Regulatory changes on the horizon

Recommendations following the Grenfell Tower tragedy and political uncertainties around Brexit, as well as significant changes in consumer preference around recycling and sustainability, are among some of the factors that will continue to shape how the industry is regulated in the future. Mark Gajda, regional quality manager at Rehau says that knowing what the latest regulation means for your company is critical, and provides an overview of some of the regulatory changes we may see in 2019.

First, it is important that industry professionals understand the difference between legislation and regulation: legislation is statutory law while regulations monitor and enforce that law.

Think of it like this: if legislation is the destination, then regulation is how you get there.

The Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety report led by Dame Judith Hackitt revealed that building drawings and specifications do not currently reflect the materials that are used in development projects.

She has proposed that a new, powerful and independent national body be set up to approve the safety of buildings at design stage, check them at regular intervals, and penalise builders and developers if things go wrong, a measure that may well be put into place by the industry and its experts soon.

Sales of composite fire doors were also suspended following the Grenfell fire tragedy, but following intensive discussions between the Association of Composite Door Manufacturers (ACDM) and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to resolve the industry’s self-imposed moratorium on composite fire door sales, an agreement has been reached to allow sales to resume.

According to this, manufacturers now need to have primary test evidence illustrating that products have passed bi-directional fire tests, as per requirements of the Approved Document B, along with written confirmation from the test house confirming this result.

Test evidence must then be submitted to fire door slab manufacturers before recommencing supply. It’s important to note that the manufacture and supply of the product must be as per the test samples without any exceptions, including product components and size offering.

Fabricators and installers must note that there are ongoing discussions regarding cascading of alterative size options, ie, where testing of maximum and minimum sizes has been tested, allowance for size options in between to be covered. However, until that approval from the MHCLG has been received, size offering is restricted to test sample size only.

The current political climate has caused waves of confusion that has trickled across several industries including construction and fenestration. Amid the uncertainty of Brexit, it is the responsibility of the manufacturer to stay informed and ensure that their products are legally compliant and secure.

Legislative requirements are set by the Construction Product Regulations (CPR 2013) and Regulations by Building Act (1984). These give the Secretary of State the power to set Building Regulations and lay down harmonised laws for the marketing of construction products.

Several legally binding industry requirements fall within this bracket, including the CE Marking Regulations, which is subject to change post-Brexit.

CE stands for ‘Conformité Européenne’, which means ‘European Conformity’. A product in one of the controlled product categories cannot legally be sold in the EU unless it has passed the tests to receive the CE Marking. Products need to be marked accordingly and produced along with a relevant Declaration of Performance (DoP) against critical product characteristics.

Once the UK leaves the EU, the CE marking on products may have to change. To this effect, there is an already planned ‘customs agreement’ that will assist during the transition period, post-Brexit until the end of 2020, so you would need to familiarise yourself with these changes sooner rather than later.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the UK government has drawn up plans to replace the CE Marking for a new symbol: UK Conformity Assessed (UKCA). If this happens, all current UK Notified Bodies (NB) will be offered a new UK Approved Body Status: Technical Assessment Body (TAB). It is also possible that current NBs will make provisions to allow for continued export to the EU, enabling continued CE Marking (some have already confirmed route to compliance).

Moving forward, the UK will retain its membership of the CEN Committee (The European Committee for Standardisation) ensuring EN Standards will remain relevant but we need to stay alert and make sure we are aware of the changes post Brexit.

Manufacturers need to keep a watchful eye on the evolving landscape to ensure their products are fully compliant with the latest regulatory standards and requirements.

As consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their carbon footprint, they expect manufacturers and installers to meet at least the minimum environmental standards when it comes to fenestration. In the fenestration industry, BSI 8001 Circular Economy, EN 15346 Controlled Loop, and the European Waste Framework Directive (WFD) are at the forefront of Environmental Regulations to consider.

Through the VinylPlus Initiative, recycling targets have been set for the European PVC sector and set out within this is the Voluntary Commitment to Sustainability Development which commits to recycle 800,000 tonnes in 2020, 900,000 tonnes in 2025, and 1000,000 tonnes in 2030, for use into new products.

In the fenestration industry, the main growth for recycled products is expected to come from the return of old windows or post-consumer waste, and brands within the sector need to look at new ways of contributing to this in order to meet environmental and regulatory requirements.

For example, Rehau has substantially invested in Sustainable Materials Management and has developed a controlled loop PVC window recycling scheme where co-extruded profiles are being manufactured in-line with the full requirements of EN 12608. Currently both post-industrial and post-consumer material are fed into the brands’ own recycling centre where it is processed into clean recycled material for transportation to an extrusion plant.

There is no arguing that the continually developing fenestration market will see significant evolution as worldwide improvements are addressed across the industry. It is our duty as manufacturers to ensure we keep an eye on these changes and ensure we are complying to all relevant regulations to provide the highest quality products for the end-customer for years to come.