SABS Standards Matters

The future of SABS 1200, SANS 2001, SANS 1921 and CESMM3 5 October 2011

Dear Colleagues

The future of SABS 1200, SANS 2001, SANS 1921 and CESMM3 

The SABS secretariat decided during January 2011 to conduct a straw poll without contextualizing the issues – “SABS is now proposing that we continue to support, develop and maintain the SANS 1200 series of Standards. These would be developed in parallel with the SANS 2001 docs, so that end users have a choice of which to use.”  

The document “The changing landscape for civil engineering contracts: moving on from SABS 1200provides a comprehensive background to the development of SABS 1200, SANS 2001, SANS 1921 and the Southern African edition of CESMM3. It contextualizes the issues at hand and is worth reading in order to better understand the merits of SABS’s conclusion. 

In summary, SABS 1200 was developed in the late 1970s for use with Civil Engineering Quantities (CEQ73) and GCC 1982 for the design by employer contracting strategy. SABS 0120 code of practice provided guidance on the use of SABS 1200 and informed the way in which tenders were compiled and formatted. Most parts of SABS 1200 have not been modified since the mid 1980s and the last additions or minor amendments to the series were made in 1996. Significant changes in materials have occurred since then with respect to cements and pipe systems, amongst others 

The SABS Technical Committee (TC 59) took the decision in 2000 to convert SABS 1200 into two families of standards, namely the SANS 1921, Construction and management requirements for works contracts, and SANS 2001, Construction works.  All reference to the responsibilities of the Engineer and the Contractor  were removed from the text and no measurement and payment items were included. This enables these standards to be used with any pricing or contracting strategy at main or subcontract level and with any conditions of contract in an objective manner. All parts of SANS 1921 were published in 2005. Most parts of SANS 2001 have now been published. All that remains is for the road works and piling parts to be published.

The SABS 1200 standards relating to concrete were withdrawn when SANS 2001-CC1 and SANS 2001-CC2 were published in 2007. This caused some confusion as the system of measurement was still embedded in SABS 1200 and until such time that an alternative system was in place, industry would have no access to these SABS standards. The Southern African edition of Civil Engineering Standard System of Measurement (CESMM3) has now been published and can be used with any specifications whether they be standardised or bespoke and with any of the forms of contract in use in South Africa. This has addressed the concerns that were raised. 

What is agreed is that SABS 1200 is very outdated and is in need of a major overhaul.  What is also clear is that there are well thought out modern alternatives to SABS 1200 which can be used. One has to question why SABS should invest in updating the SABS 1200 / SABS 0120 system when all that is outstanding is the completion of the piling and roadwork parts of SANS 2001 to modernize civil engineering construction practices. It is also not good practice to have two series of national standards covering substantially the same subject matter – it defeats the objective of standardization. Industry needs to move on from SABS 1200.Kind regards

Dr Ron Watermeyer
Past Chairman of ICE-SA 
Past Chair of SABSTC1098 responsible for the SABS1200 Series of Standards