Construction products on sale in the UK are currently required to state their performance quality, a requirement of the EU’s Construction Products Regulation (CPR) regime.
The UK government has recently confirmed that these requirements will remain in place after the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019, even in the event of a no-deal exit.
Manufacturers will continue to be obliged to "declare the performance of their product, in accordance with product standards, when the product is placed on the UK market," in the words of the current regulation.
"Having certainty regarding the performance of construction systems, products and materials is fundamental to ensuring we can produce safe and quality architecture," commented Dieter Bentley-Gockmann, Director of EPR Architects and Chair of the RIBA’s Regulations and Standards Expert Advisory Group.
"The construction products regulations are part of the process we rely on to ascertain the performance of such systems, products and materials," he continued, "and it is reassuring to know that government is committing to ensure continuity of the regulations in a post-Brexit regime, whatever that may turn out to look like."
The government’s confirmation came via a statutory instrument – the most common form of secondary legislation in the UK – released on December 18 2018. A memorandum attached to the instrument explains that ‘the general policy is to keep the same requirements but to convert them into a UK regime’.
It sets out some key points regarding the amendments required to make the regulation of construction products continue to work within the UK.
- Existing European harmonised standards (those common across the EU) will become known as UK ‘designated standards’. Immediately following exit, the UK’s product standards under the CPR will be identical to those under the EU.
- The work of ‘notified bodies’, the term describing the only third parties currently authorised to assess construction products under the current CPR, will be undertaken by ‘approved bodies’. These must be based within the UK. Existing notified bodies within the UK will automatically receive approved body status.
- When an approved body has carried out the assessment, the manufacturer must affix a ‘UK mark’. Currently, when a product meets harmonised EU standards it must have a declaration of performance and have been affixed with a ‘CE mark’.
- Products that meet requirements under the EU’s CPR can continue to be sold in the UK without any need for retesting or additional marking; though they must display the CE mark.
"We recognise that businesses will need time to adapt to the new UK regime," the memorandum acknowledges. "This approach will ensure that goods continue to flow onto the UK market. It will help to minimise disruption for businesses and for consumers."
The memorandum also briefly addresses small businesses and micro-enterprises. It reassures small businesses that "it is not necessary to take any steps to minimise impacts." Micro-enterprises are advised that the CPR allows them to use simplified procedures to demonstrate the performance of their product "in cases where their products are not safety-critical;" and that there are also "derogations from product marking requirements for individually manufactured products."
"Continuing harmonisation between post-Brexit UK designated standards and EU standards is essential to avoiding confusion amongst suppliers and specifiers," states Bentley-Gockmann. "Divergence between the standards risks creating a two-tier system that could have a detrimental impact on the UK construction products market and may undermine the safety and quality of our buildings."
While this legislation provides reassurance in one sense – architects can be confident that the products they specify or procure are subject to the same quality assessments – the cost issues concerning building products post-Brexit remain a worrying concern for architects.
"In a no deal the costs will increase again – due to further exchange-rate fluctuation, duties and extra waiting time to cross borders," points out Gary Clark, Associate Director at WilkinsonEyre and Chair of the RIBA Sustainable Futures Expert Advisory Group. "Ultimately, construction programmes will be longer."
Yet there is, perhaps, an opportunity for suppliers in the UK. "The reason we keep specifying from Europe rather than the UK for materials such as glazing systems is that they are better quality," he admits. "However, this is an opportunity for the UK to step up to the mark and deliver products of the quality and sustainability of the EU supply chain."
Thanks to Dieter Bentley-Gockmann and Gary Clark.
Text by Matt Milton. This is a Professional Feature edited by the RIBA Practice team. Send us your feedback and ideas
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Posted on 10 January 2018.