Wednesday, 3 November 2021
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
Defective Building Materials
97. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government if he will provide an overview of the current regulation and market surveillance in place to ensure that defective blocks are not being produced or sold; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53124/21]
The legal framework and rules for placing construction products on the market, including concrete blocks, are established in the first place at European level and then national provisions can be set at Member State level.
- The Construction Products Regulation (EU) No 305/2011 (CPR) sets out rules for the marketing of construction products in the EU. Where a construction product covered by a harmonised standard is being placed on the EU market, the CPR requires the manufacturer to draw up a ‘declaration of performance’ and affix a ‘CE’ marking to the product. In order to do so, manufacturers must test and declare the performance of their construction products using a common technical language prescribed in the harmonised standard.
- The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI), is Ireland’s official standards body and is an autonomous body under the aegis of the Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment. NSAI has produced additional guidance to some harmonised standards, under the CPR, in the form of Standard Recommendations (SRs) which set out appropriate minimum performance levels for specific intended uses of certain construction products in Ireland.
The manufacturer is responsible for compliance with the CPR and in particular for the Declaration of Performance/CE marking of the construction product he or she is placing on the market, having full knowledge of the raw material (as is legally required by the CPR via the relevant harmonised European Standards) and having regard to the end product’s suitability for use in construction works in accordance with the relevant Standard Recommendations published by the NSAI.
In relation to the specification of concrete blocks, the relevant suite of harmonised standards facilitating specification of masonry units is the EN 771 (series). NSAI has published additional guidance in the form of ‘S.R. 325:2013+A2:2018/AC:2019 Recommendations for the design of masonry structures in Ireland to Eurocode 6’ which
- provides guidance on the choice of masonry units and mortar classes most appropriate for particular situations as regards durability for finished work in Ireland, and
- recommends the use of Category 1 aggregate concrete blocks, which require independent third party oversight of factory production control by a Notified Body (a designated body that carries out third-party tasks).
Aggregate is a key constituent of concrete blocks. Category 1 aggregate concrete blocks, should meet the prescribed density, compressive strength and be made with dense aggregate conforming to ‘I.S. EN 12620+A1:2008 - Aggregates for concrete’ and ‘S.R. 16:2016 Guidance on the use of I.S. EN 12620:2002+A1:2008 - Aggregates for concrete’. Importantly, ‘S.R. 16:2016’outlines the precautions to be taken in the quarry to reduce the risk of harmful impurities in aggregate production. This includes the requirement for a geological and petrographic assessment of the raw material (i.e. the quarry deposit) and of the finished aggregate product for use in concrete and concrete products to be carried out at regular intervals. The key objective of the geological and petrological examination is to determine if aggregates for the manufacture of concrete are fit for purpose and if deleterious materials are present in such form or quantity that may affect end use and performance.
Whilst the CPR focuses on the conditions which apply when placing a product on the market, clients, specifiers, designers and builders etc., should:
- when drawing up specifications, refer to the harmonised technical specifications and specifically to the requirements of individual characteristics when necessary,
-when choosing the products most suitable for their intended use in construction works, review the manufacturer’s Declaration of Performance,
- check the Standard Recommendations published by NSAI, which give guidance on appropriate minimum performance levels for specific intended uses of the product in Ireland, and
- ensure compliance with the Building Regulations 1997 to 2021, in this regard all works should be carried out in a workmanlike manner, using proper materials which are fit for he use for which they are intended and for the conditions in which they are to be used.
Each Member State is responsible for regulating for its own market surveillance activities in accordance with the specific requirements of the CPR and the broader overarching requirements of the Market Surveillance Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2019/1020). This Regulation establishes an EU wide framework for market surveillance, and came into full effect in July 2021. This strengthens the existing provisions in the CPR (and other Union harmonisation legislation), relating to the compliance of products, the framework for cooperation with organisations representing economic operators or end users, the market surveillance of products and controls on products entering the EU market.
Under the European Union (Construction Products) Regulations 2013 (S.I. No.225 of 2013), each of the building control authorities (local authorities) have been designated as the principal market surveillance authorities for construction products that fall within the scope of the CPR, within their administrative areas.
In addition, Dublin City Council has been appointed as a competent authority for the carrying out of market surveillance functions under the European Union (Construction Products) Regulations 2013 for all related construction products on a nationwide basis. Dublin City Council-National Building Control Office, (DCC-NBCO) Market Surveillance Unit has been established for this purpose. Building control authorities will liaise with DCC-NBCO national market surveillance unit to support compliance with the CPR and to determine appropriate action on enforcement matters, as they arise.
Ireland’s National market surveillance programme 2021 is published on the website of the European Commission. Section 2.5 provides specific details with the market surveillance of construction products and outlines a market surveillance campaign led by DCC-NBCO, which has recently commenced, to perform risk assessments of selected quarrying and pit operations, follow-up inspections, sampling and testing as appropriate to ensure compliance with the CPR.Geological Survey Ireland are providing technical assistance and expertise to this campaign.
In addition, I have asked the NBCO, in collaboration with GSI to conduct a focussed campaign in Co Donegal in relation to concrete blocks to ensure compliance with standards.