Construction Products Regulation (CPR) and fire safety
The Construction Products Regulation (CPR) outlines harmonised rules for the marketing of construction products in the EU. The Regulation provides a European framework to assess the performance of construction products.
It ensures that reliable and harmonised information is available to professionals and consumers, allowing national authorities to set criteria and requirements based on this framework. Building and installation requirements are defined at the national level (see B.I.O framework for more information).
Out of the seven basic work requirements from which essential characteristics are established, the following four have a strong safety component: mechanical safety, fire safety, safety in use and emission of substances. Over the years, improved fire safety measures have drastically reduced the number of fire fatalities in Europe.
The members of the Modern Building Alliance prioritise the safety of construction products, with a particular emphasis on fire safety during every stage of design, manufacturing and delivery to the market.
Construction products are subject to stringent regulations
Before they can be used in buildings in the EU, almost all construction products must first comply with the harmonised European standard (hEN) or European Assessment Document (EAD) through rigorous testing and verification.
National authorities set local performance requirements based on these documents, and market surveillance by the EU Member States ensures that these standards are met in practice. Additionally, the Declaration of Performance (DoP) provides precise and reliable information on the performance of a product.
Safety requirements depend on a building’s purpose or primary function. Therefore, it will always be left to the designer and architect to correctly prescribe which product is needed in a specific application. The end-user must also purchase the product with the prescribed performance for its intended use.
As it is important to keep the framework up to date, the current CPR allows for standards, as well as test methods and classification standards, to be regularly reviewed to guarantee they remain up to date with technological changes and societal challenges.
Increased fire safety measures helped reduce fire fatalities across Europe
In recent decades, the fire death rate across the majority of EU countries has declined. Simultaneously, there has been an increase in the use of plastic, including plastic insulation. This reduction in fire death rates contradicts any correlation between the rates and use of plastic construction products. It can only be explained by the comprehensive regulation and testing already in place.
However, further improvements to the implementation and awareness of fire safety are needed to reduce the number of fire fatalities.
Plastics are combustible, like all organic products such as wood and sheep wool, but they can be safely used in their intended building applications, as proven by thorough performance-based testing.
Further improvements are possible
The members of the Modern Building Alliance are continuously developing solutions to optimise the fire safety performance of their products, applications and buildings.
Building safety is primarily the responsibility of EU Member States; however, manufacturers and fire safety and construction professionals must be involved too. We strongly believe that the benefits from the application of plastics need never be at the expense of human life.
Recent tragic events, such as the Bucharest disco fire and the Grenfell fire, have highlighted the lack of compliance as a major issue. This must be addressed by strengthening enforcement, which should particularly rely on the competencies of professionals. Ensuring the fire safety of buildings is indeed a complex issue requiring competent professionals of various skills, with clear roles and responsibilities, to be involved during the buildings’ design, construction, renovation and maintenance phases.
The CPR review, announced in the European Green Deal communication of December 2019, aims to address some issues identified in the previous 2019 evaluation, improve the functioning of the single market and promote environmental goals and product safety. The Inception Impact Assessment presents different options to be considered by the European Commission, from no legislative change to repealing the CPR review.
The Modern Building Alliance stressed in its input to the roadmap that the CPR, together with several other elements, such as national building codes and regulations, plays an essential role in the safety of construction works, including the fire safety of buildings. Any change considered must carefully assess the potential safety impact and the potential for improvement, which can mainly be found in better implementation and enforcement. The Modern Building Alliance, therefore, supports the option of ‘no legislative changes’ and calls for strengthening quality, compliance and enforcement by developing fire safety competencies.