What does CE marking of construction products mean for designers and specifiers?
10 April 2014
Authors: Sarah Neary BE MBA CEng MIEI, Senior Advisor – building standards, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; and John Wickham BSc Eng Dip Eng CEng MIEI MIStructE, Advisor – building standards, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government
Since July 2013, CE Marking is mandatory for construction products covered by harmonised European Standards (hENs), when placed on the market. CE Marking for construction products is not a quality mark. Designers and specifiers must be aware of and understand the common technical language used in the hENs.
The primary aim of the Construction Products Regulation (EU) No 305/2011 (CPR) is to remove technical barriers to the trade of construction products, while ensuring that reliable information on the performance of construction products is available. The CPR achieves this by establishing a common technical language, which is used:
- By manufacturers when declaring product performance,
- By national authorities when specifying requirements for products, and
- By users when choosing products most suitable for their intended use in construction works.
Whilst the CPR is concerned with the conditions that apply when placing a product on the market, this article is aimed at those at the receiving end of this supply chain, e.g. end users of construction products, designers, specifiers and purchasers. It is important that they are fully aware and understand the labeling and technical language used for construction products.
The primary requirement of the CPR is that, from 1 July 2013, manufacturers, when placing a construction product on the market, which is covered by hENs, must make a Declaration of Performance (DoP) for the product and affix the CE Mark. While CE Marking was not considered mandatory in Ireland (nor the UK and some Nordic countries) under the Construction Products Directive EC 89/106, it is under the CPR.
In the case of a product not covered or not fully covered by a harmonised standard, a manufacturer can voluntarily request a European Technical Assessment based on a European Assessment Document (EAD) in order to draw up a DoP and affix the CE Mark.
What is a declaration of performance
The DoP constitutes then the key element in the functioning of the Internal Market for construction products by providing it with the necessary transparency and by establishing a clear system of allocation of the responsibilities between actors. The manufacturer, by drawing up his DoP, assumes the responsibility for the conformity of the construction product with the declared performance.
The DoP provides detailed information about the declared performance of the construction product in relation to theessential characteristics of the product in accordance with the relevant harmonised technical specification. A copy of the DoP must be supplied to the recipient (e.g. purchaser, user etc.) of the construction product either in paper form or by electronic means.
It should be noted that compliance with the CPR or CE Marking by itself does not necessarily indicate that the material is suitable for use in particular works, as this legislation is about placing products on the market. Therefore, when incorporating or specifying a construction product into or for construction works, it is essential that the declared performance of a product is fit for the use in which it is intended.
In order to understand the declared performance, the system of harmonised technical specifications must be understood (see below).
CE marking on a construction product
The CE Marking follows the DoP and means that the manufacturer has strictly followed all the applicable procedures for drawing up his DoP and, consequently, the DoP is accurate and reliable. Firstly, the CE Marking should be visible to the recipient (such as the purchaser or user) of the construction product. It should be affixed to the product or to a label attached to the construction product or, under certain circumstances, to the packaging or the accompanying documents.
The CE Marking will provide basic information on the manufacturer, the product itself and any third party involved in the assessment, along with the reference number of the DoP, the hEN or EAD applied and the levels or classes of the performance declared for essential characteristics. CE Marking is the only marking that can be associated with the essential characteristics of the product. No other marking (e.g. National Marks) can make reference to the performance of essential characteristics.
The CE Marking for construction products is a tool to communicate information, like for example a passport; it is not a mark of quality. The CE Marking indicates that the manufacturer is taking responsibility for the conformity of the construction product with the declared performance (in the DoP) and for compliance with the CPR and other relevant Union harmonisation providing for affixing CE Marking. The CPR does not set any requirements for the performance of construction products.
What are harmonised specifications?
There are two types of harmonised technical specifications: firstly the hENs, which are generally for traditional construction products, and secondly, the EADs for products not covered or not fully covered by the hENs.
Both hENs and EADs provide:
- Assessment methods for the performance of construction products,
- The applicable factory production control process,
- The technical details necessary for the implementation of the system of assessment and verification of constancy of performance, and
- The procedure for CE Marking.
There are five systems of assessment and verification of constancy of performance (Systems 1+, 1, 2+, 3 and 4). Each system involves a varying degree of third-party involvement in factory product control and/or testing. ‘System 1+’ has the greatest third-party involvement and ‘System 4’ has no third-party involvement.
The European Commission establishes which system or systems are applicable to a product. The system for each product is then referred to in the relevant harmonised technical specification and the tasks for the manufacturer and third party are clearly detailed.
The third-party function can only be carried out by notified bodies; these are bodies specially designated to carry out this work. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government is the designating authority for notified bodies in Ireland. There are three types of notified body:
- Product certification bodies,
- Factory production control certification bodies, and
- Testing laboratories.
A list of all notified bodies is available here.
While there are many similarities in the format of hENs and EADs, there is one notable difference between how they are dealt with under the CPR. Under the CPR, since 1 July 2013:
- Manufacturers of construction products which are covered by harmonised hENs are required, when placing a product on the market, to make a DoP for the product, and affix the CE Marking, while
- Manufacturers of construction products not covered or not fully covered by hENs are not obliged to take any action. However, if a manufacturer wishes to affix a CE Marking, an EAD may be developed and used as a basis for the process for a particular product.
An EAD provides the basis on which aEuropean Technical Assessment (ETA), as requested by the manufacturer, can be issued and a CE Marking affixed. There are some 2900 ETAs issued under the CPD. Given that the majority of common construction products are covered by hENs, we will focus on them for the purpose of this article.
What are harmonised European standards?
Currently, there are over 420 hENs covering a broad range of construction products. For the last decade, hENs have increasingly become the norm across Europe and in Ireland as they replace conflicting national standards. The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) and the British Standards Institute are obliged to withdraw conflicting national standards with the same scope as a hEN within a defined period. A list of hENs is available here.
All hENs under the CPD have an informative Annex ZA. In general, this annex contains three parts:
- ZA.1: a list of product characteristics as well as the clauses in the standard in which the assessment or test method is set out or referred to. The list represents a compilation of all regulated requirements for the product in question across the EU,
- ZA.2: the procedures for conformity assessment, namely the tasks to be carried out by the manufacture and the notified body. This is known as the system of Assessment of Performance and Verification of Constancy under the CPR, and
- ZA.3: the process for CE Marking and labeling.
For engineers, architects, specifiers and builders, the transition to harmonised standards for construction products has represented a major change. Traditionally, national product standards, Irish standards or British standards were prescriptive in relation to performance and the appropriate uses to which products could be put. The hENs differ in this regard, as they provide harmonised testing methods, declaration methods and conformity assessment rules. They do not, in general, set the levels of performance required for certain end uses.
The NSAI has produced additional guidance to some hENs in the form of National Annexes or Standard Recommendations (SRs), which set out appropriate minimum performance levels for specific intended uses of the product in Ireland using the common technical language of the hENs.
A list of these can be viewed on the NSAI website. Engineers, architects, specifiers and builders are free to demand performance in excess of these levels.
Transition from Directive to Construction Products Regulation
The Construction Products Directive (CPD) was introduced in 1992 as an internal market Directive with an overarching objective to overcome the technical barriers to trade which arise where different countries in Europe have different standards, testing and labeling approaches for the same construction products.
The CPD enjoyed many successes, but the inconsistent implementation of the CPD across Europe was a perceived as a major weakness, hence the revision of the Directive to a Regulation. As a Regulation, it has direct legal effect in each Member State.
On 1 July 2013, the CPD was repealed and replaced with the CPR. However, the CPR will continue to use many of the instruments developed for the CPD e.g. the harmonised technical specifications, systems of assessment, framework of notified bodies. It also introduces stricter and more transparent procedures and amends some of the terminology in order to be more precise.
Ultimately, the CPR is intended to clarify, simplify and improve the credibility of the system. In this regard, the CPR introduces a ‘chain of custody’ approach within the supply chain for construction products being placed on the market. This results in a legal obligation on agents/importers and distributors/retailers to ensure the products they handle are indeed compliant with the CPR. Further information on the new obligations and responsibilities of manufacturers, importers and distributors can be found here.
Agents/importers and distributors/retailers may inherit the responsibilities of a manufacturer if they place products on the market under their own name/brand or modify a product. The modification must be such that the conformity with the DoP may be affected.
Implementation of the CPR in Ireland
In order to give full effect the CPR in Ireland, some transposing regulations were required. The European Union (Construction Products) Regulations 2013 (S.I. 225 of 2013) provides for the following:
- The market surveillance of construction products having regard to the requirements of the CPR and Regulation (EU) No. 765/2008,
- The establishment of building control authorities as the principal market surveillance authorities (the Minister will also have powers to appoint other competent authorities to undertake market surveillance in respect of specific products areas),
- The appointment of authorised officers and their powers in respect of market surveillance,
- Offences, penalties and prosecutions, and
- The destruction or disposal of construction products where a person has been convicted on indictment of certain offences under the regulations.
Incorporating a product into construction works
The CPR only concerns itself with the conditions which apply when placing a product on the market and is not intended to harmonise Member States’ design and construction regulations and requirements.
With regard to building works, when the Building Regulations apply, works should be carried out using “proper materials…which are fit for the use for which they are intended and for the conditions in which they are to be used” to ensure compliance.
A product carrying a CE Marking with declared performances that are suitable for the use and conditions is one method of demonstrating that a product is compliant. CE Marking will not, however, be the only method for demonstrating fitness for purpose under the Building Regulations.
Other methods of showing fitness for purpose will continue to be allowed. Examples are described in Part D Material and Workmanship of the Building Regulations. In practice, however, most traditional construction products will carry the CE Marking, as this will have been affixed when the products were put on the market.
Part D – Material and Workmanship, was amended in 2013 and clarifies the interface between Building Regulations and the provisions of the CPR. It can be viewed here.
With regard to civil engineering and road works, the National Roads Authority sets minimum requirements on the performance of certain road construction works. The performance of products for use on all schemes for the construction, maintenance and/or improvement of national roads must therefore comply with the minimum levels of performance for certain end uses of construction products specified in the Manual of Contract Documents for Road Works.
The following are some tips for designers, specifiers and purchasers:
- When drawing up specifications, refer to the harmonised technical specifications and specifically to the requirements of individual essential characteristics when necessary,
- When choosing the products most suitable for their intended use in construction works, review the manufacturer’s DoP,
- When purchasing construction products ensure receipt of the associated DoP,
- Check National Annexes or Standard Recommendations which give guidance on appropriate minimum performance levels for specific intended uses of the product in Ireland. A list of these can be viewed on the NSAI website at www.nsai.ie, and
- Ensure compliance with the relevant Regulations or national rules e.g. Building Regulations. With regard to Building Regulations all works should be carried out using “proper materials…which are fit for the use for which they are intended and for the conditions in which they are to be used” to ensure compliance with the Building Regulations. For further information on the Building Regulations see www.environ.ie.
The CPR represents a change for all those involved in construction sector, from manufacturers to users of construction products. It is important for designers, specifiers and purchasers to understand the impact of these regulations, the meaning of CE Marking and the contents of the DoP of construction products.
The appropriate specification and use of ‘proper’ construction products plays a fundamental role in ensuring compliance with the Building Regulations. It will be an important aspect in the fulfillment of the statutory requirements under the new Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (S.I. No. 9 of 2014) and the associated Code of Practice for Inspecting and Certifying Buildings and Works.
For further information, please see the following links:
European Commission – Enterprise and Industry www.europa.eu – Enterprise & Industry
NANDO (New Approach Notified and Designated Organisations) Information System www.europa.eu – NANDO
National Standards Authority of Ireland www.nsai.ie
Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government www.environ.ie
National Roads Authority http://nrastandards.nra.ie/latest/construction-products-regulations
Building Materials Federation www.ibec.ie/bmf
Hardware Association Ireland www.hardwareassociation.ie
Construction Industry Federation www.cif.ie
Irish Concrete Federation www.irishconcrete.ie
Irish Timber Framed Manufacturers Association www.itfma.ie
British Constructional Steelwork Association www.steelconstruction.orghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/2014/04/10/ce-marking-construction-products-regulation/http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Construction-quality-1024x684.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Construction-quality-300x300.jpgCivilbuilding regulations,construction,European Union,NSAI