Last edited 14 Jun 2024

Construction product certification schemes

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[edit] Why are product certification schemes needed in construction?

The construction industry relies on a wide variety of products that, when combined, create buildings that will often be used by their occupants for many years. As such, the products used need to perform to certain standards over long periods, with the designers or contractors of buildings often holding some responsibility for that performance.

Construction product certification schemes were introduced to provide greater clarity to designers, contractors, clients, and customers over that performance and to ensure that products meet minimum requirements for safety, strength, and durability. They also ensure that products marketed as surpassing minimum requirements, to provide higher quality, safety, or performance do so on the basis of evidence assessed by a third party and reported in a transparent manner.

The certification of construction products generally involves a rigorous process of testing, inspection and validation to guarantee compliance with national and international standards. They are an essential part of the construction industry and the market within which it operates; they help increase consumer confidence and can be part of contract law, specifications, insurance, assurance, and warranties.

[edit] When were the earliest certification schemes?

The certification of products has existed for over 120 years, with the first UK example being the kitemark, a symbol indicating that a product was certified to a certain British standard, with the first being registered in 1903. A now familiar symbol, it was made up of an uppercase B lying at the top of the symbol, which stands for British, with a V below indicating verification, enclosing an S at the centre, signifying the standard. The symbol was developed by what is now known as the British Standards Institute (BSI), which was first formed in 1901 and, by 1942, was recognised by the UK government as the only standards issuer. The first products to receive the British kitemark as a trademark were tramway rails in 1903, then lighting prducts. The BSI Kitemark continues to be a mark of trust and confidence in products that demonstrate performance in certain areas over and above the minimum standards required by the regulations.


Shortly after in 1946, the future of standardisation on an International scale was discussed by 65 delegates from 25 countries and one year later the International Organization for Standardization was formed. ISO as it came to be known, is derived from the Greek word “isos”, meaning equal and was a route to an acronym that could be internationally recognised across different languages. Initially ISO started with 67 technical committees or groups of experts focusing on specific subjects to develop an international standardisation process, with the first standard or ISO/R 1:1951 published as the Standard reference temperature for industrial length measurements. Today that standard is ISO 1:2022 Geometrical Product Specifications (GPS) - Standard reference temperature for geometrical product specification and exists alongside some 25,415 International Standards covering almost all aspects of technology, management and manufacturing.

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The 1950s and into the 1960s, was marked by a boom in consumer products, and the Kitemark became a route to ensuring, primarily, the safety of those products via quality assessment in the UK with increasing relevance for standards also between countries. Also in 1960, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) was established by convention. This was an intergovernmental organisation established to promote free trade and economic integration between its founding members (Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom) within Europe and globally. In 1966 the British Board of Agrément (BBA) was established by the UK Government, as an independent certification body in the Construction and Civil Engineering Industries. One year later three products had been certified, a later one hundred and fifty and by 2020 over six thousand, continuing to drive safety through services that help clients create accountability and mitigate risk.

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In the 1970s, quality management initiatives expanded and Kitemarks were key features of glazing units, fire equipment, and so on. This decade was also marked by increasing awareness of environmentalism and global climate issues, largely stemming from the first Earth Day, held on April 22, 1970. In 1978, what is considered the first environmental product labelling scheme, or eco-label, was established in Germany. Der Blaue Engel, or Blue Angel, environmental product labelling scheme continues today, and though not exclusively related to building products they were the first to be assessed directly in connection with the protection of the environment as well as health.

In the 1980s, closer market ties continued between countries in the European Economic Area (EEA). In 1985, the UK, as part of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA), launched the European community’s internal market, highlighting the need for consistency in trading-related standards. Less than 10 years later, in 1992, the numbers of the EFTA dropped significantly as many joined the European Union (EU). Part of this was the establishment of the CE (Conformité Européenne) marking, which, rather than a quality standard, became a minimum requirement standard and the first mandatory conformity marking for the regulation of goods sold within the European Economic Area (EEA).

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At the time the UK was part of the EU, CE (Conformité Européenne) markings, the minimum standard required for trade, were commonplace in the UK and were the norm until the UK left the European Union. Today, there is the gradual establishment and introduction of the new UKCE (UK Conformity Assessed) and UKNI (Northern Ireland Conformity Assessed) marks.

[edit] What do product schemes certify?

The earliest certification schemes focused on ensuring certain performance criteria for products to achieve consistency in the market and ensure they meet or surpass quality and safety standards. Although in general the standards set by different countries and regions have similar aims, in practical terms, what they require may differ significantly, and as such, there are a wide variety of country-specific certification schemes. Further, in the changing regulatory landscape, those requirements change at a different pace in different regions and countries, for example, with the introduction of the Building Safety Act in England and its differing applications in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. In addition, significant political events, such as Brexit, can bring yet another level of complexity to the certification landscape in the details of changes to the UKCA and CE marking of products.

Today, the performance criteria of products that are considered relevant have expanded in many respects, with requirements not only to comply with the regulations as well as safety and quality assurance but often also extended performance life spans and extended indicators of performance to include environmental and social impacts throughout a product's lifecycle. While many of these changes are market-driven in that certain clients may pay more regard to these wider criteria, the regulatory landscape is also changing and, in some cases, shaping these requirements, either on a voluntary market advantage basis or as a compulsory requirement.

In general, it might be simplified as follows:

Wider certification schemes, in particular considering social and environmental impacts.

[edit] The certification process and benefits

Below is the general process for certification, though it can vary depending on what is certified, for which standard and by whom.

Loosely speaking the benefits might be summarised as:

[edit] Example certification companies

  • The British Standards Institution (UK)
  • BRE (UK)
  • Intertek Group plc (U.K.)
  • SGS Société Générale de Surveillance SA.(Switzerland)
  • QVC Certification Services Pvt Ltd (India)
  • Centexbel (Belgium)
  • RINA S.p.A. (Italy)
  • CSA Group Testing & Certification Inc. (Canada)
  • Det Norske Veritas group (Norway)
  • Bureau Veritas (France)
  • Eurofins Scientific (Luxembourg)
  • ALS (Australia)
  • DEKRA (Germany)
  • TÜV SÜD (Germany)
  • Applus+ (Spain)
  • UL LLC (U.S.)
  • TÜV Rheinland (Germany)

[edit] Example certification schemes

[edit] Environmental product level certification schemes

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings

[edit] External links

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