Whilst the Grenfell Inquiry continues to uncover real concerns in the way that information about construction products is open to interpretation, it must surely mark the end of the days of throwing a 100-page technical document at someone and expecting them to interpret it.
The danger is that an overly complex and confusing environment creates the space that allows the unscrupulous to thrive and undermines much of the good work that is done. To address this, FIS and its members have developed a simple initiative – the FIS Quality Framework: Product, Process, People (PPP) – an approach to make buildings safer by encouraging collaboration and a culture of interrogating responsibilities and scrutinising risk in a structured way.
The PPP approach starts with the first ‘P’, ‘Product’. Crucial to performance is using the right product, in the right environment and installed correctly. Invariably it is the manufacturer who has the knowledge about the scope of application and how the product should be installed.
The essence of the framework is that information must be passed on as efficiently as possible so designers can make sensible choices and installers and customers have clear guidance on how the product should be installed and ultimately maintained. We must resist the temptation to oversell the benefits and ensure that supporting information advises clearly what the product can do, but also critically the limitations and factors that will undermine performance. This is Producer Responsibility built on genuine transparency.
As part of their work on Marketing Integrity the Construction Products Association (CPA) has started to interrogate how product information is made available to the wider supply chain. A recent industry-wide survey conducted by the group provides a useful backdrop to looking at where we are at and how far we have to go. Critically, it draws out that product information is only considered appropriate and complete in around half of the cases and only 11% of users found information to be accurate all of the time. The survey goes on to underpin the extent and lack of control in the value engineering process. This work underpins that a significant step change is required to ensure all parties in the supply chain are confident that the information they are using to select construction products is consistent, unambiguous and clear.
The FIS Acoustic Verification Scheme focusses on the performance of glazed partitions and operable walls and is an example of an industry led approach to being more transparent. The scheme has been created to prevent inaccurate or misleading information from undermining the market and responsible manufacturers and suppliers, but it has also helped us to identify and address areas where there is genuine ambiguity and start to develop a common approach. Members verify tests against an agreed criterion and a methodology to present these to market in a consistent and transparent manner. It is underpinned by a clear criteria ensuring that relevant samples have been tested and information is displayed in a consistent format for specifiers, leaving little in the way of ambiguity. Ultimately, it enables people to compare products and systems on a ‘like for like’ basis and be reassured that performance will be consistent and reassures customers that their buildings will perform as expected.
With the construction industry coming under ever-closer scrutiny in a post-Grenfell era, it is the duty of manufacturers to ensure product transparency. The talk now is of extended producer responsibility built on the knowledge and competency within the supply chain. The food industry has shown us the way with product marking so it’s only a matter of time before all construction products are properly labelled and marketed with standardised and more complete information.
For manufacturers wanting to find out about getting data verified, email firstname.lastname@example.org and request a copy of the FIS Acoustic Verification Scheme Manual.