Non-conforming products prompting changes to the CodeMark certification scheme
The Australian building industry is highly regulated, yet incidents of non-conforming or non-compliant products being used on building sites still occur and have prompted changes to the CodeMark certification scheme. Adelle King explains the changes and what building contractors need to know about the product certification process.
In August 2017, implementation of the improved CodeMark Australia certiﬁcation scheme commenced following an extensive review process conducted by the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB). The review was in response to concerns about growing incidents of non-conforming and noncompliant products in Australia.
CodeMark is a voluntary third-party building product certiﬁcation scheme that provides compliance of building materials, forms of construction and designs under the Building Code of Australia (BCA) Volumes One and Two. Products certiﬁed under CodeMark are recognised nationally as being compliant with speciﬁc requirements of the BCA.
In 2014, a senate inquiry into nonconforming and non-compliant products lead to a review of the CodeMark scheme in consultation with State and Territory governments, industry groups, Scheme Certiﬁcation Bodies and the Ministry of Business and Innovation and Employment in New Zealand.
The review recommended several ways CodeMark could be strengthened, including separating the Australian and New Zealand schemes. The schemes have now been re-named in Australia and New Zealand to CodeMark Australia and CodeMark New Zealand respectively to reﬂect the fact that although CodeMark was developed jointly between the two countries, the schemes now operate and are administered separately.
CodeMark Australia has introduced requirements for more information to be included about the products that have been certiﬁed and there will now be information included about how the products are to be used. Additionally, performance requirements must now be evaluated in accordance with CodeMark protocol for the assessment of products against BCA Performance Requirements. The tests and reports on which the accredited certiﬁcation body based its decision are required to be presented and the manufacturing facility where the products were made must be identiﬁed.
The ABCB felt these changes would establish a common approach and provide greater clarity for end-users following feedback from stakeholders during the review process that identiﬁed concerns about the level of discretion available to accredited certiﬁcation bodies (CBs) in their certiﬁcation process.
Other changes include the removal of risk analysis, the removal of mandatory factory or site visits, the introduction of post manufacture or supply chain surveillance and a new Certiﬁcate of Conformity template.
The ABCB says the new Certiﬁcate of Conformity template will make it easier for practitioners to prescribe the amount and clarity of information required in the certiﬁcate and to determine which parts of the BCA the product has been certiﬁed to meet.
The new scheme will be implemented over a period of time so the industry can adjust and the transition be made for existing CodeMark participants and certiﬁed products.
Accredited bodies have until January 2018 to prove to the Scheme Administrator and Accreditation Body for CodeMark, the Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand (JAS-ANZ), that they have complied with all the new requirements of the scheme.
JAS-ANZ will also host a product database, which was previously on the ABCB website, with downloadable Certiﬁcates of Conformity available.
THE CERTIFICATION PROCESS
The ABCB manages the CodeMark scheme in Australia but JAS-ANZ is the scheme accreditation body, meaning it assesses and accredits certiﬁcation bodies that issue Certiﬁcates of Conformity in relation to a product.
JAS-ANZ has developed assessment criteria that CBs must meet to become accredited and conducts audits of these bodies every six to 12 months to ensure they comply. As of writing there are ﬁve CBs accredited to certify to the BCA under the CodeMark Scheme in Australia, BEAL Certiﬁcation Service, Bureau Veritas, CertMark International, Global-Mark and SAI Global.
The tests, factory visits and costs for CodeMark certiﬁcation will diﬀer depending on the CB so companies wishing to gain CodeMark should contact the CBs directly through the details available on the JAS-ANZ website to ﬁnd out how to proceed.
The six CodeMark CBs are responsible for evaluating products, including reviewing the test reports and, where applicable, auditing the manufacturer or installation site for compliance. If the product is found to comply with the speciﬁed sections or clauses of the BCA then a Certiﬁcate of Conformity is issued, which lists the scope of compliance and any limitations or conditions.
While all building products and systems must comply with the BCA under Australian law, CodeMark certiﬁcation itself isn’t mandatory, which means people can choose to get their products assessed and ﬁ t to be certiﬁed under a number of diﬀerent schemes.
“The main diﬀerence between CodeMark certiﬁcation and other Product Certiﬁcation Schemes is that CodeMark is a nationally recognised scheme. The CodeMark Certiﬁcate of Conformity is one of several options available for meeting the ‘Evidence of Suitability’ requirements of the BCA. However, unlike other Evidence of Suitability options, Certiﬁcates of Conformity receive mandatory acceptance under State and Territory building control legislation. This means that CodeMark certiﬁ ed products do not require additional information from local councils or other regulatory bodies because they accept that the product has gone through extensive third-party assessment,” says Bureau Veritas certiﬁ cation manager Sam Guindi.
“Another distinguishing element of CodeMark is that it includes installation as part of the assessment process. Traditional product certiﬁcation schemes certify how the product is manufactured in the factory to ensure it complies with the requirements of the relevant Standard but CodeMark also looks at installation because if the product isn’t installed correctly onsite, then it’s useless. The Certiﬁcation Process must examine the Product, its uses and installation (including, if applicable, conducting a construction site visit) to determine the on-site application of the Product.” Under the CodeMark Scheme, compliance with the BCA is achieved by satisfying the Performance Requirements. The performance based format of the BCA allows a choice of deemed-to-satisfy solutions (DTS) or ﬂexibility to develop performance solutions based on existing or new innovative products, systems and designs. The performance requirements can be satisﬁ ed through a performance solution (formerly known as alternative solution) or DTS or a combination of both.
“DTS Solution means a method of satisfying the Deemed-to-Satisfy Provisions, e.g. the product has already been tested in accordance with a referenced Standard or Test Method and hence compliance with the Performance Requirements of the BCA has been demonstrated,” says Sam.
“If the product cannot be assessed under the DTS solution, CBs can still assess and certify the product under the performance solution, provided the product will meet the performance requirements of the BCA. However, it’s a more complex process assessing a product against a performance solution compared to a DTS solution.”
Once a product has been identiﬁed as complying with the requirements of the BCA, a Certiﬁcate of Conformity is issued. This certiﬁcate has a three year life, after which an audit and full review are conducted.
CodeMark certiﬁcation shows a product has been assessed by an independent third-party certiﬁer, oﬀering increased credibility and market potential.
“CodeMark certiﬁcation isn’t just a test report, it’s an ongoing product compliance scheme that ensures every product that comes out of the factory will comply because we’ve audited the system, we know the company is doing the right thing and we do surveillance audits to ensure this,” says Sam.
ALTERNATIVE CERTIFICATION OPTIONS
Since CodeMark isn’t mandatory, companies that want to sell and market a product in Australia have a number of options, including to selfcertify or go through an alternative certiﬁcation scheme.
Self-certifying involves having the product tested and receiving a test report that shows the product complies with speciﬁc BCA requirements.
“A test report is not third-party certiﬁcation. The test report basically states that the prototype sent to the laboratory on the day passed testing but there are no guarantees this product is what the factory will continue to manufacture and supply,” says Sam.
Third-party product certiﬁcation schemes, on the other hand, verify testing of the product as well as auditing the manufacturing facility. CodeMark is not the only third-party certiﬁcation scheme and most CodeMark CBs also have their own product certiﬁcation schemes that complement CodeMark.
Whereas CodeMark represents compliance with speciﬁc requirements of the BCA, these alternative product certiﬁcation schemes show compliance with speciﬁc Australian or international standards, which may also be referenced in the BCA.
Bureau Veritas, for instance, certiﬁes products under its ‘S’ Mark Scheme, which was originally established by Standards New Zealand in 1944 before being taken over by Bureau Veritas in 1997.
The ‘S’ Mark is associated with a range of products from safety footwear and protective clothing to timber products and ﬁ re hydrants.
“Companies will come to us with a product that needs to comply with a speciﬁc Standard so we audit the manufacturing process and verify test reports against that Standard,” says Sam.
“It’s quite a straight-forward process because the testing requirements are outlined in the Standard so we assess the product against that and then issue a Certiﬁcate against the particular Standard,” says Sam.
Due to the number of diﬀerent ways building products can receive certiﬁcation in Australia, there can be some confusion about how and when a product complies.
“We could have a client that receives certiﬁcation on a product for ﬁre properties but there could be instances where the product may also require assessment against other properties, such as thermal properties, so building contractors need to be checking the Certiﬁcate of Conformity for the scope of compliance, installation requirements and limitations,” says Sam.
“There is also sometimes confusion when people assume that because a company has certiﬁcation on a particular product, it means all their products comply but product certiﬁcation is very speciﬁc to the product listed on the Certiﬁcate of Conformity. While certiﬁcation is evidence of compliance with the BCA or with a speciﬁc Standard, it’s still important to check the content of the certiﬁcate to know the extent of that compliance.”