If you’re in the business of manufacturing building products used in construction, then you are probably aware that testing those products is an important step getting your product to market. What’s not often discussed is product certification.
You may be asking a few questions: What is product certification? Is certification required? Who develops the standards? Are there levels of certification? Do consumers care if my products are certified?
What is Product Certification?
For consumers, product certification provides the assurance that products meet the codes and standards that deem those products appropriate for use. For resellers, product certification assures that products they receive will consistently adhere to the same level of performance. And for building officials and other authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ’s) who approve these products during the construction process, it provides peace of mind that these products meet code requirements. Although requirements may vary for individual products, manufacturers can benefit by assuring their products stand up to elements such as extreme weather, sunlight, natural disasters, fire, shock, and a host of other things that may compromise the products function.
Test standards for building products are developed by Standard Developing Organizations (SDO’s) to include The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), American National Standards Institute (ANSI), National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) and Underwriter’s Laboratory Standards (UL Standards) to name a few. These SDO’s define and set thousands of standards with the goal of improving lives and providing confidence to consumers.
Test laboratories utilize the standards to subject the product to testing designed to ensure the product complies with all safety and performance requirements of the codes which govern the product’s end use. Testing is a component of the certification process which provides the certification agency with data on the performance of the product and how it complies to safety standards.
Certification goes beyond testing of products to include the review and oversight of a manufacturer’s production process, quality system, and ongoing quality control. This helps ensure products maintain a certain level of quality and provides consumers and authorities confidence that products are manufactured the same way in which they were produced for testing.
Product certification indicates a product’s suitability to be distributed to the public. Products that carry the certification mark also provides authorities with details about their performance to codes and standards. It also helps to ensure that the merchandise is distributed and sold fairly between the producers, consumers, and competitors.
Why Do I Need Product Certification?
At first glance, it may appear that consumers are the sole beneficiary of certification. In fact, building product manufacturers benefit by knowing that the standards help to level the playing field for fair competition. Product certification ensures that all products in the same category receive comparable scrutiny in the marketplace. It enables consumers and code officials alike to compare and choose products that they can trust to be reliable and safe and it ensures that your competition must adhere to the same rules and standards.
5 Reasons for Certification
- Protect Consumers– Certification allows consumers to confidently purchase products certified to address their specific needs. Typical examples are; fire ratings for mattresses, wind testing for windows, or thermal conductivity ratings for insulation.
- Meet Regulatory Requirements– Although SDO’s set global standards for building products, some states or local cities have specific regulations to products sold in their jurisdiction.
- Ensure Consistency– Certification bodies conduct consistent inspections to verify that manufacturing practices remain consistent over time.
- Gain Marketing Advantage– A certified product may display the trademark indicating that the product has undergone evaluation to verify that the product will perform as indicated, thus making it easier to access markets.
- Earn More Business – Some retailers, dealers, or code officials prefer or require the parts/systems that they sell and utilize to be certified.
Types of Certification
Self-declared certification (Also called “Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity”) is done when the consequences of non-compliance are considered minor or when compliance can be readily checked by buyers – often referred to as “Truth in Advertising” laws. In this case, product manufacturers may claim performance on labels but need some data to mitigate risk. Many companies believe they can assure consumers and regulators through detailed documentation of their procedures that their products are safe to use. They cite the threat of product liability will keep them honest. Cost savings is the most popular reason for self-declared certification.
Affiliated Certification (Trade Associations)
Sometimes a trade association can administer product certification and testing for its members. When an association performs validation and auditing, it requires an autonomous independent administrator in order to prevent bias toward individual members. Associations will utilize outside labs and make the testing available to its members, making it unnecessary for each manufacturer to invest in expensive equipment or independent testing.
When human safety or property protection is at stake, most building product manufacturers will need to use a third-party testing and certification company. Third-party testing and evaluation companies are independent agencies that perform testing, evaluations, and auditing of a multitude of products based on the regulations and codes set forth for a particular product. It is required that the testing company have no connection to the product manufacturer, supplier, vendor, buyer or designer, and must be open to audit by accreditors. Third-Party agencies usually conduct tests, evaluations, and provide certification and follow-up production surveillance. As part of its process, the third-party agency will provide the documentation and a certification mark signifying the product is certified.
Direct Government Regulation
Typical with consumer products that are involved with a high risk to injury or death. These requirements and regulations are directly mandated by the government and allow imposition of civil penalties and criminal prosecution for violations to the regulations.
Certification Equals Peace of Mind
Whether a product’s certification is for the structural integrity of an infant car seat, or the fire-resistance rating of wall assemblies, the focus is public safety. Certification is the key to gaining the public’s confidence that the buildings in which they work, the cars they drive, and the beds in which they sleep are held to a specific standard in order to keep them safe.
When it comes to safety in the built environment, product certification of building products provides the confidence they are performing as intended.
For more information about getting your building product certified, contact NTA, Inc. at 574-773-7975.
NTA, Inc. Building Products Division contact: