Aggregates and concrete products: standards and traceability for the assigned certifier
24 November 2015
Tullow, Co Carlow
On July 1, Minister of State at the Department of the Environment with Special Responsibility for Housing, Planning and Coordination of the Construction 2020 Strategy, Paudie Coffey, unveiled an initiative by the Irish Concrete Federation (ICF) to certify the origin and compliance with product standards of aggregate and concrete materials supplied to individual construction projects in Ireland.
The timing of the initiative by the ICF has been highly influenced by the enactment of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014, ongoing developments in product standards and the introduction of CE marking for construction materials. The initiative is particularly targeted at those within the engineering, architectural and surveyor professions appointed as assigned certifiers under the amended regulations who will benefit greatly from the development of this voluntary initiative by industry.
Irish Concrete Federation (ICF)
ICF represents some 75 companies involved in the supply of aggregates, ready mixed concrete and a range of precast concrete products to the construction industry in Ireland. ICF members account for an estimated 80 per cent of all such materials manufactured and supplied to the marketplace and employ approximately 4,000 people throughout the country.
The objective of the ICF initiative is to provide customers and assigned certifiers with comprehensive certification of the origin of aggregate and concrete products used in individual construction projects and compliance with the relevant product standards and CE marking requirements.
Essentially, the certificate provides the transparency and traceability in the supply chain to ensure increased confidence in the integrity of aggregate and concrete products used in specific projects to the benefit of all stakeholders.
The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 apply to the design and construction of dwellings, extensions to dwellings with a floor area of more than 40 sq m and any works which requires a fire certificate. As most are aware by now, under the regulations assigned certifiers and builders must certify compliance with the Building Regulations on completion.
Compliance with relevant product standards is now an integral part of compliance with national building regulations. Hence builders and assigned certifiers of the future will need to know that the construction products used to construct the buildings that they are certifying as being compliant with building regulations, are compliant with relevant product standards and are fit for the use for which they are intended and for the conditions they are to be used.
Developments in product standards
Currently, there are more than 400 harmonised product standards (hENs) covering a broad range of construction products. These standards are developed at European level by CEN, the European Body for Standardisation, with the involvement of national standards bodies from countries of the European Union and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).
The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) is a CEN member and co-ordinates the adoption and produces guidance on these standards in Ireland with the assistance of its consultative committees at which all key stakeholders are involved. For years these standards have been progressively becoming the norm as conflicting national standards (for example, Irish and British standards) are being withdrawn. As the majority of construction products are covered by hENs, they are becoming the key reference documents for:
- Manufacturers when declaring the performance of a construction product;
- Irish (and other European) authorities when specifying requirements for construction products in regulations, specifications, public procurement documents etc and;
- Specifiers and designers (architects, engineers, builders etc.) when choosing construction products.
Table 1: Some commonly used product standards and associated guidance
Product standards and their associated guidance are under continuous review by CEN and the national standards bodies, including the NSAI. For example, ‘Standard Recommendation (S.R.) 21 – Guidance on the use of I.S. EN 13242: 2002+A1:2007 — Aggregates for Unbound and Hydraulically Bound Materials for use in Civil Engineering Work and Road Construction’ which was developed by the Aggregates panel of the N.S.A.I.’s Roads Standards Committee is currently undergoing its third review in recent years and was published for a period of public consultation which closed on July 3.
In addition, a revised National Annex for I.S. EN206, the concrete standard was published on June 10. Guidance on the standards for aggregates for mortar (S.R. 18) and aggregates for concrete (S.R. 16) are also currently under review. Published guidance on the standards are of immense importance to all involved in construction.
In the context of national Building Regulations, ‘Technical Guidance Document D – Materials and Workmanship’ states that where a construction product is covered by such guidance, compliance with the national annex or standard recommendation in so far as it relates to the product may be used to demonstrate that the product, when incorporated into construction works is fit for the use for which it is intended.
It is imperative that manufacturers, specifiers, customers and certifiers are all aware of the relevant product standard and guidance which applies to the materials used in the construction of individual projects. Included within the ‘Aggregate and Concrete Products – Product Traceability Certificate’ is a statement by the manufacturer or supplier of the relevant standard to which the product has been manufactured.
The obvious benefit for customers and assigned certifiers is that they can ensure that the product which was specified and ordered in accordance with the relevant product standard has been supplied to the project which they are overseeing.
Since July 1, 2013, manufacturers of construction products which are covered by harmonised European product standards (hENs) are required, when placing a product on the market, to make a Declaration of Performance for the product and affix the CE mark. The Declaration of Performance provides information about the essential characteristics of the product.
The manufacturer, by drawing up its Declaration of Performance, assumes the responsibility for the conformity of the construction product with the declared performance. The Declaration of Performance has a specific template as outlined in ‘Regulation 305/2011 laying down harmonised conditions for the marketing of construction products and repealing Council Directive 89/106/EEC’, more commonly known as the Construction Products Regulation (CPR) and each Declaration of Performance must be given a unique identification number. This Declaration of Performance Number can be entered in the ‘Aggregate and Concrete Products – Product Traceability Certificate’.
The application of the CE mark follows from the Declaration of Performance and effectively certifies that the manufacturer has strictly followed all the applicable procedures in drawing up their Declaration of Performance and that, consequently, the declaration is accurate and reliable. While the CE mark is primarily self-certification based, for many products eligibility to use the CE Mark requires an annual audit of the operator’s premises and factory production control system by an independent notified body such as the NSAI.
These products, which include concrete blocks, aggregates for use under concrete floors and footpaths and many precast concrete products have a System of Attestation of Conformity level of 2+. Upon successful completion of this audit the manufacturer will be issued with location specific Certificate of Factory Production Control by the independent notified body with a specific reference number. This number can also be entered in the ‘Aggregate and Concrete Products – Product Traceability Certificate’.
The ready mixed concrete standard, EN 206, is not a harmonised standard and therefore manufacturers are not required to affix a CE Mark. However as compliance with I.S EN206 is a basic requirement for supply in many cases, independent certification bodies including NSAI operate an I.S. EN 206 certification scheme whereby manufacturers are inspected on an annual basis and issued with a certificate of conformity or licence.
Similar to the Declaration of Performance and the Certificate of Factory Production Control, the I.S. EN206 certificate has a unique reference or licence number which can also be entered in the ‘Aggregate and Concrete Products – Product Traceability Certificate’.
Given the progress that has taken place in recent years as outlined above, it is clear that specifiers, customers and certifiers have the tools to ascertain if individual suppliers are keeping pace with developments in product standards and certification. Similarly there is an increasing need for transparency and traceability in the construction supply chain. It is beyond dispute that the origin of all materials used in individual projects should be traceable to their source.
This is the case for aggregates and concrete as much as it is for the doors and windows that are used in our homes. This is why the ICF certification initiative also specifically caters for manufacturers to indicate the volumes of product supplied to each individual project and the period of supply during which deliveries took place, thereby providing customers and assigned certifiers with the supporting information needed to assist them in meeting their own responsibilities and obligations.
The regulatory landscape for construction had changed immeasurably in recent times. In addition, all stakeholders in the supply chain are responding to the increased demands with regard to quality, transparency, traceability and certification. The ICF certification initiative is framed against this regulatory background and these new demands in a simple yet comprehensive manner to benefit the entire sector.
Inherent in this move by the industry is the belief that it is only those suppliers who are compliant with regulatory and product standards requirements that should be in a position to supply the market. It is simply not good enough that, for example, concrete manufacturers not accredited to I.S EN206 should be in a position to supply the market place in competition with those manufacturers that have allocated the resources to achieving I.S EN certification.
However, this requires customers and certifiers to demand the necessary information from suppliers. ICF was grateful to all of the key industry organisations, including Engineers Ireland, for their support during the development and at the launch of this initiative. We strongly urge all of the construction professionals, in particular those acting as assigned certifiers to immediately seek the inclusion of the ‘Aggregate and Concrete Products – Product Traceability Certificate’ among the suite of certificates which form their supporting documentation.
Author: Gerry Farrell, chief executive, Irish Concrete Federation