Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Civil & Environmental Engineering : Standards

Using this page

Standards are often critical to your work; they're also often expensive! The library is here to help you get access to the standards you need, and this page provides an overview of the resources and services available, including an introduction to standards and why they're important, access to standards the library subscribes to, search strategies to figure out which standards may apply to your work, and how to request a standard the library doesn't have access to.

You can also watch this brief webinar - How do I get free access to the standards I need? A Bite-Sized Webinar - for an overview of this information. If you have any questions, please contact me at j.bolognese@northeastern.edu

Standards 101

What is a standard?

A standard is a document that defines specifications for design, performance, or process, as agreed upon by experts.  

According to International Standards Organization (ISO), you can think of a standard as "a formula that describes the best way of doing something". This short video breaks down the ISO's official definition of standards and what each part means (click 'next' for the second part).

Why are standards important?

This tutorial by engineering librarians at Purdue calls out these key benefits of using standards:

  • Cost savings - verified, consistent processes help companies maximize use of resources and eliminate waste.
  • Interoperability - different companies make different parts, and following standards ensures that their components will work together.
  • Safety - standards help ensure that companies make high quality products that are safe to use
  • Promote international trade - consistency of products means that consumers have options, and manufacturers can sell their products in other countries

How can I learn more?

What if the library doesn't have the standard I need?

Due to the high cost and wide variety of standards, the library is not able to subscribe to all of them. However, we may be able to purchase standards for individual use by request, depending on the price and format of the standard, and available budget.

To request a standard, please email Jodi Bolognese, the Engineering Librarian at j.bolognese@northeastern.edu with the full title and number of the standard(s), for example "ISO 14688-1 - Geotechnical investigation and testing - Identification and classification of soil. Part 1 - Identification and Description". We will investigate purchase options via Madcad.com or IHS Markit and (if budget allows) work with you to gain access.

Accessing ISO and IEC Standards

The library provides access to many UNE and EN versions of ISO and IEC standards via ASTM Compass. This means that the Spanish national standards organization (UNE) and/or the European Union (EN) have adopted the original international standard (from ISO or IEC) for their own use.

To search for a specific UNE-EN standard in ASTM Compass:

  • Login to ASTM Compass using your Northeastern login and password
  • From the search options dropdown, select "My Subscription"
  • Search the number of the standard only. (Do not include the IEC or ISO prefix.)

For example:

cid103514*image001.png@01D84F46.67951C40

If you include the IEC or ISO prefix or other information in your search, or select the "All" option, your search may bring back the international version of your standard, and you will hit a paywall. But if you follow these guidelines, the UNE-EN versions should rise to the top of your results list, and you will be able to access and download the full text.

Is the content for UNE and EN standards the same as the ISO or IEC versions?

Yes, typically the content is the same, with a few exceptions:

  • The cover page or foreword typically reflects the adopting country. This means that for some UNE standards, the foreword may be in Spanish, even if the rest of the standard is in English. You may see some alternate spellings in the standards as well.
  • When the standard was published. For example, a standard may have been published by IEC in 2019, then adopted and issued by UNE and EN in 2020. That difference would be reflected in the standard's title, for example IEC 61400-1:2019 is equivalent to UNE-EN 61400-1:2020. 
  • Amendments are sometimes not consolidated. For example, an amendment to IEC 62304:2006 was issued in 2015. In the IEC version, the two are published together: IEC 62304:2006 / A1:2015 CSV (CSV stands for 'consolidated version'). In the UNE-EN version, the amendment is published separate: UNE-EN 62304:2007/A1:2016.

Is it ok to use the UNE EN versions for my project?

For class assignments, the UNE EN versions of standards are often fine to use. For example, some standards available in UNE EN versions via ASTM Compass that are commonly used for classes are IEC 60601, IEC 61400, ISO 13485:2016, ISO 14971:2019, IEC 62304:2006 +A1:2016, and ISO 11138:2017.

For other uses, such as in legal cases or developing products that will require government approvals, the UNE EN versions may not be acceptable.

If you're not sure, you may want to ask your professor or advisor.

If you need original ISO and IEC standards for your research, please contact me at j.bolognese@northeastern.edu and we will determine whether it's possible to purchase them on your behalf.

What standards does the library have access to?

The library provides access to the following standards. Please note that some subscriptions limit access to one user at a time. 

Standards Databases:

Also provides full text access to many UNE and EN versions of ISO and IEC standards. For more information about these alternate versions, please read the Accessing ISO and IEC Standards section of this page.

Individual Standards:

Here are some of the individual standards the library currently subscribes to. These may change from year to year, depending on the needs of faculty and student. If you have questions about a particular standard, please email j.bolognese@northeastern.edu

Please note that some standards are only available to one user at a time, so if you're not able to access something try logging in again a bit later. 

Some standards providers offer free or low-cost read-only access to standards on their websites. Lists of providers with links to available standards can be found on this page from ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and this page from NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology).

Looking for ISO or IEC standards?

The library provides access to many UNE and EN versions of ISO and IEC standards via ASTM Compass (link). This means that the Spanish national standards organization (UNE) and/or the European Union (EN) have adopted the original international standard (from ISO or IEC) for their own use. Please read the Accessing ISO and IEC Standards section of this page for more information about how to find these standards in ASTM Compass, typical differences between versions, and when the UNE and EN versions are appropriate to use.

Looking for OSHA or other U.S. government-based standards?

For full text access to OSHA and other U.S. government-based standards, use the e-Code of Federal Regulations website, a database of government documents maintained by the U.S. National Archives as an e-version of the annually published official Code of Federal Regulations. The e-version is generally updated within 1-2 days of any changes to the documents.

Not sure which standards you need?

Here are a few places you can search for relevant standards. 

If you find a useful standard but the full text is behind a paywall, the library may be able to purchase a copy for you. Please contact the Engineering Librarian (Jodi Bolognese at j.bolognese@northeastern.edu) for help.

  • ANSI Webstore - ANSI standards for American National Standards Institute, and their web store provides a simple keyword search for a wide range of standards developers.
  • Document Center - this standards web store offers options to search by topicindustry sector, and category (ICS Codes - International Classification for Standards) so may be a good option for browsing standards related to your area of interest.
  • IHS Markit Standards Store - a searchable web store for standards, specifications and related technical documents from military, commercial, national and international standards organizations. It requires separate registration, so you'll need to create an account. Then, you can search IHS Engineering Workbench for standards related to your topic.
  • Research databases - some standards may be indexed in research databases, such as Engineering Village. Login using your Northeastern credentials and search for your topic. Then on the left side of the results screen, use the Document Type filter for 'Standard'.
  • Standards Developing Organization (SDO) websites - organizations that develop standards often have useful search and browse options on their websites. For example, if you're working on an automotive and aerospace application, you could search the SAE International website. To find SDOs related to your topic, try a Google search, or browse this list of SDOs.

Search tips:

  • If you find a potentially useful standard, see if there's a preview or summary you can review to decide if the standard is important for your work.
  • If you're having trouble finding relevant standards, consider synonyms. For example, "life jacket" could be referred to as "life preserver" or "personal flotation device". Don't forget to use parentheses to search key terms as a phrase, rather than individual words.