Chuck Lewis of Coopers Fire Ltd explains the legal implications of the Construction Products Regulation for manufacturers and suppliers of smoke barriers.
The full introduction of the Construction Products Regulation on 1 July 2013 resulted in significant changes to the rules that apply to the supply of construction products into the European Union / European Economic Area market.
The CE marking of such products was previously mandatory in certain nations under the Construction Productions Directive – now repealed – but was only voluntary in the UK. The CPR (305/2011) makes it a legal requirement to CE mark any construction product which is covered by a harmonised European Standard (hEN). For other products covered by European Assessment Documents and for which European Technical Assessments (ETA) are produced, CE marking remains optional, although if an ETA is produced, the product must be CE marked. Since smoke barriers and their power supplies are covered by harmonised European Standards, these products must now be CE marked if they are to be placed for sale in the European marketplace.
The CPR introduced a range of additional requirements placing responsibility not only on manufacturers to CE mark their products, but also on importers and distributors to ensure that any products they supply are compliant.
Why CE mark?
The CPR aims to prevent products entering the supply chain that do not meet a minimum standard threshold, set by product standards. These ensure a consistency of good design and manufacturing processes, and ensure manufacturers meet technical and legal requirements. Standards provide a reliable basis for users to share the same expectations about products.
Under the CPR, the intended end use of a product often has a significant impact on the route to compliance and on who takes responsibility for what. This is because each harmonised standard details an Assessment and Verification of Constancy of Performance (AVCP) level, which dictates the procedure that must be followed for CE marking.
There are five levels of AVCP, ranging from Levels 1 and 1+ (the most onerous, which require the involvement of a Notified Certification Body) to Level 4, which requires only the manufacturer’s involvement. Safety critical products are generally allocated an AVCP of 1+ or 1.
What are barriers?
Smoke and heat exhaust ventilation systems (SHEVS) create a smoke free layer above the floor by removing smoke and heat and improve the conditions for safe escape. This assists the evacuation of people from buildings, reducing fire damage and financial loss by preventing smoke logging, facilitating fire-fighting, reducing roof temperatures and retarding the lateral spread of fire.
Smoke barriers used within a smoke and heat control system are a critical element of that system. When smoke barriers deploy from the ceiling they are intended to control the movement of the hot buoyant smoke within buildings in the event of fire. Smoke barriers in their fire operational position will provide essential smoke containment and channelling of the smoke for extraction from the building.
It is due to this safety critical role that smoke barriers are rated by the EU Commission as System 1 type products, which places additional requirements on manufacturers wishing to obtain a CE mark.
Smoke barriers and power supplies are legally required to be CE marked in accordance with the Construction Products Regulation and therefore are required to be compliant to standards ensuring their safety and reliability.
To obtain a CE mark, smoke barriers must be manufactured and supplied to meet the minimum safety thresholds set by the harmonised standard EN 12101-1:2005+A1:2006: Smoke and heat control systems. Specification for smoke barriers. This standard was harmonised in September 2009, after the withdrawal of the only national standard BS 7346-3:1990.
For power supplies, the harmonised standard is EN 12101-10:2005: Smoke and heat control systems. Power supplies, which was harmonised in May 2012.
EN 12101-1 sets out the requirements for active smoke barriers, detailing tests which will ensure their continued reliability and demonstrate that they will operate in a controlled manner. Active smoke barriers must demonstrate their ability to fail-safe, a level of fire-resistance and have measurable air permeability, with limits dependent on their category for end-use. Static smoke barriers must demonstrate a level of fire-resistance and have measurable air permeability only. Meanwhile, EN 12101-10 requires that power supplies are tested for a range of temperatures and humidity levels dependent upon on their category for end use.
Under the CPR, manufacturers are required to supply a Declaration of Performance (DoP) and, since such products are rated as System 1 type products, they must also supply an Assessment and Verification of Constancy of Performance (AVCP) and a Certificate of Constancy of Performance issued by a Notified Certification Body.
The manufacturer must demonstrate they have Factory Production Control (FPC) and further testing of samples taken at the factory is required. The Notified Certification Body will determine the product type on the basis of type testing (including sampling), type calculation, tabulated values or descriptive documentation of the product. The Notified Certification Body will also provide initial inspection of the manufacturing plant and of Factory Production Control (FPC) and continuous surveillance, assessment and evaluation.
Does this impact on costs?
The cost of producing correctly tested and CE marked products represents a significant investment for manufacturers. Those embracing change early well understand this process and therefore are able to amortise costs of testing and certification into their products, ensuring they meet the obligations under the CPR going forward.
Consideration is given to how their products are designed and how they will meet the requirements of the necessary tests. Due to the set AVCP level, manufacturers must engage with a Notified Certification Body which can perform type testing based on independently sampled specimens and conduct initial and then continuous Factory Production Control (FPC) surveillance visits.
Notified Certification Bodies issue manufacturers with a Certificate of Constancy of Performance after the successful completion of all necessary tests prescribed by the standard. This enables manufacturers to then label and mark their products, packaging and documentation for use.
Regrettably, manufacturers trying to circumvent the processes do so at their own risk. In some cases, they may not even be aware of the changes and will continue to supply non-compliant products, placing stress on the supply chain. But those in the supply chain will not be immune from potentially legal consequences.
Importers and distributors are required to ensure that these products are compliant; that the manufacturer has issued a DoP and that the products comply with the relevant hEN or ETA. Should importers or distributors offer products in their own name or modify the original manufactured product to suit their unique market requirements in a way which affects the original DoP, then they too are required to issue a DoP in their own right and CE mark the product.
All those in a supply chain; from specifiers, to designers, purchasers, contractors and even those that perform the installation of smoke barriers have a legal obligation to ensure the products are compliant. Naturally, it is advantageous to get it right, rather than wrong.
Manufacturers attempting to gain commercial advantage by continuing to supply non-compliant products place the threat of potential legal action on their importers, distributors and the supply chain generally. The enforcing authorities; Trading Standards (England, Wales and Scotland) and Environmental Health Officers (Northern Ireland) have yet to agree a statute of limitations on how far they will go back and seek damages against non-compliant products.
Coopers Fire has been meeting its legal responsibilities for many years. Its range of Coopers SmokeStop™ Smoke Barriers has been CE marked since the standard was adopted and published as a British Standard in 2006, while certification was broadened to its SmokeStop evacU8 range in 2010, and more recently to its SmokeStop Static Barriers.
Having supplied products into the EU/EEA and wider international markets for over 20 years, Coopers Fire had already taken the necessary steps to ensure the requirements of the CPD were met.
Ensuring compliance with the CPR is transitional once Annex ZA of the standard is re-published to include the mandated requirements of the CPR.
All significant design changes and testing requirements according to EN 12101-1+A1 and EN 12101-10 are already met by Coopers Fire, which enters its eighth year of independently audited Factory Production Control (FPC), so all those in the supply chain can be assured that Coopers Fire smoke barriers are compliant and will perform as expected in the event of a fire.
For more information, go to www.coopersfire.com