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Review of The Construction Products DirectiveMarch 2007

The Construction Products Directive (CPD) is undergoing examination for revision. BSRIA Chief Executive, Andrew Eastwell, comments on its history and future development.

The CPD, introduced in 1989, has had a difficult and protracted launch. In its earliest stages of development the CPD was assumed to apply only to structural elements such as cement, rebar and steel but under pressure for clarification and in the midst of all the other pressures that surrounded the development of the single European market in 1994 the definition of scope for the directive - i.e. "produced for incorporation in a permanent manner in works" - was deemed to include M&E plant and equipment.

Andrew Eastwell, Chief Executive (September 1998 - April 2014)

Little thought was given then to the implications of this hasty decision. The issues of defining "systems" rather than products, products that had removable elements such as HVAC filters, products that were delivered disassembled or produced as a "kit" were difficult to interpret within the scope of the directive. Back in the early 90s there was also widespread confusion about the role of CE marking. Was it mandatory? Was it a quality mark? Whose responsibility was it to ensure compliance?

Most of these issues are now largely resolved but some national interpretations remain that continue to permit economic barriers to trade and since the purpose of the CPD was to eliminate these and to provide a minimum level of performance to satisfy the safety criteria embodied in the "Essential Requirements" of the CPD, the Commission is looking at what must be done to improve the operation of the directive across the now greatly expanded European Community.

A public consultation has already taken place.  It is astonishing to me that only 319 replies were received from throughout the community in response to this consultation. The CPD has a very profound economic effect on many manufacturers throughout Europe but awareness of the consultation appears to be very low and it is clear that the consultation processes themselves are in dire need of some revision. Notwithstanding the meagre response from this consultation, proposals have been put forward that address two main areas of concern in the operation of the directive.

The first relates to the erratic application of the directive within national legal frameworks. In some countries it is mandatory for products to be CE marked even if only placed on the home market. In others, and UK is one of these; it is only required for products that move across national borders. Thus UK is a more open market for products imported from outside the EU which are not required by law to be CE marked (although there may be other legislation that requires they are demonstrated to be safe). The second relates to the confidence that buyers have in the "level playing field" of quality assurance that can be ascribed to the CE mark itself and especially the role of "notified bodies". These labs and accreditation bodies are qualified by national authorities but the international dimension of ensuring the consistency of approach is considered less than perfect with little if any cross border surveillance. This latter issue has given rise to differing perceptions of robustness of CE mark and especially where goods are imported from outside the EU.

The other main construction related legislation is the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive (EPBD). Very active CEN activity is preparing a whole raft of new standards covering the design performance of buildings and the attestation of conformity of many construction products - particularly insulation products. It would seem that little thought has been given to the crossover issues that the EPBD and CPD have in bringing the whole together.

The aim is competent people designing and building competently using competent products. Whilst each of these is being addressed in different ways there seems to be insufficient consideration of how these might fit together in a seamless and, hopefully, consistent way throughout the community.

For more information email BSRIA