Independent accreditation and certification provides specifiers, and other construction professionals, with the assurance that a given product meets the claims that are made about it. Disseminating details of these attributes is a vital part of the product manufacturer’s sales and marketing process.
In order to achieve these approvals, the manufacturer/supplier must engage an independent expert to undertake a review/test of a given product and evaluate its manufacturing processes and related services to confirm, or not, that they meet international standards in terms of safety, quality and performance. These experts will generally be from ‘Notified Bodies’, third-party organisations that have themselves been approved to test and certify products and services by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). See Key Organisations, below, for details of UKAS and some of the main certification and testing bodies covering construction (see also article on cobuilder.com, entitled The Notified Body under the CPR.
Accreditation or Certification?
The two terms are sometimes confused and the subject is worthy of clarification. In his article for PBC Today, entitled What is the difference between accreditation and certification?, Jon Murthy, UKAS Marketing Manager (then) said “…..Certification represents a written assurance by a third party of the conformity of a product, process or service to specified requirements. Accreditation, on the other hand, is the formal recognition by an authoritative body of the competence to work to specified standards……….In effect, certification is the third-party endorsement of an organisation’s systems or products, while accreditation is an independent third-party endorsement of the certification…..” There is another crucial difference, explains Murthy, which relates to the activities covered: “…Organisations receive accreditation for specific activities whereas certification relates to the company as a whole.”
CE marking indicates that a particular construction product can be placed on the market of member states of the European Economic Area (EEA). It is a compulsory requirement and is based on the principle that the product specification, and therefore the product, is "fit for purpose". The Construction Products Association (CPA) explain that, under the Construction Products Regulation 2011 (CPR), it became mandatory for manufacturers to apply CE marking to any product which is covered by a harmonised European standard (hEN) or European Technical Assessment (ETA).
A Guidance Note on the CPR and implications of CE marking for manufacturers, importers, distributors, specifiers, certification and test bodies, and regulatory/enforcement authorities was prepared by the CPA, the British Board of Agrément (BBA), British Standards Institution (BSI) and FBE Management Limited, in consultation with the Trading Standards Institute (TSI). It can be downloaded from the CPA website here.
Further information, including a comprehensive series of frequently asked questions, on the CPR and CE marking can be found elsewhere on the CPA website here.
At the time of writing (Spring 2020), there remains uncertainty surrounding the future implications of Brexit on CE Marking and the CPR, since this depends on any deal agreed between the UK Government and the EU before the end of the transition period, currently scheduled for 31st December 2020 (although it is possible this may be extended). In October 2019, the Construction industry Council published a summary of the different scenarios, including the introduction of the proposed ‘UKCA’ mark for UK conformity assessed products in the UK. As of April 2020, the uncertainty remained largely unchanged and the BBA published an update based on their interpretation of the current situation.
The UK has over 50 accreditation bodies operating certification schemes for construction industry manufacturers/suppliers, covering product conformity, quality management and personnel. UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) is the organisation that certifies each of these bodies and can supply a full list including specific advice on achieving appropriate accreditation for any given market, product or service.
British Board of Agrément (BBA)
The BBA is an independent national body established to assess and test construction industry products which are either innovative and/or claim to exceed British Standard performance requirements. Approved products are issued with an ‘Agrément Certificate’ and the supplier is entitled to feature the ‘Agrément’ logo on appropriate marketing material. The use of the logo is carefully controlled and restricted to relevant applications and suppliers must conform to the instructions laid down by the BBA in its information sheet ‘Use of the BBA Symbol’.
Building Research Establishment (BRE)
BRE provide a range of test facilities covering individual materials and products, building systems, engineering structures and whole buildings. They typically test against published standards, but can develop dedicated procedures for new, unique or innovative products.
BRE Global provides impartial, third-party certification services in areas including fire and security, environmental products, building information modelling (BIM) and management systems.
In 2018, following the UK’s Brexit decision, BRE Global announced that it would be relocating its CE marking activities from the UK to Ireland, opening new offices and new product testing facilities. BRE Global provides support to manufacturers, importers and distributors of construction products with the certifications required for products to be sold in all other EU markets.
British Standards Institution (BSi)
BSi has 87 offices in 31 countries across the world and, amongst its services provides a range of testing and certification services, including new product development, pre-assessment, gap analysis, batch testing and full compliance testing. BSI is a Notified Body for CE marking and owner of the BSi Kitemark, a quality mark that shows a construction product or service meets the applicable and appropriate British, European, international or other recognised standard for quality, safety, performance and trust.
Element offers a comprehensive range of testing services for building materials used in the construction industry, to help make certain that they are compliant and perform as required in their end application.
BM TRADA provides a wide range of certification to services to a diverse range of industry sectors. It operates the Q-Mark product certification for construction products which is based on the recognized Product Certification Standard EN 45011. Testing services are provided in collaboration with their sister company, Element (see above).
An independent product compliance organisation with offices in Germany, The Netherlands and China offering certification and testing support services.
Part of Element (see above), Warringtonfire provides certification and testing services including Certifire, a certification scheme that assures performance, quality, reliability and traceability of products and systems. The Certifire brand is recognised as an international mark of fire safety across a diverse range of products and is suitable for manufacturers of fire protection products and systems including doors and hardware.
Lucideon provides testing services for a wide range of raw materials and finished construction products to a variety of national, European and international standards.
Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA)
BSRIA Test provides independent third party testing to validate the performance primarily of HVAC products and systems for manufacturers, contractors, etc.