This article can be a game changer for many people. Harmonised standards are so often referred to as documents with requirements to be fulfilled. Then, a CE marking indicates conformity with the standard. Is this true or not? It is – but not for construction products.
Construction products are different because EU countries differ in approach construction. There are different climates, traditions, design rules, safety levels. It is impossible to have common requirements for the whole EU. In addition, even within one country, there may be different requirements for different buildings. Harmonisation of requirements on construction products is not possible.
For the reasons explained above, only assessment methods are harmonised. That implies that the CE marking only says: “this product has been assessed using harmonised methods”. It does not anything about satisfaction of some criteria.
What does it mean and why do we need to know? If there are no requirements in harmonised standards for construction products, we need to create some. Oh, we forgot to do it we thought they were in those harmonised standards! Yes, this happens and that is why a lot of education needs to take place. If there are no requirements, the CE marking can cover any quality.
If the requirements cannot be found, where are they? Typically, one should find them at the following places:
- national rules for construction (legal requirements)
- building design documentation
- voluntary quality certification schemes
- general recommendation for installation (made by guilds, associations…)
- tradition and customs
These requirements should be connected to the harmonised methods given by harmonised standards. That is the idea – simple but often forgotten. The manufacturer tests a brick to find out the strength. It is then some design rule which says how much strength is needed for that particular building in that particular EU country.
It must be admitted that there actually is a small number of requirements in some harmonised standards. Especially in those prepared in the early era of European standards. Take it as exceptions to the rule.
Harmonised standards are not meant to come with requirements for construction products. They provide with assessment methods which allow for uniform declaration of the product’s performance. Then, specific requirements are to be set according to the specific situation of the product’s application.