Metric Design: It's Real

by Rita Robison, Constributing Editor; Civil Engineering Magazine, ASCE, 345 E. 47th St., New York, NY 10017,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1993, Vol. 63, Issue 6, Pg. 66-69

Document Type: Feature article


Metric construction is coming out of the ground in the U.S. as well as in the rest of the world. It's no longer something to be considered someday, somewhere. Metric—the Systeme International (SI)—is here. Prime mover in the conversion from inch-pound to mm-meter is the General Services Administration, which acts as owner on behalf of various federal agencies. While other arms of the federal government issue press releases about future highway signs in kilometers and milk in liters, GSA is issuing bid documents. In Congress and elsewhere, stiff resistance to legislation requiring full metric compliance by September 1992 led to new deadline of Jan. 1, 1994. GSA is $11 billion ahead of that deadline, according to Otto Schick, project manager in the agency's Philadelphia office. He counts projects that are in stages from planning onwards as in design and construction, and says that the agency is adding $200 million a month to that total. Almost every federal agency is in the process of converting. Schick, who spends half his time aiding other federal agencies, gives the three rules: 1) 95% of a project is physically the same as it was before; only 5% involves hard metrics.2) No dual dimensioning is allowed. 3) Professional roundings are required such as 2700 mm instead of the exact conversion of 2735 mm for an existing 9 ft door. GSA ia compiling a directory of US manufacturers who are or can produce products in hard metric sizes. Engineers, architects and contractors who have worked in metric say that there is no cost penalty involved.

Subject Headings: Federal government | Metric systems | Owners | Traffic signs | Bids | Load and resistance factor design | Legislation | Managers | United States | Philadelphia | Pennsylvania

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