Non-Conforming Building Products

NATSPEC Response to Non-Conforming Building Products

NATSPEC’s response to the Non-Conforming Products issue is as follows:

Designers should clearly specify the minimum required technical properties and product standards, and the required evidence of conformity in their construction specification in order to protect their clients and the end users of the built environment. If not, they may become complicit, and will be embroiled in legal action. Product standards should refer to relevant Australian Standards. Where there are no relevant Australian Standards, relevant international standards or authoritative industry sources should be utilised.

The tragedy of the Grenfell Towers fire in the UK, resulting in up to 80 deaths, has thrust product conformity and compliance into the global spotlight. Locally we have not been immune. From 2006 to 2012 there were increasing reports of non-conforming products entering Australia including structural steel bolts, structural plywood products, copper pipe tubing, fire collars and glass sheets. In recent years, there have been significant issues with electrical cable, combustible cladding used inappropriately, products with asbestos, and glass failures. Construction products have been used in the Australian market with inadequate or false evidence of conformity to applicable standards (non-conforming), and products and materials which have not been used in compliance with regulation (non-complying). This has affected the safety and construction quality of Australian buildings.

NATSPEC has responded to requests from Government departments and industry organisations by setting up a register of construction products. NATSPEC is proud to announce that the first stage is live at www.ncpr.com.au and that it is also accessible through NATSPEC at www.natspec.com.au.

NATSPEC CEO, Richard Choy, said that the issue is much more complicated than everyone imagines. “Materials and products move through multiple organisations before they are finished in a built project. Time and cost pressures mean that there is no single body in a position to be responsible for all conformity and compliance checking of the final project.”

“The NCPR by itself will not ensure that a product is conforming or compliant. It can only help mitigate some of the risk and provide a focus on the need for product conformity. It will support the great work being done by industry organisations. Everyone in the construction supply chain needs to do their bit. If someone knows conformity will be checked, they will take extra care.”

“The development of the database was slow because the process of checking evidence of conformity includes going back to the party that issued the test certificate/product certification. This has not been as easy as hoped. The database now has over 500 products listed as well as 10 industry schemes that are accredited by the Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand (JAZ-ANZ). The products listed were tested by a NATA accredited laboratory or provided with a certificate by a JAZ-ANZ accredited body. Products will be progressively added as their evidence is verified.”

The aim of the NCPR is to help the industry mitigate risk in a cost effective way. It is intended to provide:

  • Readily available verified conformity information on construction products.
  • An increased awareness and understanding of the importance of conformity by designers, specifiers, contractors and manufacturers.
  • Improved safety for the Australian public.
  • A freely accessible system for consultants and contractors to determine if a proposed substitute product has evidence, checked by NATSPEC, of conformity to Australian and international Standards.

The NCPR will eventually have four sections:
N – National Construction Product Register
C – Community section for sharing information
P – Product Conformity technical information
R – Resources of a technical nature.