Here Barbara Sorgato, secretary general of the European Consortium of Anchor Producers (ECAP), focuses on Declaration of Performances (DoPs) and how a new XML format could help harmonise the DoPs structure and digitise their use going forward.
The European Regulation on Construction Products (CPR) requires, as a previous step before achieving CE Marking, that the manufacturer issues a Declaration of Performance with the following conditions:
The DoP has therefore become one of the most important tools to characterise a construction product and is a requirement before a product can be placed on the single EU market.
The manufacturer, at the time of issuing the signed declaration, assumes responsibility for the contents of the DoP. Therefore, this document is considered as a guarantee for all actors in the value chain, such as other manufacturers, quality control in the construction works or the built asset owner.
PDFs versus BIM and logbooks
Manufacturers are under increasing pressure from their customers to deliver digital formats with product information but, in practice, the usefulness of the delivered files is arguable. Indeed, despite being published in 2011, and therefore being relatively recent, the CPR does not adequately cover digitisation. In 2014, the European Commission established the requirements for publishing the DoP on a website, but without providing a common digital format. The usual practice is to send the declaration as a PDF file, which can make it very complicated to extract structured information. Whilst theoretically a PDF file can be ‘scraped’, in practice it is not feasible because each manufacturer uses their own structure of DoP.
As a result, BIM (Building Information Modelling) models cannot be reliably filled with the high-quality information provided directly by the manufacturer. The DoP PDF file is often filed within the reception control register or in the Digital Building Logbooks. However, this leads to the DoP becoming a ‘mute’ document, as BIM and Digital Logbooks are common repositories for all relevant building data – used for informed decision making and information sharing within the construction sector, among building owners and occupants, financial institutions and public authorities.
This means the big investment made by manufacturers to be able to issue the Declaration of Performance (product tests, factory production control and, particularly for post-installed fasteners, the use of third parties such as external laboratories or certification bodies), is not fully exploited – all due to the absence of a suitable digital format.
That is why DoPs urgently need to be accessible in XML format (human and machine readable) from within the link included in the CE Marking. This link will allow the use of ‘smart’ devices (mobile phones, tablets, computers, etc) to use this information through internet browsers, applications, or software, as well as BIM models and Digital Logbooks.
The construction product manufacturing industry is aware of the challenge and, in May 2015, the Construction Products Europe (CPE) association published a document towards ‘smart’ CE Marking, which introduced for the first time the concept of ‘Smart CE’ (it would have been more correct to have called this concept Smart DoP, but it was decided to link it to the better known CE Marking).
The following step was the publication in July 2018 of the European document CWA 17316:2018 ‘Smart CE Marking for construction products’, which involved experts from several countries – representing manufacturers and their associations, BIM practitioners, software developers and certification bodies. ECAP was part of this project from the beginning, as a co-financer and co-developer.
The document provides guidance on how XML formats should be developed to properly establish consistent digital information. The purpose is to generate an XML structure for each family of construction products or, more specifically, for each harmonised standard. The final objective is to facilitate the exchange of construction product performance information throughout the value chain – reducing costs and increasing the reliability of the data incorporated into BIM models and other digital tools.
What data is put in the XML files? The document defines the XML structure that, in general, will be UTF-8 encoded and have an XSD schema. The XML structure will contain the DoP elements (performances listed in Annex ZA). Considering that the CPR review addresses the possibility to include in DoPs elements other than performances, the structure can also contain additional information (any information not included in Annex ZA, which may include test results, product colour, link to CAD drawings, environmental information or relevant product certificates). A crucial point of whether to use the XML structure is how the manufacturer’s signature can be put into the Smart CE Marking file. However, experts are already pointing to some potential solutions.
By using an XML structure, harmonisation can be achieved through the development of XML formats for each harmonised product standard. What about products covered by European Assessment Documents (EAD)? The approach works also for those EADs that are conceived like standards and deal with a family of products. We are talking about the EADs transferred from the old ETAGs. For post-installed fasteners, those EADs are the ones transferred from ETAG 001.
ECAP has previously seen the opportunity to create a common format of DoP for post-installed fasteners in 2011, but the market was not ready for it then. However, under the umbrella of the European association CPE, ECAP members have taken part in the development of the first XML formats for the main EADs for bonded, metal and plastic anchors.
The next steps will be to incorporate the resulting XML files in the related EADs and to get EOTA TABs issuing ETAs accordingly. A cornerstone to success is to reach, in a reasonably short time, a critical mass of users throughout the construction value chain. To do so, it is also essential to have as many XML structures in all National or European technical standards, and in all EADs deriving from ETAGs, as soon as possible. The industry is actively working for this.
Barbara Sorgato is secretary general of ECAP - European Consortium of Anchor Producers. ECAP is a unique case in Europe of a transnational sector group of SMEs that joint their efforts in standardsation, sharing the costs of its European activity and of related high tech services.