In this article, Des Schnetler from the Thermal Insulation Products and Systems Association (TIPSASA) argues that testing means quality assurance for the end user.
Traditionally, the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) has provided an extensive array of testing and certification. Once the product met the SABS testing and certification requirements, it could carry the SABS mark for a three-year period. The misconception in the industry is that the SABS mark of approval is mandatory. However, the National Building Regulations (NBR) simply require that products should comply with South African National Standards (SANS), irrespective of the testing authority.
Mandatory vs voluntary
Most SABS Standards are voluntary unless specified in the NBR, as an example a fire test report is mandatory for all insulation products, roof lining or waterproofing membranes used under a roof covering as part of a roof assembly. The definition of a roof assembly is abuilding cover and its supporting structure, including any ceiling attached to the structure and any additional components such as insulation.
So why test?
An insulation product may pass a fire test but once it has been installed it has to comply with other requirements of the application of the NBR SANS 10400 series. For instance, the design working life for repairable or replaceable components and materials, such as claddings, roofing materials, exterior trims, and integrated components, and windows and doors, shall not be less than 15 years. If only fire tests are conducted, what about durability?
Climate change…yes climate change
Durability is of utmost importance, especially if one takes climate change into account. Most areas in South Africa average more than 2 500 hours of sunshine per year and the annual 24-hour global solar radiation average in South Africa is one of the highest in the world. It is of utmost importance that certain insulation materials require UV resistance testing/accelerated aging tests, to avoid discoloration and/or degradation. Once degradation starts it could pose a serious fire risk, irrespective of whether the product has passed a fire test, hence the importance of Product Standards that incorporate all the necessary parameters.
Test reports and certificates
A test report is a factual report indicating the result of a test performed to ascertain the behaviour of the building product/component in respect of one or more specific characteristics.
In relation to the National Building Regulations, the following are acceptable:
- An SABS test report; or
- A CSIR report; or
- An Agrément certificate representing an entirely different approach, i.e. fit for purpose, in the absence of a South African National Standard; or
- Any other sources, such as universities or independent laboratories run by private enterprise provided it is deemed to satisfy the NBR.
What is SANAS accreditation and why is it important?
SANAS accreditation certificates are a formal recognition by the Government of South Africa that an organisation is competent to perform specific tasks. SANAS provides formal recognition to, amongst others:
- Calibration laboratories
- Certification bodies
- Inspection bodies
- Laboratories (testing and calibration) to ISO/IEC 17025 (SANS17025)
- Mechanical and physical testing laboratories
- Measurement & verification (energy industry)
Accreditation is important because it determines whether an institution meets or exceeds minimum quality standards.
What about ISO 9001?
ISO 9001 is the international standard for a quality management system (QMS). The standard is used by organizations and companies to demonstrate their ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements and to demonstrate continuous improvement. If manufacturers are compliant with ISO 9001, it is a good indicator that they take quality control seriously.
The future of insulation products in South Africa
As a result of continuing problems experienced with testing and certification, industry has begun the process of finding alternative solutions to measure the performance of insulation products by using private laboratories that are SANAS accredited.
TIPSASA (www.tipsasa.co.za) is determined to provide assurance of consistency of quality of the end product by demanding compliance of product standards, whether by mandatory or voluntary standards. This is the determining factor to become a member of the association. Where product results are indicated as being deemed to satisfy any particular regulation, this should be accepted by the local authority, irrespective of the testing authority.