Developing better design standards for the construction industry

  • Mariapia Angelino

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisEngineering Doctorate (EngD)


Design standards are fundamental documents for civil and structural engineers, in particular as a key means by which the acceptability of designs can be verified. The scale of construction projects means that there are few opportunities to prototype, thus design verification is fundamentally standard-driven. Despite their importance, very limited attention has been paid by the research community to explore what “good” design standards are and how they can be improved.
The aim of this thesis is to explore this unaddressed yet important topic by bringing together a critical cross-disciplinary review of academic and industrial research and real experiences in the development and application of design standards. Brainstorming sessions with practitioners, interviews of standards writers and five live projects have been employed to develop a detailed contextual understanding of real challenges and practical solutions in the development of good design standards with a specific focus on their usability.
To set the basis for this research, the role of design standards is explored. Core roles are established and new roles relevant to a future and ‘smarter’ construction industry are suggested. Armed with this initial understanding, the challenges in development and use of design standards are investigated. This exploration reveals a complex socio-technical context, in which the strategies for enhancing technical provisions are typically interwoven with often competing stakeholders’ needs, varying designers’ skills, inherent tensions, and a multitude of technical, procedural, political, social and economic factors.
Findings of this research reveal that, to develop better design standards, two elements have to be improved: (i) their content and (ii) the standardisation system. These are used as a basis to develop a practical framework to support decision-making of standards’ writers. Individual properties and processes within the framework are augmented by relevant strategies for their management. Solutions are recommended for potential issues associated with the identified strategies.
Date of Award7 May 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorJitendra Agarwal (Supervisor), Katsuichiro Goda (Supervisor) & Steve Denton (Supervisor)

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