By Thomas Holland-Letz, technical director of Construction Fixings Europe (CFE)
ETAs in the fixing industry are often driven by customers’ demands. Based on the information contained in the ETA, specifiers, designers and contractors can safely and efficiently select the fasteners that are most suitable for their project, for example in terms of actions, exposure classes or lifetimes. This helps to ensure safe applications.
Europe enjoys a very high-level of construction safety. In the fixings industry, ETAs play some role in this. For example, I am not aware of any severe accidents related to fixing failures in Europe, while such incidents have been reported in other markets, such as the USA and Japan.
The independent European Technical Assessment thus ensures a high reliability of the product performance information. The product performance specification in the ETA is also aligned with the design methods in the relevant Eurocode (EN 1992-4), which facilitates the Europe wide use of anchor products. This possibility for customers to compare the performance of fixing products across the internal market often stimulates investments in new or improved products.
Furthermore, ETAs enjoy a high recognition that goes beyond the borders of Europe. As well as this, the ETA route to CE Marking provides a level playing field for anchors produced in Europe (mostly by SMEs) and products that come from countries were the cost of labour is much cheaper, ensuring a competition based on performance and identical assessment and inspection procedures.
One instance for the agile assessment of innovative products are seismic applications. As the result of the amendment of existing EADs, and the development of new EADs, there are now anchors with CE Marking based on an ETA, which are suitable for seismic areas. This has considerably enlarged the application area for these fasteners, putting manufacturers in a better position to sell their products. Especially since seismic requirements have been introduced in parts of Italy, France and even Germany.
Product performance data based on ETAs and corresponding design methods are the fundamentals for reliable fixings. ETAs provide performance data for individual anchor products under various conditions (for instance concerning types of concrete, temperature, etc). Design methods translate this individual product performance (ETA) into actual applications. This alignment of ETAs and design standards provides an ideal basis for safe, fast the service life required in the client specifications was 100 years.
The European manufacturers concerned submitted new ETA requests. The EADs were amended and the products reassessed to the same safety level in time for the manufacturers to compete in the tender. The speed and agility of the EAD development made it possible for the manufacturers to go for a Europe wide assessment solution instead of national approvals or expert opinions, which would only have been valid in France.
In the context of the upcoming revision of the CPR, the proven EAD/ETA route to CE Marking is also under consideration. If the system would be changed significantly, the resources and efforts put into developing new fastening products in the EU will be substantially reduced. This reduced speed could also negatively impact other objectives and developments in the construction sector, such as industrialised manufacturing, the renovation wave or BIM.
Of course, the EAD/ETA route to CE Marking should be further improved and streamlined. Particular focus should be put on increasing transparency and especially easing complexity. For example, for small and medium sized companies it would be extremely helpful if EADs had an SME-friendly modular structure. There could be a ‘core EAD’ covering all characteristics that are generally needed – plus compatible add-ons, e.g for seismic characteristics. Clear rules on change management and clean references would, of course, be key to making this work.
Limiting the validity of ETAs to five years, as it used to be under the Construction Products Directive, would also help increase the reliability of the system by ensuring that ETAs continue to be state of the art. Other important measures include improving quality control and cooperation between Technical Assessment Bodies on EADs and implementing some kind of quality monitoring for ETAs.
One important aspect, which should be maintained, is the confidentiality of the EAD development. This principle enables innovative small and mediums sized enterprises to develop assessment procedures for new products or new applications of existing products in close cooperation with a Technical Assessment Body, and experts from universities, without the need to disclose and discuss their knowledge in a CEN WG, where mostly bigger competitors are represented.
Finally, simplification for CE Marking and declarations of performance for ETA products will be relevant improvements for a revised CPR.
Construction Fixings Europe (CFE) is a sub association of the European Tool Committee that represents leading European manufacturers of metal, plastic, bonded anchors, direct fixings and drill bits for concrete and masonry. Its members come from Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland and the UK. Most of the companies involved in Construction Fixings Europe hold one or more ETAs for their anchors, while CFE experts participate in several anchor specific EOTA working groups.
Having joined the magazine in 2012, Claire developed her knowledge of the industry through the numerous company visits, exhibitions and conferences she attended both in the UK and abroad.
Claire prides herself on keeping readers well informed and up to date with the latest industry news.