Following MBIE and Commerce Commission announcements of significant building products conformance issues which included steel products, HERA consulted in April 2016 extensively with its membership. The outcome was the wide endorsement by HERA and SCNZ membership of a policy statement requesting that “all critical building work independent of building material should be required to have reliable third party verification enforced by the MBIE-driven regulatory framework”.
We have conveyed this industry policy statement to MBIE and are aware that within MBIE the topic is under discussion, and a product systems review is underway which includes looking at mandatory third party verification for critical building products.
Great stride in 3rd party product verification
On our steel construction side I am pleased to report that we have made significant progress evolving sector driven third party product verification. HERA Certification, which is charged with running the SFC (Steel Fabrication Certification) scheme, endorsed at its October 2016 Governing Board meeting third party certification for the critical steel products as used in the Construction Category (CC) CC3 and CC4 as specified by the design engineer.
Development of the corresponding quality assurance framework has been delegated to a working group of industry stakeholders which includes steel suppliers, fabricators and designers.
The SFC working group in its March 2017 meeting discussed the product conformance issue including the aspects of product traceability in detail and endorsed progressing the scheme allowing verification in a number of ways including verification through accredited third-party product certification schemes such as ACRS or CE or JIS Marking, but also a pathway for local testing of products not covered by these schemes.
However while run of the mill products such as steel plate and hot rolled structural sections can be traced with comparative ease, more complex welded products such as welded sections including tubular columns are very varied in respect to steel composition and sourcing and are more complex to set up for demonstrated conformance a process which takes the co-operation of everyone involved in the chain and also more time, and hence having all typical critical products covered will still take more time.
New AS/NZ standard released
Parallel to this industry development we were also pleased to report that the new joint Australian/Zealand 5131 Fabrication and Erection of Steel has been released. AS/NZS 5131 heavily draws on European best practice standards EN 1090 and introduces the fundamental concept of ‘construction category’ (CC) which paves the pathway for the definition of critical products as used in the product conformance verification debate. It also provides prescribed pathways for product traceability and resolution of the product conformance verification requirements.
While AS/NZS 5131 has now been released it is not cited yet in the New Zealand building regulations, however we understand that MBIE has begun the process of having this document cited in the Building Code. If AS/NZS 5131 is becoming part of the NZ building regulation the regulatory “system” for achieving demonstrated product conformance of critical steel construction items would be complete.
Assuming the industry stakeholders resolves the issue of implementing viable product verification pathways the door would be open for MBIE making the steel sector overarching building product conformance system mandatory as proposed in the original policy statement.