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Manufacturers worry over confusion about CE mark

Manufacturers of building services equipment are concerned about the potential confusion created by the start of compulsory CE marking later this year, says David Fitzpatrick
The mandatory use of CE marks from July 1 this year is a welcome development as it will help to improve the quality of products used across the construction and building services industry. However, there is growing confusion in the UK about how the new system will be applied.

The background to the initiative is the European Union's long held aim to remove technical barriers to trade within the European Economic Area as part of a move towards a single market. The original Construction Products Directive (CPD), which first came into force in 1991 and was amended four years later, allowed for national and European standards to co-exist so member states could adapt their markets gradually. Back then the UK opted out of CE marking.

However, the CPD is about to be replaced by the Construction Products Regulation (CPR), which comes into legal force in July and, this time, no EU member state can opt out of CE marking. The co-existence period ends on July 1 from when it will be a legal requirement for all building services products covered by the harmonised European standards to have a CE mark.

Compliance is challenging as third party testing and reports, certification, factory testing and audit trails are all needed. Time is running out fast and developing new products and completing the testing and documentation to meet CE mark standards can take many months.

A wide range of building service products will be subject to CE marking including, flues, chimneys and fittings; heat and smoke extraction fans; fire and smoke dampers; fire-rated ductwork systems; radiators and heat emitters to name just a few.

Responsible manufacturers broadly welcome the new law, but there is a big gap created by the absence of guidance about how building control and trading standard officers along with the Health and Safety Executive plan to police it.

Implications for projects

What are the implications for existing projects and the design of new systems for future projects? We know the deadline is July 1, but how does this apply to orders that are in the pipeline now or specifications that are already set?

At Ruskin, we have a large number of specifications and orders for projects that will not be complete until long after July 1 - so what happens to those?

We welcome the CE mark process as we believe it will raise standards, particularly in life safety applications and installations. We have already completed much of the necessary testing. However, we are concerned that the lack of clarity will be used to allow manufacturers and suppliers to place non-compliant products onto the market using ignorance as their legal defence.

Manufacturers are on board, but now we need the local and national enforcement bodies to acknowledge they have a role in this process and to publish their plans.

CIBSE has established a working group to look at the implications of statutory CE marking for manufacturers, designers and installers. Anyone interested in getting involved with the work of the group is invited to e mail: technical@cibse.org

// The author is sales and marketing director of Ruskin Air Management and chairman of CIBSE Patrons //
6 March 2013

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