 1997-1: ‘General rules’ for Eurocode 7). An integral part of the design process, the new lead code and revised Eurocode 7 should be used in conjunction and regarded as an interlocking set of standards.

Dissemination and training

Efforts to disseminate the content and practical applications of the second-generation Eurocode 7 are ramping up. Details of the timeline for the final completion and publication of the second-generation Eurocode 7 were provided by Bond (2023), while webinars and training events facilitated by the Netherlands Normalisatie Instituut provide practical insights and guidance for practitioners through worked examples of calculation models. Similar initiatives are expected in the UK and elsewhere, to ensure widespread understanding and adoption of these new standards, which will ultimately enhance safety and reliability in geotechnical engineering.

Transition to second generation

The first-generation Eurocode 7 ‘Geotechnical Design’ included two main parts:

  • EN 1997-1: 2004: General rules
  • EN 1997-2: 2007: Ground investigation and testing

The second-generation Eurocode 7 introduces several notable changes, particularly in its titles and scope. A new Part 3 code is introduced. The revised standards are:

  • prEN 1997-1: 202X: General rules
  • prEN 1997-2: 202X: Ground properties (focusing on obtaining ground properties for design)
  • prEN 1997-3: 202X: Geotechnical structures (detailing specific rules for their design)

(Where X denotes the year the code will be published (see Bond, 2023)

These updates offer a more defined approach to geotechnical design that aims to streamline processes and reduce risk through standardisation.

Find out more about the Eurocodes at https://eurocodes.jrc.ec.europa.eu/


Colin Serridge

Dr Colin J. Serridge is an Engineering Geologist in the Specialist Ground Improvement industry and a Senior Lecturer in Earth Sciences at Edge Hill University, UK.

Further reading

  • Bond, A.J. (2023) Technical Note: Timeline and Improvements for the second generation of Eurocodes. Ground Engineering Magazine. November 2023.
  • BS EN 1990:2023, Eurocode: Basis of structural and geotechnical design, British Standards
  • Eurocodes: Building the Future; https://eurocodes.jrc.ec.europa.eu/

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