Thursday, August 22, 2013

What Is Building Product Certification?

Certification of a building product gives consumers, builders and building officials the assurance that a qualified, independent agency has tested and evaluated a product and verified its compliance with certain national standards. When you see a certification mark on a product you know that it:
o   Was randomly and independently sampled.
o   Passed the testing requirements.
o   Meets specific standards.
o   Was produced under an ongoing quality assurance program to ensure continued compliance.
Not all certification agencies are created equal. When selecting a certification partner, building product manufacturers should make sure they use an ISO/IEC Guide 65 or ISO/IEC 17065 accredited certification agency. Why? Because certification agencies must be accredited by a certification body recognized by the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC). The International Accreditation Service Inc. (IAS) is one such organization recognized by the ILAC to evaluate and monitor certification agencies. IAS is a subsidiary of the International Code Council (ICC).
ISO/IEC Guide 65 and ISO/IEC 17065 require that a certification agency maintain direct oversight of the ongoing quality auditing and testing process. So, unlike companies that examine a product at one point in time and just provide an evaluation report, accredited certification agencies provide building product manufacturers with a certification mark that signifies the product is subject to ongoing surveillance and conformance to standards.
Here’s the process for getting a product certified:
o   The building product manufacturer sends the certification agency the supporting documentation (for example, product literature, design guidelines, installation guidelines and process descriptions) and a quality assurance manual.
o   The certification agency evaluates the product and determines if additional testing is necessary.
o   The certification agency randomly samples the product.
An ISO/IEC Guide 65 or ISO/IEC 17025 accredited laboratory, under the direction of the certification agency, tests the product.
o   The certification agency evaluates the test results. 
o   The certification agency provides the final evaluation report and the certification mark.
o   The certification agency performs ongoing quality audits and product surveillance at the building product manufacturer’s location.
There are a couple misconceptions about product certification that I’d like to dispel. The first one is that product certification is a substitute for product approval by the authority with jurisdiction. This is never the case. Product certification and evaluation reports are complementary to, but not a substitute for, the product approval granted by the Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). The second misconception is that if the product is certified, it meets all requirements of the international building code. Building code officials, engineers and product manufacturers need to understand that when a product is certified, it is often done to meet a specific nationally recognized standard. For example, a wall product that’s received ASTM E84 certification has met the international building code for flame spread and smoke. However, this doesn’t mean it’s certified to be used as a structural assembly.

Product certification provides a tangible measure of assurance — to customers, code officials, inspectors and AJH — that your product meets applicable regulatory requirements. And this assurance will help give your product the market access you desire.