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Building Regulations

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 12 October 2021

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Ceisteanna (193)

Matt Shanahan

Ceist:

193. Deputy Matt Shanahan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the detail of the process which describes the testing and analysis of concrete block and poured concrete cement mix in Ireland today; the regulation standards such products are required to meet; the independent analysis and testing that is mandated by his Department; the way in which results are monitored and collated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49774/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Construction Products Regulation (EU) No 305/2011 (CPR) sets out rules for the marketing of construction products in the EU. Where a construction product covered by a harmonised standard is being placed on the EU market, the CPR requires the manufacturer to draw up a ‘declaration of performance’ and affix a ‘CE’ marking to the product. In order to do so, manufacturers must test and declare the performance of their construction products using a common technical language prescribed in the harmonised standard.

The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI), is Ireland’s official standards body and is an autonomous body under the aegis of the Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment. NSAI has produced additional guidance to some harmonised standards, under the CPR, in the form of Standard Recommendations (SRs) which set out appropriate minimum performance levels for specific intended uses of certain construction products in Ireland.

In relation to the specification of concrete blocks, the relevant suite of harmonised standards facilitating specification of masonry units is the EN 771 (series). ‘I.S. EN 771-3:2011+A1:2015’ deals with aggregate concrete masonry units. NSAI has published additional guidance in the form of ‘S.R. 325:2013+A2:2018/AC:2019 Recommendations for the design of masonry structures in Ireland to Eurocode 6’ which provides, inter alia, guidance on the choice of masonry units and mortar classes most appropriate for particular situations as regards durability for finished work in Ireland. S.R. 325:2013+A2:2018/AC: 2019 recommends the use of Category 1 aggregate concrete blocks, which requires independent third party oversight of factory production control by a Notified Body (a designated body that carries out third-party tasks).

Category 1 aggregate concrete blocks, should meet the prescribed density, compressive strength and be made with dense aggregate conforming to ‘I.S. EN 12620+A1:2008 - Aggregates for concrete’ and ‘S.R. 16:2016 Guidance on the use of I.S. EN 12620:2002+A1:2008 - Aggregates for concrete’. Importantly, as aggregate is a key constituent of aggregate concrete blocks, ‘S.R. 16:2016’ outlines the precautions to be taken in the quarry to reduce the risk of harmful impurities in aggregate production.

A full list of designated Notified Bodies for construction products may be found on the New Approach Notified and Designated Organisations (NANDO) Information System hosted by the European Commission.

Ultimately, the manufacturer is responsible for compliance with the CPR and in particular for the Declaration of Performance/CE marking of the construction product he or she is placing on the market, having full knowledge of the raw material (as is legally required by the CPR via the relevant harmonised European Standards) and having regard to the end product’s suitability for use in construction works in accordance with the relevant Standard Recommendations published by the NSAI.

While the CPR came into force and has direct legal application across the entire European Union since 1 July 2013, each Member State is responsible for regulating for its own market surveillance activities in accordance with the specific requirements of the CPR and the broader overarching requirements of Regulation (EU) 2019/1020 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on market surveillance and compliance of products and amending Directive 2004/42/EC and Regulations (EC) No 765/2008 and (EU) No 305/2011 . Regulation (EU) 2019/1020 establishes an EU wide framework for market surveillance, and came into full effect in July 2021. This strengthens the existing provisions in the CPR (and other Union harmonisation legislation), relating to the compliance of products, the framework for cooperation with organisations representing economic operators or end users, the market surveillance of products and controls on products entering the EU market.

Under the European Union (Construction Products) Regulations 2013 (S.I. No.225 of 2013) , each of the building control authorities (local authorities) have been designated as the principal market surveillance authorities for construction products that fall within the scope of the CPR, within their administrative areas.

In addition, the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Act 2020 (Construction Products – Market Surveillance) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 682 of 2020) appointed Dublin City Council as a competent authority for the carrying out of market surveillance functions under the European Union (Construction Products) Regulations 2013 for all related construction products on a nationwide basis. Dublin City Council-National Building Control Office, (DCC-NBCO) Market Surveillance Unit has been established for this purpose. DCC-NBCO may be contacted at: support@nbco.gov.ie. Building control authorities will liaise with DCC-NBCO national market surveillance unit to support compliance with the CPR and to determine appropriate action on enforcement matters, as they arise.

Market surveillance activity should enable non-compliant products to be identified and kept or taken off the market with unscrupulous and/or criminal economic operators prosecuted and penalised for their actions. In this context, it is important to note that the overarching objective of a market surveillance authority is to ensure that compliant products are placed on the market. Where non-compliance is identified, market surveillance activities should be designed to encourage economic operators to take appropriate corrective actions to redress the position within a reasonable period of time.

Market surveillance authorities have significant powers including to obtain access to the place of manufacture or storage, request technical information, select samples of the construction product and carry out evaluations, examination or tests on such samples. Where construction products are placed on the market which do not comply with the requirements set out in the CPR, market surveillance authorities have powers to direct the relevant economic operator to take the necessary corrective actions to bring the product into compliance. Where this does not work, there are further procedures that may result in the product being withdrawn or recalled from the market, its use subject to special conditions, or the products availability on the market being prohibited or restricted.

Ireland’s National market surveillance programme 2021 is published on the website of the European Commission. Section 2.5 provides specific details with the market surveillance of construction products and outlines a market surveillance campaign led by DCC-NBCO, which has recently commenced, to perform risk assessments of selected quarrying and pit operations, follow-up inspections, sampling and testing as appropriate to ensure compliance with the CPR.

Whilst the CPR focuses on the conditions which apply when placing a product on the market, clients, specifiers, designers and builders etc., should:

- when drawing up specifications, refer to the harmonised technical specifications and specifically to the requirements of individual characteristics when necessary,

- when choosing the products most suitable for their intended use in construction works, review the manufacturer’s Declaration of Performance,

- check the Standard Recommendations published by NSAI, which give guidance on appropriate minimum performance levels for specific intended uses of the product in Ireland, and

- ensure compliance with the Building Regulations 1997 to 2021, in this regard all works should be carried out in a workmanlike manner, using proper materials which are fit for the use for which they are intended and for the conditions in which they are to be used.

In relation to ‘poured concrete’ (commonly called ready-mix concrete), the current European standard is ‘I.S. EN 206-1:2013+A2:2021, Concrete - Part 1: Specification, performance, production and conformity’ . This standard requires the manufacturers of ready-mix concrete to demonstrate conformity to a series of specified requirements. Manufacturers must issue a formal Declaration of Conformity along with relevant documentation before they can dispatch ready-mix concrete.

As I.S. EN 206-1:2013+A2:2021 is not a harmonised standard within the scope of the CPR, NSAI has published additional guidance in the form of an Irish National Annex, which specifies among other requirements, the recommended limiting values required for concrete mixes for the various exposure classes. These values are applicable to the specification or use of concrete in Ireland. I.S. EN 206-1+A2:2021 places significant responsibility upon manufacturers of ready-mix concrete to demonstrate conformity to a series of specified requirements.

NSAI has also put in place a product certification scheme covering ready-mix concrete. This entails an initial inspection of the concrete plant focusing on:

- The production control manual and the degree of conformity to I.S. EN 206–1 and National Annex;

- Inspection of relevant documentation,

- Facilities and equipment,

- Staff training, experience and knowledge,

- Issuing a Certificate of Conformity.

All the relevant information from the initial inspection and assessment of the system is documented in an NSAI Assessment Report. This report will be issued after the plant has passed the initial inspection, along with a Certificate of Conformity to I.S. EN 206-1:2002 and Irish National Annex.

To maintain certification, qualified NSAI personnel will continue to carry out regular inspections. As a minimum, the following will be examined:

- Sampling and testing procedures,

- Recorded data,

- Test results obtained for production control during the inspection period,

- Frequency of required tests or procedures,

- Scheduled production equipment checks and maintenance,

- Scheduled test equipment maintenance and calibration,

- Actions taken with respect to any non-conformity,

- Delivery tickets, and the Declaration of Conformity where relevant,

- Maintenance of the production control system.

NSAI also take ongoing spot samples to verify the accuracy of the producer’s routine testing procedures. Where significant changes are made to facilities at the production place, system or manual, the producer must notify these changes to NSAI. Following review, NSAI may determine that an on-site re-inspection is appropriate.

Finally, the overarching requirement under Part D (Material and Workmanship) of the Building Regulations 1997-2021 requires that all works should be carried out:

- Using proper materials which are fit for the use for which they are intended and for the conditions in which they are to be used.

- With a proper standard of workmanship and the appropriate use of any material to achieve compliance with the requirements of the Regulations.

- By competent persons with sufficient training, experience and knowledge appropriate to the nature of the work he or she is required to perform and having particular regard to the size and complexity of such works so as to ensure a proper standard of workmanship.

The primary responsibility for compliance with the Building Regulations 1997-2021 rests with the designers, builders and owners of buildings. Interpretation of the legislation is, ultimately, a matter for the Courts and implementation of the Building Control system is a matter for the 31 local building control authorities, who are independent in the exercise of their statutory powers.

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