CE Marking – what’s it all about?

Hard or soft, Brexit will have wide-ranging impacts throughout the construction industry, many already flagged up and others which have yet to be seen. Given that innovation in construction products often outpaces the development of corresponding standards and regulations, the lead up to – and post- – Brexit has the potential to throw curve balls when it comes to accepted product standards for new ideas. Lack of guidance on the performance of new solutions could be an issue for all throughout the build process, from architects to building control.

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urrently, in order to address a lack of standards or regulations, some new products bear a CE Mark when they become available, which means they have been manufactured in accordance with either a harmonised European standard (hEN) or a European Assessment Document (EAD).

The mark also demonstrates that products are consistent with the manufacturer’s Declaration of Performance, which must accompany the product. In plain English, a CE Marking is a presumption of conformity.

Manufacturers will have taken one of two routes to CE Marking, each of which uses a system of harmonised technical specifications, respectively hENs and EADs. Both technical specifications detail methods of testing as well as what is known as the assessment and verification of constancy of performance. The latter defines the degree of involvement by a third party, such as the British Board of Agrément (BBA), in assessing the conformity of a product.

These specifications harmonise the methods of assessing, testing and declaring performance characteristics. This allows comparisons to be made between similar products because, for instance, they will have been tested in the same way by a technical assessment body or notified body in Germany as they have in the UK.

That said, local Building Regulations place requirements on the performance of the construction, not the products themselves, so architects, contractors etc need to ensure that a product has the correct characteristics for a particular application.

The Construction Products Regulation (CPR), which is often referred to as Regulation (EU) No 305/2011, states that it is mandatory to CE Mark against a hEN. The regulation aims to “ensure the reliability of information on the performance of construction products, information which is of interest to designers, constructors, public authorities and consumers. This is achieved through harmonised European product standards and European Technical Assessments using a common technical language and uniform assessment methods”.

When it is considered that a primary role of the CPR is to “remove technical barriers to the trade of construction products in the European single market” and that it “places obligations on manufacturers, distributors and importers of construction products when these products are placed on the market”, it is easy to understand why Brexit has the potential to shake-up the use and movement of construction products – particularly newly-launched systems – post-March 2019.

Legislation

The development of hENs is undertaken by members of the European Committee for Standardisation together with the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation, which work jointly to develop the standards that are necessary to support European legislation.

The European Organisation for Technical Assessment (EOTA), of which the BBA is a member, produces EADs as the basis for issuing European Technical Assessments (ETAs) for products that are either not covered or not fully covered by a hEN; these assessments are an entirely voluntary route towards CE Marking of construction products.

EOTA members are technical experts from across the EU and partner states. The knowledge they share is considerable, and their collaborative approach ensures that innovative construction products have a route to market within a reasonable timeframe.

As the CPR was introduced to remove technical barriers to trade, it is important to acknowledge that this is the main legislative document governing the placement of construction products on the market. On the other hand, it is also worth noting that if a product does not have CE Marking, it may simply be that there is no hEN for it, so the manufacturer could have made the decision not to take the voluntary ETA requite and instead progressed with a national approval, such as a BBA certification in the UK.

The European Commission is currently looking at revising the CPR; it is not yet known what changes will be made. To date, more than 280 EADs have been developed and 4200 ETAs issued by more than 1300 manufacturers. This certainly suggests that the tailor-made assessments coordinated by EOTA are worthwhile for all parties.

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