The Guest Blog

Guest blog post by Juliette Albiac, Fire Safe Europe Managing Director

The European Commission is currently reviewing the Construction Products Regulation (CPR). Its review is an opportunity to address major fire safety issues from measuring smoke toxicity to assessing the fire risks from new construction products and methods.

The Construction Products Regulation (CPR), which dates back to 2011, is a key piece of European legislation for fire safety in buildings. The European Commission is currently carrying out a review of the CPR, and a public consultation was open from 22 January to 16 April 2018.

The CPR lays down harmonized rules for the marketing of construction products in the European Union: it provides manufacturers, purchasers, consumers as well as public authorities with a common technical language about the performance of construction products and allows them to have access to reliable and comparable information.

Amongst several options laid out by the European Commission when considering the future of the CPR was the possibility to repeal the regulation. Given its importance to fire safety in buildings, the Commission should instead move towards another option: to strengthen the CPR with better fire safety rules.

The construction materials used in a building have a significant impact on its fire safety. The CPR’s role to-date has been crucial in this respect. It provides standards that define the fire performance characteristics of a construction material, the test method that has to be used, the reporting format for informing about the results, and ensures that the testing/assessment is done in the same way in all EU Member States.

All combined, the CPR has brought about significant improvements in the fire safety of buildings across the EU: standards of fire safety are comparable from country-to-country; common classification means that a buyer, a designer or a builder can easily compare the fire-safety performance of construction materials regardless of where they originate.

Dropping or downgrading the CPR would set this progress back significantly. Not only it would deepen fire safety inequalities between EU Member States, but it would also hamper cross-border trade. Instead, the European Commission can lead excellence in fire safety by strengthening or adding several key points in a revised regulation.

Firstly, the testing methods and classification system in the CPR must be updated to reflect the constant changes in the construction sector. We have changed the way we build, and new construction materials and methods constantly enter the market – all of which bring new fire risks. A way must be found for the system to adapt to innovation and deal with these new risks.

The CE marking should become a real quality indicator, as consumers already perceive it as such. Currently, unlike for other products, the CE marking for construction products simply indicates that the construction product has been tested and classified using the CPR standards – and this does not mean the product is safe, only that it is in conformity with legislation and thus can be sold on the EU market.

Measurement and classification of smoke toxicity must be included in any credible review. Although smoke is responsible for over 50% of fire-related deaths and injuries, only smoke opacity is included in the CPR. This means that there are no reliable and comparable information available about how toxic the smoke of a burning construction product is – and this must change.

Finally, the CPR will have to find synergies with other relevant pieces of European legislation to have a more unified and holistic approach around fire safety. An example is the revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD): the version recently adopted by the Council and the European Parliament urges Member States to keep fire safety into account when working to improve the energy efficiency of buildings.

With the CPR review, there is an easy win for fire safety in buildings across the EU on the table, and the Commission must go for it. It is crucial that the CPR is kept and strengthened by addressing the new trends and risks in the construction sector, adding smoke toxicity to the equation and finding synergies with other EU legislations.

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