Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Product Testing Versus Product Certification

Manufacturers of innovative building products are often faced with an interesting challenge: How do I convince my customers that my product is as dependable as I know it to be? While a seemingly simple question, there are several possible answers to it.
The manufacturer could:
o    Rely on published data about similar products.
o   Work with a professional engineer or other qualified designer to create evidence.
o   Conduct in-house testing.
o   Use a third-party laboratory for testing.
o   Have the product evaluated by an accredited product certification agency. 
The next question is “What’s the difference between building product testing and certification?” If you’re not familiar with certification or you need a refresher, check out this recent post by NTA president and CEO David Tompos: “WhatIs Building Product Certification?” 
There are several differences between building product testing and certification, and deciding which way to go depends on your objective. The table below outlines some of the major differences between the two paths. There are exceptions, of course, but these rules of thumb generally hold true.

Building Product Certification

Building Product Testing

Generates data using nationally recognized standards (test report)

 X

 X

Provides performance data for a product

 X

 X

Includes continual assessment of a product over time

 X


Requires an in-house quality system inspected by a third-party agency

 X


Fully documents a product prior to testing by a third-party agency

 X


Demonstrates compliance with certain sections of accepted building codes

 X


Provides evaluation beyond a test standard (evaluation or listing report)

 X


Building product testing alone can be a better solution when an innovative building product is used infrequently for a certain application. Given enough data, a professional designer may be able to provide calculations or other evidence to satisfy an authority having jurisdiction.
When the building product will be widely used on a frequent basis in several different districts, a building product certification program becomes more appealing from a time- and money-saving perspective.
Use these helpful analogies to understand the differences between product testing and certification:
o   Product testing provides a photograph of a product: You have a time-stamped piece of evidence that describes the specific product and how it performed at one point in time.
o   Product certification provides a video of your product: You have a running collection of evidence that describes the product’s performance in both the past and the present, and that provides the assurance it will continue to perform the same way in the future.

Want more information about building product testing and certification? At NTA, we’re here to help. Contact us today.

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