The European Commission has finally published today the much awaited Delegated Regulation of 30th October 2013 on the conditions for making a declaration of performance on construction products available on a website. Over the last six month, we have worked closely on this file with certain Members of the European Parliament and we are very grateful for their continued involvement and support.
The document published in the Official Journal of the European Union accessible through this link establishes the rules manufacturers must follow to upload the Declarations of Performance of their products in websites instead of sending them to their customers in paper form or by electronic means. The summary of the document is the following:
• The delegated act does not change the responsibilities of the manufacturer or the other stakeholders in the construction chain. It only covers the ways in which the document can be provided.
• The obligation to supply a paper copy of the declaration of performance if the recipient requests it remains and the contracting parties should continue to agree on the procedures to be followed when supplying product information.
• The unique identification code included in the declaration of performance must link the information included in the document to every product. In addition, the user of the declaration has to be instructed on how to access the online information.
• The declaration of performance, once uploaded, cannot change and must remain accessible for at least 10 years after the construction product has been placed on the market (this period may change through other delegated act).
• The website hosting the declarations of performance should be kept continuously available and accessible, avoiding as far as possible its unavailability. Access must be free.
The regulation is a very important step to improving the communication of information in the construction industry and will help manufacturers and in particular SMEs save time and money when fulfilling the legal obligations of putting products on the market.
In addition to the content of the legal document in the explanatory memorandum of the European Commission, they include some interesting points. The first is related to the format in which the document should be uploaded; They explain that the declaration of performance should be displayed preferably using semantic web technologies (for example XML) but making sure that that it is displayed in a human readable format (for example HTML but also PDF). Furthermore they suggest the use of a standardised, machine readable format to allow interoperability with architectural tools.
The second point is about languages; it clarifies that the declaration of performance has to be supplied in the language or the languages required by the Member State where the product is made available meaning this requirement must be considered when developing the online tools to provide the information.
Last but not least, the memorandum explains how the other documents requested by the Construction Products Regulation must be considered, in particular the information related to REACH, if relevant, has to be provided together with the declaration of performance on the website. The same approach should be considered when there is a need to provide instructions and safety information of the product.
Seven months after the entry in force of the Construction Products Regulation, the first delegated act is now finished and applicable. Two more delegated acts will follow soon and hopefully before the end of the year the gaps of the regulation needing further discussions will be closed.
In this article we will explain how the harmonised technical specifications (hEN and EAD) become the tools to implement the requirements described in the CPR.
According to the CPR, Construction works must adhere to certain health and safety requirements throughout their life cycle, which are defined under seven Basic Requirements of Construction Works (BRCW):
1. Mechanical resistance and stability
2. Safety in case of fire
3. Hygiene, health and the environment
4. Safety and accessibility in use
5. Protection against noise
6. Energy economy and heat retention
7. Sustainable use of natural resources
‘Essential characteristics’ are the properties used for construction products covered by the Regulation when assessing the performance of construction works according to BRCW requirements. Some examples of essential characteristics are flexural strength, fire resistance, water permeability or resistance to impact.
The list of essential characteristics relevant for each product can be found in the relevant harmonised technical specification, and in the particular case of harmonised standards, in their Annexes Z.A. In addition to this list, harmonised technical specifications also include testing, calculation and other means for assessing performance in relation to these essential characteristics.
Experts work both under the CEN and the EOTA management to write the harmonised technical specification in the best way to provide a good assessment of the construction product subject to the described requirements.
The process to develop harmonised standards (hEN) is quite idiosyncratic. Standards are requested by the European Commission, which then sends the CEN Management Center (CCMC) a “standardisation mandate”. This document is developed by the EC itself, usually taking into account the demands of the industry, the construction stakeholders and the market. During the drafting of the mandate, the EC undertake a consultation stage to build informal consensus on the terms of the mandate between all interested parties within the EC, such as other General Directorates (DG), and other possible external parties, such as CEN, the Member States and the industry.
After receiving the mandate, the CCMC sends the project to the concerned Technical Committees (TC). The Committee drafts the document and the answer to the mandate then both documents are revised by a CEN Consultant. After it’s approved, the draft standard is submitted either to CEN enquiry + Formal vote or to Unique Acceptance Procedure UAP.
When the draft standard is approved (according to the CEN rules) it is ready to be formally cited in the Official Journal of the European Union and after that it is the official reference that contains the assessment and valid performance of the essential characteristics linked to the BRCW.
The process can be repeated for every product family but also in cases where the essential requirements have to be amended due to industry or market requirements, improvement or development of new test methods etc…
Usually the harmonised technical specifications are the only documents used for manufacturers, contractors, and designers of architects. The core of these documents are the essential characteristics but we should not forget that they are only the characteristics to evaluate the performance of the construction work in relation to the seven basic requirements.
We will come back to the construction works requirements in our articles, especially to BRCW number 7, Sustainable use of natural resources, because it was introduced in the Construction Products Regulation (in force since 1 July 2013) and for the time being the mandates do not cover it, therefore there are no relating essential characteristics.