Clarity in product information is vital in achieving building safety - and you can help

Join our focus groups in June to help us improve construction product information.

Peter Caplehorn is Interim Chief Executive of Construction Products Association (CPA)

Peter Caplehorn is Interim Chief Executive of Construction Products Association (CPA)

29 May 2019

The publication of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety is an important and resounding call for change across the entire construction industry. A number of challenges were identified about how we ensure our buildings keep people safe.

The construction products sector, the sector my organisation represents, has already begun driving change for higher ethical standards in product marketing information. This has been evident most recently with the setting up of the CPA’s Marketing Integrity Group (MIG), chaired by Adam Turk from Baxi, one of Europe’s largest manufacturers of water heating systems.

The MIG has been working on ensuring the presentation of consistent and unambiguous product information to the entire construction supply chain. Achieving this level of clarity for product information is vital for safety, particularly when a product is used as part of a more complex system on a building or structure.

A key aspect of the MIG’s work is currently underway, and we need the input of housing associations across the UK.

A series of focus groups with anyone who makes use of construction product information – developers, architects, contractors, merchants and maintainers alike – are currently being organised, in partnership with the CPA and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

These focus groups will be held in June, and will focus on:

  • understanding the ease of finding product information
  • the completeness and correctness of information
  • product substitution
  • the use of information in a variety of applications and projects
  • the competence required when using and understanding the information. 

Construction products were not exempt from these challenges. One of the painful lessons we learnt as a sector from the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower was that construction product standards must be made more robust and product information standardised and presented in a less ambiguous format. Regulatory frameworks need to be in place with an accompanying feedback loop and necessary sanctions to make sure products perform in a building as they are supposed to.

In response to the Hackitt Review, the Government has committed to creating new governance arrangements for building regulations guidance and expressed a desire to work closely with the  CPA and our industry more widely to ‘improve transparency of the performance of products.’

It’s easy to frame the spirit of this review as the Government fixing failures within the construction products industry, however, this would be too simplistic. The construction industry has not only been reactive but both proactive and collaborative in addressing the issues highlighted in the report, particularly in relation to fire performance and the marketing of product information.

We invite any housing associations interested in supporting this research and participating in the focus groups to contact the CPA via hanna.clarke@constructionproducts.org.uk.

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