Tuesday, 5 July 2022
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
Defective Building Materials
208. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government if he will outline in respect of the ongoing issue of pyrite and other contaminants appearing in cement and concrete blocks (details supplied), the enforcement measures that are taking place, directed by his Department, to ensure continuous and rigorous inspection of concrete block and cement product being offered to the Irish market to ensure they meet the latest building standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36209/22]
The Construction Products Regulation (EU) No 305/2011 (CPR) sets out rules for the marketing of construction products in the EU, from 1 July 2013. Where a construction product, covered by a harmonised standard (includes concrete blocks, aggregates for concrete and cement), 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 (including concrete blocks, aggregates for concrete), and non-harmonised standards (concrete to I.S. EN 206-1:2013+A2:2021), in the form of Standard Recommendations (SRs) and National Annexes which set out appropriate minimum performance levels for specific intended uses of certain construction products in Ireland.
My Department recently published ‘A Guide to the Marketing and Use of Aggregate Concrete Blocks to EN 771-3 in Ireland’ which is available on the Department’s website. This guide aims to facilitate clearer communication within the supply chain regarding the declared performance of essential characteristics of concrete blocks having regard to national provisions in Ireland. Guidance is also provided for specifiers, designers, builders, certifiers and end users who when specifying and choosing aggregate concrete blocks, they should ensure that the construction products are fit for intended use and the conditions in which they are to be used. Appropriate specifications and choices will help secure compliance with the Building Regulations 1997 to 2021.
While the CPR came into force in July 2013 and has direct legal application across the entire European Union, 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 Regulation (EU) 2019/1020 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on market surveillance and compliance of products and amending Directive 2004/42/EC and Regulations (EC) No 765/2008 and (EU) No 305/2011.
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, the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Act 2020 (Construction Products – Market Surveillance) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 682 of 2020) appointed Dublin City Council 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 and Market Surveillance Office, (NBC&MSO) Market Surveillance Unit has been established for this purpose. Building control authorities liaise with NBC&MSO 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 NBC&MSO to perform risk assessments of selected quarrying and pit operations, follow-up inspections, sampling and testing as appropriate to ensure compliance with the CPR. The 2022 programme is currently being finalised and is expected to continue to focus on the extractive industries sector and expand upon the programme commenced in 2021.
In October of last year I requested a Market Surveillance Audit of all quarries in Donegal which was carried out by the National Building Control and Market Surveillance Office in partnership with Donegal County Council and Geological Survey Ireland. I received a report of this audit at the end of June and am currently examining its contents.
In addition to the initiatives above, Market Surveillance Authorities respond to complaints raised. Therefore any information on suspected non-compliance should be submitted in writing (detailing as much information as possible) to either the appropriate local Market Surveillance Authority and/or the National Building Control Office and Market Surveillance Office (NBC&MSO). The Local Market Surveillance Authority may be contacted through the City or County Council. NBC&MSO may be contacted at: email@example.com.
Separately, in relation to the manufacture and supply of concrete, while it is covered by a European standard I.S. EN 206-1:2013+A2:2021, this is not a harmonised standard within the scope of the CPR. NSAI has published additional guidance in the form of an Irish National Annex, which specifies among other requirements, the recommended limiting values required for concrete mixes for the various exposure classes. These values are applicable to the specification or use of concrete in Ireland. I.S. EN 206-1+A2:2021 places significant responsibility upon manufacturers of ready-mix concrete to demonstrate conformity to a series of specified requirements.
NSAI has also put in place a product certification scheme covering ready-mix concrete. This entails an initial inspection of the concrete plant focusing on:
- The production control manual and the degree of conformity to I.S. EN 206–1 and National Annex;
- Inspection of relevant documentation,
- Facilities and equipment,
- Staff training, experience and knowledge,
- Issuing a Certificate of Conformity.
All the relevant information from the initial inspection and assessment of the system is documented in an NSAI Assessment Report. This report will be issued after the plant has passed the initial inspection, along with a Certificate of Conformity to I.S. EN 206-1:2002 and Irish National Annex.
To maintain certification, qualified NSAI personnel will continue to carry out regular inspections. As a minimum, the following will be examined:
- Sampling and testing procedures,
- Recorded data,
- Test results obtained for production control during the inspection period,
- Frequency of required tests or procedures,
- Scheduled production equipment checks and maintenance,
- Scheduled test equipment maintenance and calibration,
- Actions taken with respect to any non-conformity,
- Delivery tickets, and the Declaration of Conformity where relevant,
- Maintenance of the production control system.
NSAI also take ongoing spot samples to verify the accuracy of the producer’s routine testing procedures. Where significant changes are made to facilities at the production place, system or manual, the producer must notify these changes to NSAI. Following review, NSAI may determine that an on-site re-inspection is appropriate.
Finally, in relation to Building Regulations, the overarching requirement under Part D (Material and Workmanship) of the Building Regulations 1997-2021 requires that all works should be carried out:
- Using proper materials which are fit for the use for which they are intended and for the conditions in which they are to be used.
- With a proper standard of workmanship and the appropriate use of any material to achieve compliance with the requirements of the Regulations.
- By competent persons with sufficient training, experience and knowledge appropriate to the nature of the work he or she is required to perform and having particular regard to the size and complexity of such works so as to ensure a proper standard of workmanship.
The primary responsibility for compliance with the Building Regulations 1997-2021 rests with the designers, builders and owners of buildings. Interpretation of the legislation is, ultimately, a matter for the Courts and implementation of the Building Control system is a matter for the 31 local building control authorities, who are independent in the exercise of their statutory powers.
The Regulation of Providers of Building Works Bill 2022, which will put the Construction Industry Register Ireland on a statutory footing, is currently going through the legislative process in the Oireachtas and is expected to be enacted shortly. Its main objective is to develop and promote a culture of competence, good practice and compliance with the Building Regulations in the construction sector which will benefit consumers and the general public. The establishment of a robust, mandatory, statutory register is critical for the development of a culture of competence and compliance in the construction sector.