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Engineering: Standards

About Standards

What are standards?

A standard is a document that establishes a rule or measure (either minimum or optimum) for quality or level of performance. Standards establish uniform characteristics for materials and methods of measurement.

Where do standards come from?

A standard can be produced and/or adopted by professional associations or societies, trade organizations, governments, national standards organizations, international standards organizations, or private companies. Examples of professional societies that publish engineering standards include ASCE, ASME, IEEE, and SAE. 

Standards may be adopted nationally and internationally.  In the United States, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) coordinates standards produced by many other organizations. International standards are produced by organizations such as the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission). Engineers may also encounter standards from other countries such as Germany (DIN), Japan (JIS), or the UK (BSI).

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

IEEE Standards University

Book: Primer on Engineering Standards

Locating Standards

How do I find standards?

Standards can be difficult to locate.  They are issued irregularly and the citation you have may not be the most recent version.  Standards can also be deleted, or updated and superseded under a different name.  Identify which organization or agency published the desired standard to determine where to begin your search.

Some standards are indexed in full-text subscription databases, such as those published by ASTM and IEEE.  Some standards are freely available from government or organization websites.  Find links to common sources on this guide page. 

Other organizations, such as SAE, publish standards as books, which may be in print format only.  Search for standards titles in the library catalog.  However, many such standards will not be available in the UW library collection, as they can be quite expensive to purchase and/or their copyright and licensing terms do not permit posting and sharing. 

If you cannot locate the standard you need, use the Interlibrary Loan service, and the library's interlibrary loan staff will try to locate a copy.  Be aware that standards can also be difficult to locate and borrow via interlibrary loan from other libraries, though. 


Search the UW Catalog

Vendors of Engineering Standards

ASABE Standards


ANSI IBR Standards Portal

ISO Standards with Free Access

NASA Standards

Free NFPA Codes & Standards