Skip to Main Content

Engineering Standards: A Guide

This guide highlights information on how to acquire and use engineering standards as well as links to standards resources

Need a Standard?

Are you looking for a standard for your research or projects that we currently do not have? We may be able to help! Please email and provide the title of the standard, the organization or agency who owns the standard, as well as the standard code and reason why you need the standard.including course number or competition name, and professor.

What are Standards?

Standard – A set of technical definitions, instructions, rules, guidelines, or characteristics set forth to provide consistent and comparable results, including:

  • Items manufactured uniformly, providing for interchangeability
  • Tests and analyses conducted reliably, minimizing the uncertainty of the results
  • Facilities designed and constructed for safe operations

Who Creates Standards and Why Aren't They Free?

Whereas information pertaining to the name and number of the standard is fairly easy to locate, finding and accessing the full text of a standard may be a difficult task. This is because standards can be classified as:

  • Propriety - For internal or private use (e.x., standards to follow within a company). Virtual impossible to locate. 
  • By Consensus- Created by a standards developing organization (ex., ASTM, ASME, IEE). These standards are usually very expensive. Creating standards is a lengthy and costly process. The purchase of a written standard goes towards the cost of writing said standard
  • Governmental - Created by federal government agencies (e.x., FDA, DOT). Often freely available to the public. Assigned by regulating code of that governing body

Things to Consider

  • Voluntary standards: Standards are pretty much all voluntary because they serve to formalize procedures or act as guidelines. Standard Development Organizations (SDO) cannot force any manufacturer, inspector, installer to follow a specific Standard (STD). That doesn’t mean someone who does not follow a STD can be held liable. If references in a government regulation – they basically become mandatory . Common in health fields
  • Mandatory standards: Are  basically Codes - organized collections of mandatory standards that have been made into law by a governmental authority.Also mandatory if they are written into a business contract. Think fire safety building codes.
  • Frequent updates: Standards get reviewed and updated fairly frequently. Be sure to check that the standard you are using is the most current one available. 
  • Copyright and Intellectual Property: Most non-Governmental standards are proprietary and charge a high cost $$$ for others to use their standards. SDO want to protect their property and investment by making it difficult to share or save copies legally. See "Using Standards" for more information.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.