Last changed: 13/10/10
All construction products traded freely on the single European market have to be verified as safe, demands the German Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt – UBA). This is a must for the implementation of the Construction Products Directive in conformity with the EC Treaty, the UBA says. Which verifications are necessary, and how frequently? When can manufacturers omit routine tests for emissions and contaminants? The think tank Íko-Institut explores these questions in a new study commissioned by UBA. The study focuses on plasters and mortars for indoor use and on road construction products. All construction product producers can profit from the suggestions for minimising the testing burden.
The report ”Safe Construction Products for Health and the Environment: How much testing is necessary to implement the EC Construction Products Directive?” contributes to the current efforts of the European Commission and the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) to restrict the burden of testing. All stakeholders in the construction sector wish to avoid repeated tests for construction products already demonstrated as safe for health and the environment. Safe products with a stable quality should be able to obtain the CE mark without routine tests, the report argues.
CEN and the European Commission Expert Group on Dangerous Substances in the Field of Construction Products envisage three test categories for construction products: products accepted without testing (WT), products accepted without further testing (WFT), and products for which further testing is required (FT). Similar categories are already in use for fire resistance performance in European standards. The Íko-Institut report is based on the assumption that for a WT status a satisfactory existing knowledge is sufficient, while a WFT classification would involve experience from future harmonised European tests.
Harmonised European standards are and should be performance oriented. For the definition of mechanical characteristics, this can usually be achieved without defining the product’s material composition. The emission performance depends on the chemical composition, (i.e., the substances contained and their chemical bond). For products continuously tested for their emission performance, a substance-based product definition is not essential. However, for a WT classification it is obligatory to define product groups so clearly that all product variants on the market are covered. This may be unproblematic, for example, for glass panes. For formulation-based products, the Íko-Institut recommends including substance-related product definitions or appropriate descriptive attributes in the standards.
Product standards too vague on health and environmental requirements can hamper quality-oriented innovation. The WT/WFT concept does not only contribute to keeping the testing effort at a proportionate level. It also ensures that existing and new products effectively correspond to the same protection levels. In this way the concept prevents obstacles to innovation from occurring as a result of the definition of stricter requirements for new products, the Íko-Institut says.