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.