One of the central planks of the Government’s continued drive to improve building safety post-Grenfell is a more robust and regulated testing system for construction product manufacturers.
Widely welcomed within the industry itself, the move to improve the product testing regime is gathering pace.
Such changes were also part of Dame Judith Hackitt’s original inquiry recommendations following the Grenfell Tower fire.
Displaying a willingness to listen that should probably be applied to the wider building safety campaign, the Government has reacted positively to the manufacturing industry on a number of key points – albeit with a familiar slow pace.
So, the deadline for UKCA testing and accreditation has been put back to give the industry a chance to gets products approved, and to give the new-look system a chance to start functioning efficiently too. And despite the period of grace that delaying the deadline affords, manufacturers continue to ramp up their efforts to meet the new standards.
Manufacturers mustn’t get lulled into a false sense of security with this extended deadline
The recently published Independent Review of the Construction Product Testing Regime by Paul Morrell OBE and Anneliese Day KC is another significant step forward.
The report references the new Construction Product Information and sets out recommendations to government and industry on its uptake. These include:
- Industry to work together to encourage take-up of the Code for Construction Product Information, in terms of manufacturers signing up and specifiers/procurers taking note of signing up in product selection.
- Government and industry to consider whether and how the Code and third-party certification could best work together to achieve their shared objectives;
- Government and industry to consider how the Code could perform a recognised self-regulatory function comparable to the Code of Advertising Practice.
An important role
David Topliffe, chair of CPI Ltd, the independent organisation set up to administer the Code for Construction Product Information, said: “It’s clear from this Review that the Code has an important role to play in the wider framework of review and reform underway in the sector. Government can rely on it to achieve its objective of driving higher standards in building safety.”
Steve Marr, Interim CEO of CPI Ltd, also welcomed publication of the report and the references made to CCPI.
“The publication of this report marks an important moment for the industry and I’m confident the Code will support manufacturers of construction products on their journey towards culture change in the way in which Product Information is presented,” he added.
“I look forward to working with the team and manufacturers to helping ensure uptake of the Code from industry is strong.”
There is still a lot of work to do and Peter Caplehorn, Chief Executive of the Construction Products Association, hopes that the communication channels opened between the industry and Government on building safety will prove beneficial in the coming months.
Supporting publication of the independent review in testing, he continued: “This report should be required reading for policy-makers and industry leaders alike, coming at a critical time not only for the future of the UK product testing and certification sector, but for the wider culture and practices of UK construction as well.
“The recommendations cover a wide range of urgent issues, and the CPA and its members will be focusing on developing the necessary responses and actions in consultation with department officials.”
Individual manufacturers are also being encouraged to seize the initiative and work quickly to adopt new testing procedures and secure accreditation for their products.
Although the deadline for the UKCA certification process has been pushed to 30 June 2025, manufacturers are being told to start now with getting products tested amidst a shortage of approved testing facilities in the UK.
The advice, from Warringtonfire, a leading testing, inspection and certification company, warns that manufacturers who opt to wait run the risk of finding themselves with nowhere to test their products, as there are only a handful of UKAS-accredited testing facilities in the UK.
Accredited testing to enable UKCA marking can only be issued by an approved body listed on the UK government’s database.
Ben Sharples, Commercial Lead at BM TRADA and sister company to Warringtonfire, said: “UKCA marking is very important for the construction industry, as it symbolises that the product being used conforms to the relevant standard and is a mark of integrity.”
A false sense of security
He urged manufacturers not to get lulled into a false sense of security with this extended deadline on UKCA marking.
“Manufacturers need to be aware that any products on the UK market after the June 2025 will need to have this testing completed,” he added. “This goes for products undergoing a change in their specification too.”
UKCA certification became mandatory for all new construction products placed on the market in Great Britain as of 1 January 2021, as the UK transitions away from the EU-recognised CE Marking. The original cut-off date for UKCA marking for all applicable construction products placed on the GB market was 1 January 2023, before being pushed to the new date in 2025.
“Although many manufacturers have successfully achieved UKCA certification, a sizeable number have not,” said Ben Sharples. “Lead times for testing are long, and laboratory availability is in short supply. The longer the delay in getting the process started, the more likely manufacturers are to be caught out, and this then affects them being able to sell or launch their new products.”