Third-party certification exists to provide assurance on product safety, quality and performance, but understanding that not all certificates and awarding bodies are created equal is crucial
Third-party product certification offers one important route to restoring public confidence in the construction industry post-Grenfell.
Schemes run by bodies such as the British Board of Agrément (BBA) provide objective assurance of conformity to internationally recognised standards of safety, quality and performance.
While there’s no standard format, the certification process is more than a tick-box exercise, requiring skilful assessment of multiple factors.
When specifying roof insulation, for example, certification should cover thermal performance, durability, risk of interstitial and surface condensation, strength and stability, plus behaviour in relation to fire.
This might seem common sense, but not all certificates are created equal. For the same reason, it’s vital to consider whether the awarding body has demonstrated its competence through independent accreditation.
In the UK, the sole recognised public authority on this is the National Accreditation Body, UKAS.
Although UKAS accreditation isn’t a legal requirement, it should be reassuring to know that the product you are specifying has been deemed compliant by someone who is entirely capable of making that complex, and potentially safety-critical, judgment.
Architects should be aware that the BBA is still the only body able to offer UKAS-accredited certification for insulation products through the BBA scheme.
Accredited third-party certification ensures that calculations are made correctly, according to the relevant standards.
For example, the BBA for an inverted roof system combining Ravatherm XPS X 300 SL insulation with the Ravatherm MK water flow reducing layer specifies the methodology laid out in BS EN ISO 6946:2017 and BRE Report BR 443:2019, using the design lambda value (whereby a moisture correction factor is applied to the declared value) and the fx drainage correction for the system.
By designing an inverted flat roof system in line with other certifications, architects risk significantly underestimating the amount of insulation needed to meet the required U-value. To avoid costly, embarrassing mistakes it is important to understand how organisations interpret regulations.
Some oversights come at greater costs than others. In the 1990s, an ‘unwillingness to know’ about public health risks proved lethal and the tragedy at Grenfell made it plain that ‘deliberate incuriosity’ continues to cost lives.
Accredited third-party certification has a major role to play in how the construction industry moves forward. The British public will never again take claims of safety and quality at face value - and nor should the construction industry.
For more information and technical support, visit ravagobuildingsolutions.co.uk