European norms for construction products in natural stone

Antonio Molina,
Technological Centre for Marble (Murcia), Spain

The US 305/2011 Regulation for building products published on 9 March, 2011 comes into effect on 1 July, 2013, substituting the current Directive 89/106/CE for Building Products. The new Regulation does not impose on the manufacturers of natural stone more conditions than those in the Directive, but obliges them to make some changes in the documentation of the products.

One of the most significant changes consists in substituting of the previous “declaration of conformity” by the “ declaration of performance”, which, as against the previous one, will now be compulsorily given to the client. The declaration of performance is the document by which the manufacturer, when he introduces a product in the EU market, declares what are their features, and assumes the responsibility for fulfilling the European specifications applied and of the performance declared.

The delivery of the declaration can be done electronically, but, for the time being, cannot be done so through the webpage of the manufacturer, though it is expected that by October of this year the procedure for its approval will have been approved to allow in this manner. The declaration of performance, apart from including a more complete information about the essential characteristics of the product, should have a code assigned by the manufacturer and which will serve to identify the product.

The CE marking on the product is a procedure by means of which the manufacturer identifies it and expresses conformity with the European specifications. It is equivalent to a European passport for the product, since before the with the Directive as now with the regulation, the authorities of the EU states will not prohibit the use neither will they impede the commercialization of the products that carry the CE marking.

With the Regulation, the CE marking hardly suffers any changes, except for the inclusion of the code of declaration of performance and the elimination of the characteristics for which no service is declared. In the products already being commercialized, the new stamp can conserve the indicative of the year in which the product was first installed, before the coming into effect of the Regulation.

The transmission of the CE marking by electronic means is still not allowed, they should be installed as now over the product, by means of adhesive stickers, on the packaging or in the accompanying documents.

The Regulation also establishes that the product should be accompanied with instructions (can be understood as being recommendations for installation, use and maintenance) and safety information, which will be added to the accompanying documentation, along with the CE marking.

The declaration of performance, the CE marking, and the instructions and information on safety, should be delivered in the language established in each state of the EU where the product is being commercialized. The text of the declaration is contained in the III Annex of the Regulation, published in different languages, and available on the official web of the UE.

But one of the most important novelties of the Regulation is the more precise definition of the obligations that correspond to the other agents involved, distinct from the manufacturer, such as the authorized representative (already contemplated in the current Directive), the importer and the distributor. With the new Regulation, both the importer and the distributor can now give the declaration of performance and use the CE marking with their name, assuming the same responsibility of the manufacturer, on the conformity of the product with European norms and the features declared. Therefore, the importer and the distributor should ensure that the tests and the production controls are carried out corresponding to the product. The authorized representative in the EU , on the contrary, is limited to transmit the documentation emitted by the manufacturer and should have the written mandate, in which the competencies and responsibilities are well established.

Another important novelty of the Regulation is the exemption from the obligation to realize the declaration of performance and the CE marking in some cases, such as those products that are not included in the harmonized European norms. The majority of the products of natural stone are included in 8 European norms ( factory masonry pieces, exterior pavements, cobblestones, kerb stones, cladding tiles, tiles for flooring and staircases), being excluded only those products of less importance in the market, such as, for example, decorative mosaics.

Also extent are products made by units (cut to size products), those products made at the job site itself, or those products destined for the conservation of heritage. Of these last three cases it is possible to find examples, though not frequently, in natural stone.

One aspect of the Regulation which even now provokes doubts, is the possibility that the very small sized companies, i.e., those with less than 10 employees and with less than 2 million euros of annual revenue, evaluate the characteristics of their products by means of simplified procedures, separate from those specified in the European norms, though they will have to demonstrate the equivalence of both methods. The main consequence is that micro-companies that manufacture products which are evaluated by means of system 3 (i.e., with the intervention of an accredited laboratory) can evaluate them through system 4 (i.e., by their own methods or in any laboratories).

Another novelty of the Regulation on which there are still doubts, is the obligation that the manufacturer will have, to elaborate and conserve during 10 years, to make available to the authorities controlling the market, the technical documentation, that will contain among others: copies of the declaration of performance and the CE marking, testing reports, the registers of production control, etc. This technical documentation should be in possession of the authorized representative, not with importer or distributor, who, however, will have made sure that the manufacturer possesses them.