A remarkable range of certifications and standards govern construction materials and processes. Below are some of the most important and influential certifications.
ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is an independent, non-governmental organisation consisting of 169 national standards bodies. It is responsible for establishing globally recognised standards for materials, processes, and services. ISO standards are prevalent across all industries. However, they are particularly common throughout the construction sector.
For instance, ISO 9001 relates to quality management and is regularly used by construction companies to assure customers of their processes. Similarly, ISO 14001 focuses on environmental management systems and demonstrates an organisation’s commitment to environmental sustainability.
While ISO 14011 is one of the most recognised environmental standards, there are a host of other influential environmental certifications. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a US-based certification recognised around the world. It assesses a project’s sustainability by examining energy efficiency, water use, materials, and overall environmental impact.
In the UK, BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is a popular alternative. It provides certifications based on similar criteria as LEED.
The EPD Certification is a type-III environmental declaration based on a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and the ISO 14025 standard. This means the certification takes in the entire life cycle of a product, from material extraction and sourcing to its end life and disposal. The EPD provides a comprehensive picture of a product's environmental impact, allowing people to compare similar products. However, just because a product has an EPD, it does not mean it is more environmentally friendly than one that doesn't.
The most common energy standard is the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). It uses a red-amber-green traffic light system to measure how energy efficient a building is. The scale runs from A to G, with the A being the most energy efficient (corresponding with green on the traffic light system) and G the most inefficient (red on the traffic light scale).
This system is replicated for electrical appliances and similar products, allowing for easy comparisons between products and ensuring energy efficiency is at the forefront of buyers’ minds when making a purchase.
The EPC considers a wide variety of factors, including the performance of walls, roofing, and flooring, as well as heating and lighting systems. This makes it a relatively comprehensive assessment.
EPC is the most widely used measurement of energy efficiency in construction and underpins the UK government's regulation and legislation: worth noting that the UK wants to raise the minimum EPC rating for commercial properties to C by April 2027 and to B by 2030.
EPDs and EPCs may serve different purposes, but they both contribute to the broader goal of promoting sustainability and energy efficiency. In fact, the information on energy efficiency or environmental performance of a specific product should be taken into consideration during the specification stage as this may indirectly impact the overall energy performance of the building, its EPC rating, and most importantly whether it remains safe and compliant throughout its lifecycle.
Fire safety performance
In the wake of the Grenfell fire, fire safety regulations have undergone significant changes, and many construction managers and property owners are having to bring their projects and assets into line with new legislation. As such, many specifiers working on remediation projects look for products with relevant fire safety performance certifications.
Historically, the BS 476 fire safety standard was the most visible fire certification. However, that has now been supplanted by the BS EN 13501 certification. The EN 13823 and ISO 11925 Ignitability fire resistance tests are also widely used. The BS EN 13501 categorises materials into one of seven classes based on results from the EN 13823 and ISO 11925 tests. The classes range from A1 (non-combustible materials with the highest level of fire resistance) to F (materials with the highest level of combustibility). For more information refer to our article on the Fire Classification System.
In the UK, specifiers will be acquainted with BS (British Standards) certifications. These are set by the BSI (British Standards Institute) and cover various materials and processes. In many cases, national standards are being merged or brought in line with European standards. With this in mind, it is also a good idea to look out for CE markings. These are attached to products sold in the European Economic Area (EEA) and verify that products meet relevant EU standards.
The CE certification is arguably the most common and easily recognised European standard. You will find the CE marking on many products sold in European markets, as the EU requires companies to obtain the CE certification for certain goods. The certification indicates that a product meets EU safety, health and environmental protection requirements and has been assessed by the manufacturer or, in some cases, a notified body.
Depending on the project, specifiers may have experience with material-specific certifications, too. For instance, timber is accredited by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). FSC certification guarantees the wood comes from a responsibly managed forest that promotes sustainable and ethical sourcing.
There are a whole host of performance certifications that help specifiers make an informed decision about available products. These vary significantly depending on the type of product and what qualities are relevant to its performance.
For instance, RYNO® decking and terracing solutions are often put through the BS 7976-2 Pendulum Test and BS EN 16165 standards for slip resistance. These measure the safety of flooring surfaces in regards to slipping and the amount of friction they generate.
Manufacturer and supplier certifications
Finally, specifiers should also be aware of manufacturer and supplier certifications. While not recognised by other organisations, these certifications make it easier to identify appropriate products and their performance benefits.
For instance, the RYNO INGO® certification is attached to the company’s range of non-combustible products. It ensures specifiers know that any product with the IGNO certification complies with (or often exceeds) current building and fire safety regulations.