Using suitable construction products is key to ensuring the safety of the built environment – and avoiding expensive liability issues. Building surveyors are sometimes called in to assess whether a specific product can be employed in a construction project. Does it meet the technical requirements? Can the product be used in line with the applicable legislation?
An important starting point to decide this question is the mandatory or voluntary product marking. Surveyors are usually well aware of the meaning and purpose of their own national markings, but there are sometimes doubts about how another widespread label, the European CE marking, is used and what it tells us about the construction product.
Most construction industry professionals are aware that if a harmonised European standard is developed for a specific product area, all products covered by the standard must be labelled with the CE marking.
However, there is an alternative route to CE marking – the European Technical Assessment (ETA) route – which is managed by the European Organisation for Technical Assessment (EOTA). If a construction product is not fully covered by a harmonised standard, manufacturers may ask for an ETA. Based on this, they can then CE mark their product. So, in addition to the mandatory CE marking for standard construction products, there is voluntary CE marking for non-standard innovative or niche products.
An ETA document can only be issued by some 50 Technical Assessment Bodies (TABs) which have been designated for this task by their respective countries under the European Union’s construction products legislation. These TABs are linked through EOTA. The organisation co-ordinates the ETA procedure, and is responsible for the development of European Assessment Documents (EADs). These documents contain the assessment methods for the essential characteristics of the products which are then used in the ETA.
In some respects, EADs are similar to harmonised European standards: they need to be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and have the status of harmonised technical specifications. However, there are also differences; EADs can be specifically tailored to the relevant range of products or even an individual innovative product. And they do not stand alone. The ETA forms the necessary link between these documents and the CE marking.
The construction products legislation requires the manufacturer to draw up a declaration of performance when they affix the CE marking to their product. This lists performance information on the essential characteristics given in the harmonised European standard or EAD. It also contains a dated reference to the harmonised European standard or EAD used, which allows you to check the technical specification if necessary. The CE marking contains a shortened version of this information. Manufacturers are obliged to provide the declaration of performance in the official language of the EU member state where the product is placed on the market.
The declaration only provides product performance information, as opposed to guidance on fitness for use, for example. Whether the product can be used in a construction project depends on whether the performance characteristics declared meet the project requirements and are in line with the national regulations.
In the case of ETA products, you may also wish to refer to the ETA document itself; manufacturers are usually happy to provide it to you. In many cases, the ETA or its annexes contain additional information on test and assessment conditions, for example, which may be important for correct use of the product.
EOTA has developed design and execution specifications, called Technical Reports, for many ETA products. You or the contractor may want to refer to these specifications in the absence of specific national regulations.
In many countries, there are regulatory provisions governing the use of construction products. If you are not sure which legal requirements apply to your project, there are ways to find out. The EU member states have designated national Product Contact Points for Construction that provide information on legal provisions and requirements for construction in their territory, and the building authorities may also help you.
EOTA and the UK TABs are working together to ensure a smooth transition to the post-Brexit era. The idea is to keep technical specifications and assessment procedures for the CE marking and the envisaged new UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) marking closely aligned to make it easy for construction product manufacturers to supply products to both markets. EOTA is convinced that replicating the ETA route in the UK will enhance the construction sector in the EU and the UK. TABs have cooperated successfully within EOTA for 30 years and look forward to continuing their support to the industry into the future.
“The construction products legislation requires the manufacturer to draw up a declaration of performance when they affix the CE marking to their product”
Related competencies include: Design and specification