the current testing regimes for new product developments in the construction
industry fit for purpose?
EcoBuild this year, Richard Lee our managing director was on a panel to
discuss ‘Maximising Building Performance – could manufacturers do more?’
panel with Richard was Peter Caplehorne, accomplished architect and
Technical Director of Scott Brownrigg.
had some interesting things to say about the kinds of technical information
he seeks from manufacturers and I hope he won’t mind me quoting him in this
article. He said: “I want technical information from manufacturers verified,
preferably by three independent sources of information.”
Clearly this has come about because of bad
experiences which have eroded Peter’s trust in the reliability of
manufacturer’s information. Although he was good enough to exclude Jablite
from this accusation – it was obvious to everyone at this event that Peter
Caplehorne is frustrated by the lack of clarity around technical information
supplied about construction products.
Peter asked for information to be ‘accurate,
up-to-date, concise’ and he emphasised that independent testing supports the
designers and specifiers to make good choices and specify products that will
work with the rest of the project.
As for the technical support offered by
manufacturers, I was personally very pleased to hear Peter describe this as
the ‘lifeblood’ of the process, especially when it comes to understanding
how products are applied on site.
expressed doubts about the Agrément certificates being an adequate test and
he emphasised the need to test for the performance of products in use. For a
manufacturer like Jablite this raises a number of interesting questions.
spend three years and around £60,000 on BBA certification for a new product
we are introducing to the market – is that money well spent?
specifiers view BBA certification? If we chose instead to spend that budget
on putting our product onto real life projects, working with specifiers and
contractors and independent monitoring agencies – would we get more useful
information and more relevant test results for specifiers?
There would clearly be a huge risk in taking a
step like this in isolation. A BBA certificate is the accepted currency by
which a new product is tested and launched into the UK construction sector –
but does it need to be?
British Standards, European Standards and European Technical Approvals for
example set test criteria for products in certain applications. Independent
test houses, including the BBA, assist manufacturers to achieve these
|These tests don’t
always replicate real installation of products as you would expect to see on
construction sites. Don’t get me wrong, there has to be adequate testing and
a benchmark for all market entries – but shouldn’t they better reflect
actual installations in the UK construction industry?
|As a product
developer, I’m continuously frustrated at the time it takes to fully lab
test products independently before entering a market.
Independent test houses usually specialise in
certain fields, and the capacity available is so limited, that some tests
can take months to undertake – that is, once you have located the
appropriate lab with the expertise you need.
During the development of our inverted roof
insulation portfolio, we faced exactly these challenges - it was a struggle
finding a suitable laboratory and then we had to wait for time availability
to test the products to meet the criteria laid out in ETAG 031 - all of
which delayed the launch. Is there a better way?
Instead, as an example, how much more interesting would it be to have the
opportunity to put insulation on a trial roof, to have independent
monitoring, thermal imaging, visits from specifiers, reports from the
building users? And to even cut out samples to test every month for a year?
this is of interest to contractors, architects, engineers and specifiers in
general – we at Jablite would love to work with you to set up projects on
do you think? Would you be prepared to provide projects for us to work with
you on pilots like this? Would you – a specifier – be prepared to take this
kind of a risk?
bottom line is that as a manufacturer, Jablite could not take this step
alone. We would need to work with our peers in architecture practices and
contractors to pull together plans for a new testing regime that gives you –
our customers – the technical information you need.