Does the CPR need CPR?

The Construction Products Regulation 2011 (CPR) is a European Union (EU) regulation harmonising performance information on construction products across the EU. I’ve written before about how European Standards – and more specifically the kind that are Harmonised Standards – support manufacturers to comply with the the law.

A Harmonised Standard is a specific kind of European standard developed by a recognised European Standards Organisation (CEN in this case). Manufacturers and conformity assessment bodies can use Harmonised Standards to demonstrate that products comply with relevant EU legislation.

Things have been going increasingly wrong with all this for about five years now – the reasons do not have anything to do with Brexit, but Brexit does add an additional layer of complexity, especially for UK manufacturers.

The CPR has been under review during this time and the new proposal is now emerging for which there will soon be a public consultation (see bottom of that page).

The CPR has three specific objectives:
1) Legal clarity,
2) Simplification and
3) Reinforcing the credibility of the harmonised system

On which my current assessment is: “you were trying to make these better right?

I will be brief, because nobody wants to get lost in this particular forest.

In 2016 we saw that EN14081-1, the Harmonised Standard for structural timber, failed to get cited in the Official Journal of the European Union. Despite a lot of work it remains uncited and so the older, withdrawn version, is considered the Harmonised Standard. The reasons why it could not be cited – why it was not compatible with the CPR – have never been completely clear, and have been constantly moving goalposts. The main sticking points include the increasing requirement for standards to provide legal certainty as somehow kind of European law themselves – making what I wrote in 2016 about standards and Brexit (effectively) wrong about standards being, in principle, voluntary – even though everyone is pretending this is still the case because that’s how standards are supposed to work.

What is the latest development? Well… I am not sure that the resuscitation is working and the patient is getting increasingly unresponsive. Lately, CEN members voted on emergency surgery to remove the parts (annex ZA) that make a Harmonised Standard from EN16351 (Timber structures – Cross laminated timber) and go to Formal Vote on publishing the new version of the standard as a regular EN. This is because the instructions on how to make it compliant with the CPR were impossible before the time ran out (the timer on the work item or the heat death of the universe depending on your level of optimism). EN16351 never made it to being a Harmonised Standard so effectively this means the route to CE marking glulam CLT remains via a European Assessment Document (EAD).

What about the rest of the (~90?!) would-be Harmonised Standards for the CPR that failed to get cited? All attempts to get new ones cited have failed. Some might say that is because the conditions on which they can be cited are impossible to meet. Some might say it is because all those CEN committee experts don’t know how to write standards. There is not a lot of middle ground.

Recently I was sent a document entitled “Withdrawn and outdated standards” with Grow-construction at in the footer. This came to me through British Standards Committee B/518 via (I think) B/502 which is aggregates. I found no version of it online to link to. I found a copy online here – with some additional information (I wrote this post in May but didn’t have the courage to press publish until I found this document online).

In summary, it says there are three kinds of problem:

  1. Standards listed in the Official Journal of the EU (OJEU) but withdrawn by the European Standardisation Organisation (CEN)
  2. Technically obsolete standards listed in the OJEU whose new version cannot be listed because of non-compliance with CPR
  3. Standards listed in OJEU contain references to withdrawn or obsolete standards.

It lists possible actions:
In case 1: Delist the standard or CEN to reinstate the withdrawn version
In case 2: Delist the standard, make the new version CPR compliant quickly, or keep the existing old listing for now (if it is not that different)
In case 3: correct the references with a corrigendum or amendment, or delist the standard

There is a more detail on the different cases, but – as far as I can see at the moment – all realistic roads seem to lead to delisting (or ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ).

Next steps are described as:
The Commission prepares a list of standards relevant to three situations described above.
Member States and stakeholders are invited to contribute and signal any such cases to the Commission in order to facilitate the review. (good luck with that one – but yeah…all the standards and all the cases)
The Commission will circulate it back to the AG for corrections and additions.
The summary of the analysis will be presented in the AG of September, and the implementation of it will start.

The question now is – do we carry on with the chest compressions and rescue breaths? Most people who work on writing these standards do not get paid for all the work they do (myself included) and the situation is – to put it mildly – frustrating.

(Edited 11/07/2020 to correct that EN16351 is for CLT not glulam, with thanks to Martin Bacher for spotting the error)

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