ASEE Standards in Global Engr Practice by 7uckwj2s


									Presented at ASEE Regional Meeting, Manhattan College, New York, NY, October 26,

International Engineering Standards in Design and Practice

William E. Kelly
Professor of Civil Engineering
The Catholic University of America
Washington, DC 20064


The ABET Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Programs require students to use
engineering standards in the major design experience. Although there is not complete
agreement on what an international standard is, they will increasingly affect engineering
design in all areas of engineering. In addition to using international standards in design,
as part of their preparation for professional practice, it is desirable that graduates
understand how international standards are developed. In this way, they will be better
prepared to participate in standards development processes helping to ensure international
standards encode best engineering practice. This need is recognized in the US National
Standards Strategy which calls for increased efforts to educate future leaders in
engineering, business and public policy on the value and importance of standards.


The purpose of this paper is to outline international standardization processes and their
impact on engineering design; the important role of European and US standards
developers in defining global design practice is emphasized. Examples are given of how
international standardization activities are affecting engineering design suggesting ways
faculty could incorporate standardization issues in teaching engineering design and
practice. It is suggested that student understanding of these and similar issues could also
be used to demonstrate some of the outcomes called for in the ABET Criteria and could
be an important part of students' general education and their introduction to practice
issues in engineering.

The ABET Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Programs (ABET, 2002) require that
students use engineering standards in the major design experience. Part of the incentive
for highlighting engineering standards in the Criteria may have been a recognition of the
increasing importance of "international standards" on engineering design and practice.

What are international standards? The International Organization for Standardization
(ISO) Guide 2 definition is keyed to membership by a national body in an international
organization. However, standards developed by major U.S. standards developing
organizations (SDOs) such as ASTM International (ASTM) and ASME International
(ASME) are used worldwide and are considered by many to be international standards.
The American National Standards Institute's(ANSI) International Committee has taken
the position that an international standard should be defined by the process that is
followed which would be less restrictive than the ISO Guide 2 definition.

International Standards Processes

The European countries and the United States lead in the development of standards and
have major input to the ISO process. The ANSI represents the United States in non-treaty
standards activities and is the U.S. member of the ISO. Membership in ISO is by country.
ANSI is not a government agency and is not a SDO. The International Electrotechnical
Commission (IEC) is the electrical counterpart of ISO and develops and publishes
standards for electric and electronic technologies - areas not covered by ISO. Finally,
there is the International Telecommunications Union (ITU); the ITU recommends and
publishes standards but is fundamentally different from the ISO and IEC. Like the ISO
and IEC it is headquartered in Geneva but governments, rather than private sector
entities, are the members. The ITU is a treaty organization and coordinates global

telecommunications services. The U.S. Department of State advocates for polices in the
telecommunications area including the acceptance of technical standards.

There are two European standards organizations that parallel ISO and IEC. The European
Committee for Standardization (CEN) develops standards in the areas of the ISO and the
European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC) develops
standards in the areas of the IEC. The European Telecommunications Standards Institute
(ETSI) develops telecommunications standards for the European Union. In the European
"new approach", the EU issues a directive, the European standards bodies develop the
standards, and the standards becomes European Standards (EN). These harmonized
standards carry the presumption of conformity throughout the European Union. The new
approach deals with "essential requirements" affecting health and safety so not all areas
are covered.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) Technical Barrier to Trade(TBT) agreement
(WTO, 2002) encourages development of international standards and conformity
assessment systems and efforts to ensure that technical regulations and standards do not
become unnecessary barrier to trade. It encourages use of international standards in
technical regulations except where they would be ineffective. Annex 3 of the TBT
Agreement is a code of good practice for standards. WTO members are required to
notify the WTO Secretariat of all proposed government regulations and conformity
assessment procedures that might significantly affect international trade. The National
Center for Standards and Certification Information (NCSCI) at NIST maintains
information on notifications of proposed foreign regulations issued through the WTO
Secretariat and disseminates them to interested parties in the United States for their
review and comment(Overman and Lay, 1999). NCSCI staff are responsible for notifying
the WTO Secretariat of proposed U.S. technical regulations which may affect trade. An
annual report is available describing TBT Agreement activities.

Globalization effects on standards are relatively easy to see in product manufacturing.
Bottom line - companies that sell products internationally are going to look for
international standards that will allow them to sell in the largest market. In the United
States, most standards are developed in the private sector and the standards process is
private-sector driven. The National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act requires
use of non-government standards where possible. The updated OMB Circular A-119
defines requirements for the use of voluntary consensus standards by federal agencies.
In the EU, the government, as suggested above, has a central role in standards
development particularly in areas affecting health and safety. Taken together, the US and
the EU are the major developers of standards and they can essentially determine what
become international standards (Vogel, 1997).

International Standards Related to Health, Safety and the Environment

Some of the high-visibility standards controversies have been related to environmental
standards. The WTO TBT agreement allows countries to protect their environment and
recognizes that different measures can be appropriate in different settings. However,
technical regulations must not create unnecessary obstacles to international trade. Also,
they should not be more restrictive than necessary to meet their objectives and should
have a reasonable base in scientific-based risk assessment.

Probably, the most well-know case is the EU ban on genetically engineered beef.
However, cases dealing with gasoline are more relevant to this discussion. In 1996 the
WTO ruled that USEPA standards set under the Clean Air Act for imported gasoline
were inconsistent with US obligations under the WTO agreement. The key issue in this
case, according the WTO, is not the standard but that the standard unfairly discriminated
against foreign gasoline. This case was brought to the WTO by Brazil and Venezuela.
As a result of the WTO ruling, the EPA prepared revised regulations that were
implemented in 1997 completing the WTO dispute resolution process.

A fundamental role of government is to protect the health and safety of its citizens. There
are a number of government agencies in the United States that develop and publish
standards designed to protect health and safety and in many cases these become technical
regulations. For the purposes of trade, the WTO defines technical regulations in the WTO
TBT Agreemen. It also provides guidance to be used by members in preparing, adopting
and implementing technical regulations.

Standards and Design

The new ABET Criteria require students to use engineering standards in the major design
experience. Relevant standards should be consulted early in the design process and since,
as suggested above, many companies want their products to be accepted in the global
market, students could be expected to look to see if their product is likely to be covered
by an EU Directive. According to the most recent report by the U.S. Trade
Representative, the European Union continues to be the U.S.'s largest trading partnerand,
as such, is a large market for US goods and services.

NIST has a number of publications that students could be directed to to learn about the
EU Directives that could affect their design project. NIST Special Publication 951 (NIST,
2000) gives an overview of the European process. A table is included which shows the
product fields affected by the new approach. Areas covered by directives include:
medical devices, construction products, machinery, and low voltage equipment.

A series of reports are available dealing with directives in different sectors which
students could consult for details specific to their project area. These documents provide
more detail than NIST SP 951 but are linked to this document. An example is the guide
to the machinery directive (NIST, 2001). The essential requirements deal with health and
safety and this NIST report includes a discussion of health and safety issues specific to
machinery. ABET Criterion 4, in addition to requiring students to use engineering
standards, also expects them to incorporate realistic constraints that include the following
considerations: economic; environmental; sustainability; manufacturability; ethical;

health and safety; social; and political. A discussion of the machinery directive would be
a relatively straightforward way for students to get a feel for some of these considerations
as they relate to the design of machinery.

There are guides related to medical devices, the low voltage directive, and other sector-
specific issues as well as more general guides dealing with issues such as product liability
and product safety. All of these documents are available for downloading from the NIST

These sector guides could be used to provide background for the major design
experience in mechanical, electrical and biomedical engineering and the general guide for
all areas. They provide a framework that could be useful in developing design constraints
that address the considerations listed in Criterion 4. In addition, discussions can be built
around the major design experience that are relevant to some of the outcomes listed in
Criterion 3.

The requirement for the general education component (Criterion 4) is that it complement
the technical content of the curriculum. Certainly putting many of the standards issues in
their societal context would fit this definition. As an example, many companies are
looking to address what is being called the "triple bottom line" - society, economic and
environment considerations. In this case, three of the considerations mentioned in
Criterion 3 are specifically being considered. The ISO may consider developing a
standard to "operationalize" corporate society responsibility. Here engineering
considerations would be part of an overall part of a business strategy.

An introduction to the international aspects of codes and standards could also useful in
demonstrating some of the outcomes in Criterion 3.

Policy Aspects

As mentioned above, ANSI represents the United States internationally in non-treaty
standards discussions. Over the last ten years, there have been major changes in
European standards processes as the EU implemented its "new approach." The directives
have already been referred to above in the discussion of design considerations.
However, it may also be useful for students to consider the policy aspects of standards in
the European Union. The new approach deals specifically with health and safety so that
standards developed for the directives serve to ensure that government goals for health
and safety are achieved.

The WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade Annex 3 is code of good practice
for standards to which any standards body within the territory of a WTO member body
may subscribe. ANSI has notified acceptance of the WTO TBT Code of Good Practice
for the Preparation, Adoption and Application of Standards.

The Code expects that standards bodies in member subscribing countries will fully
participate in the development of relevant standards. This is true for both standards and
technical regulations which are defined separately in Annex 1. Since the U.S. system is
private-sector driven and has relatively little government funding relative to other
countries, this poses special challenges for the U.S. in ensuring appropriate participation.

Although larger companies have tended to support standards work internationally,
continuing globalization will make international codes and standards more relevant to
firms of all sizes. The high cost of international participation is a barrier to participating
but it can be expected that the growing use of the Internet is all its forms will make
participation more affordable. The incentive to make more effective use of electronic
tools is not only to reduce cost but also to speed up the processes. This will likely have
the side benefit of opening up participation.

Standards Education

International standards will become increasingly important for all engineers not just those
working internationally. Although there is a great deal of information available on
standards it not currently organized in a way that is easily accessible for students and
faculty. As mentioned above, the first issue is background for students to use in their
areas of design. It would be useful to define what basic standards students should consult
in the main areas of engineering. For example, students in civil engineering should
consult model and local building codes, and supporting standards and design codes.

At the national and international level, what standards should students be familiar with
and how should this be done? At MIT, mechanical engineering students are directed to
search the National Standards network to see if a standard is ANSI approved. MIT has all
ANSI approved standards in its library, along with ASTM and IEEE (electronic access)
standards. It also maintains SAE aerospace and ground vehicle standards. The National
Standards Network may be accessed for free at Although the
NSSN originally stood for the national standards system network it is now much broader
and is a good starting point for students to research international standards.

Access to ISO standards may be limited for many students. However, there is some
information on ISO processes available on the ISO web site that students can consult.

ANSI is developing on-line courses on standards that should provide a base of knowledge
about standards that graduates can build on. In practice, engineers will certainly need an
in-depth knowledge of the standards in their field of specialization but also should learn
about the process of developing standards in their field of specialization. General
information on standards development processes is available for some of the engineering
societies and some of the SDOs such as ASTM International on the web. The best way to
learn about standards development processes is by membership on a U.S. standards
writing committee and participating in its international activities.


International standards will be increasingly important for practice in all engineering
fields. Students should be introduced to the basics of standards and some detail relevant
to their field of specialization as part of their undergraduate program to satisfy ABET
Criterion 4.

The importance of trade to the practice of engineering varies in the different fields but all
students would benefit by developing an appreciation of the roles of standards and
technical regulations in trade. There are number of ways this could be done including
explicitly including consideration of international standards in the senior design

There are extensive materials on all aspects of standards available on the web with much
of it freely accessible. What is needed is some cataloging and some case history
examples of use demonstrating the importance of international standards in specific
engineering projects. It would also be useful to have in-depth examples of the effect of
technical regulations on design.


Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc (ABET) 2002 Criteria for
Accrediting Engineering Programs, Baltimore, MD

ANSI National Standards Strategy for the United States,

European Union, New Approach

NIST 2000 NIST Special Publication 951 A Guide to EU Standards and Conformity

NIST 2001 NIST GCR 01-814 A Guide to the EU Machinery Directive,

Overman, J.R., and Lay, A.D. 1999 TBT Agreement Activities of the National Institute of
Standards and Technology, 1998, NISTIR 6363,

World Trade Organization, 2002, The WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade,

Vogel, D. 1997 Barriers or Benefits? Regulation in Transatlantic Trade, Brookings
Institution Press, Washington, DC, 80 pp.


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