The regulatory system can be a source of frequent misunderstanding and confusion, with many across the industry having a lack of understanding around materials and building regulations. Put simply: what materials should go where and what should these materials be tested to? But what does this mean for construction product manufacturers in terms of credibility and how can specifiers compare one tested and approved product over another?
With the failure to fully adopt EN standards and adherence to old BS standards, we’ve ended up creating two systems – one which is modern and following the latest thinking and regulation and another that harks back to the building regulations originally conceived in the 1960s when buildings were very different indeed. The way we design and construct buildings, the materials that are used have all changed drastically over the past decades. We only have to see the prevalence of glass and alumunium in our cities instead of concrete, all of which gives rise to greater challenges in terms of acoustics and fire.
From a competitive credibility point of view, it’s perfectly feasible that a company with cutting edge test data will find itself competing with a company which has a test certificate in line with outdated building regulations. The customer will think they are equally compliant because the regulations allow them to be so, but equally the one without the latest test data has the same access to the market than the one with the testing, but without the incumbent costs.
For example, SIDERISE invests a considerable sum each year on testingitsacoustic, fire and thermal insulation solutions. Specifiers will adopt the tick box approach to materials in the sense they will more often than not choose a product for an application, sometimes under time pressure, and one that they recognise to be the right thing. They are easy prey for businesses, some of whom will do the minimum in terms of certification and testing, with very little evidence to back up their products. Four hour’s fire resistance for a product could have several interpretations.
Regulations need to be more descriptive and prescriptive, not just because of time pressures, but also because there is a lack of training and education in matters related to fire. If you look at the way buildings are constructed there will be an architect, a fire engineer and possibly a façade engineer. There are sometimes grey areas in terms of who is responsible for what? Some in the chain may be looking to push liability down the line. In other words, who will sign this off? While most manufacturers will have product liability insurance, far fewer will have professional indemnity insurance. SIDERISE carries both, so both our physical product and where necessary, product specific design advice can be given with confidence.
When we talk about professional credibility, it’s possible for companies to put products on the market, and because of the gaps in understanding on regulations, or the clever use of marketing words, these products can be completely acceptable and legal, but not fit-for-purpose. While at SIDERISE, we get asked for our test data on a daily basis; specifiers need an explanation to ensure they come to the right conclusions about what they are reading. Do they want the data for the sake of compliance only to file away, or for the purpose of learning something about what they are using? There needs to be a checklist of questions about the products they are going to specify. Has the product got this rating? Are they understood? Have they got the correct data and is it up to date?
So when it comes to competitive credibility, if you want to make a fair comparison between products you need to look at whether the product has any provenance. What is the history of the product? What testing is behind the specific product? And is the testing current? Only when a specifier looks beyond a checklist will they be able to specify products which are fit-for-purpose.