Value in independent testing

Richard Bate, director of Build Check, explains how paying for your own weather and security testing can give fabricators additional flexibility to win more business.

Large fabricators get independent test results on their products because it gives them increased control of their supply chain, additional purchasing power, and USPs at point of sale.

Smaller fabricators don’t necessarily have the same relationship with test houses, but in a market environment where fabricators are facing price increases from their suppliers and more pressure from their customers to remain competitive, could a relatively small up-front investment in testing pay dividends down the line?

There is a perception that testing is prohibitively expensive, but it is actually far more accessible than most fabricators think. If you’re operating on a smaller scale, you can still make some very significant savings by paying for your own testing and buying component parts more effectively.

The key legal requirement placed on fabricators is that they supply completed door sets or window sets that comply with CE Marking law, which includes a ‘declaration of performance’.

Fabricators should already be familiar with requirements under CE Marking Rules. For windows, the declaration of performance needs to include: the U-value; a statement on dangerous substances; and the suitability of any safety devices, for example child restrictors. For doors it’s exactly the same plus, in the case of emergency exit doors only, its ability to be released.

At the end of the day, when that window leaves my factory gate, am I comfortable with the fact that it is going meet CE Marking requirements?

And that depends on many things, not least the location and the size of the window or door. If, for example, you are installing a window on the Isle of Skye you might want an exposure category rating of 2,000 pascals, to prove that your product meets requirements.

If you’re in Central London, or any other built up area, the minimum test requirements might be 800 pascals.

As an independent and Ukas-accredited test house we can’t consult but we can explain options. We can’t say do it or don’t do it. We can’t say choose one lock and not another lock, one reinforcement or another reinforcement. We are here to support you in testing and in supplying evidence that supports you in proving product performance.

Therefore, there is no generic requirement placed on fabricators to use one component product or another; only that they must be tested to meet minimum levels of performance to show that they are compliant.

Regarding Part Q compliance, there is some discussion about whether it will be extended to domestic replacement. Currently, unless you’re in new build, you don’t need it.

Speaking independently as Build Check we have had customers who have picked up new-build projects, given us their window system, given us their locks, their reinforcement, their hinges and that test has cost them around £1,000 for all the windows they have supplied; maybe £1,500 for a back door; £2,000 for a French door.

What they have then done is made that their standard new-build specification and where they have picked up new work have stuck with it, so they don’t have to test and test again.

It’s a commercial decision for them. Does the flexibility to source component product at lower cost and the savings that that delivers outweigh the cost of testing if those specifications can then be repeated?

That’s not our decision as an independent test house. We can, however, explain the technical requirements and conduct the tests that allows them to evidence performance.