The sector has been waiting for the chance to herald the new European Standard for gypsum plasterboard systems for a long time. Steve Halcrow, FPDC’s technical consultant, explains how that plan has changed and why we may have to shift our focus a little.

Work to harmonise drylining standards across the European Union has continued for several years. We have repeatedly told you that we hoped to bring news of the new Standard being officially born and what implications it may have for contractors.

What has actually transpired, however, is that the member countries of the Working Committee have been unable to reach final agreement on some critical issues surrounding the content of the Standard. As a result CEN (the overseeing body) has decided to suspend the project indefinitely, meaning there will now be no European Standard (at least for the foreseeable future).

The process of assembling such a document necessitates drawing together elements of all existing national standards of the various countries and arriving at a final version that satisfies all, with compromises being made along the way to allow this to happen. There were lengthy discussions on numerous issues which resulted in satisfactory conclusions but, on some matters, two in particular, no agreement could be reached.

The first main issue was that of fixing centres. The approach to this differs widely throughout the EU and as you can imagine each country has spent many years testing and developing systems to comply with their own codes. Bringing these together meant potentially re-testing every system and this is impractical at least in the short to medium term.

The other big sticking point was regarding levels of finish. It was decided that the document needed to provide better information and guidance for the reader on the levels of finish that could reasonably be expected by different products and systems, and to advise on potential pitfalls to guard against when selecting a finishing method. Once again, despite repeated debate, it has proved impossible to arrive at a conclusion to satisfy all parties.

Another option existed: the standard could be produced but have national annexes added so that each country could amend the precise requirements of matters such as the two illustrated here, to suit their own purpose. This was explored at length but it was decided that it diluted the status of the Standard so significantly that it would be of little use, and so the CEN organisation took the decision to halt the work.

New British Standard

The silver lining to this particular cloud is that as a result of the suspension of the work on the European Standard two additional things have occurred. Firstly France, Germany and the UK have decided to collaborate in producing a drylining guide based around the work done towards the harmonised European Standard. It is hoped that this will be available in all countries as an advisory document, although it will not have the status of a full Standard and will therefore not be mandatory.

Secondly and more significantly for the UK it has been decided that a review should take place of the current British Standard, which has not been updated since 1995 and is widely felt to be somewhat out of date. This is due to start during the first half of this year and of course FPDC will be heavily involved to represent members. Once work is under way on this I will keep you informed through these pages as to how things are progressing.