DIBt engages in national and European standardisation on behalf of the German federal states. The main objective of this engagement is to ensure that the regulatory concern of a safe built environment is reflected in the relevant standards and that the technical regulations in the construction sector are aligned with each other. For this, it is important to understand how standards and the regulatory regime interact.
The role of standards in the regulatory regime
Standards are documents that are developed by standardisation organisations – mostly organised under private law – at a national, European or international level. In the standardisation process, the stakeholders agree on common technical rules and standards, which, in the construction sector, could relate, for example, to construction products, manufacturing, test methods or the design and execution of construction works. The use of the resulting standards is voluntary at this stage.
However, standards and other technical rules may become legally binding when they are referenced by a regulator, e.g. the national building authorities or the EU, to support and specify legal requirements.
DIBt is active in more than 100 national and European standardisation working groups and committees. Through the networks of DIN, CEN and other expert organisations, DIBt helps foster the advancement of technical regulation in the construction sector (see also DIBt and its partners).
Use of technical rules as a regulatory instrument in Germany
The supreme building authorities of the federal states have created a compilation of relevant standards and technical rules for construction, the Technical Building Rules. The technical rules for construction products and techniques referenced therein are binding. This is how these standards and technical rules become part of the German regulatory framework. Where economic operators deviate significantly from these rules, they have to provide verification that the construction products and techniques can still be safely used and applied.
The Construction Products Regulation (EU) No 305/2011 lays down harmonised conditions for the marketing of construction products across Europe. For this purpose, harmonised standards (hEN) are developed following a standardisation request issued by the European Commission to the European Committee for Standardization (CEN). The aim is to promote and strengthen the free movement of construction products in the EU internal market by means of a 'common technical language' which is defined in the harmonised standards.
There is one thing to note with harmonised standards under the Construction Products Regulation: if a construction product is covered by such an hEN, the standard must be applied after a transitional period, called coexistence period. The manufacturer is then obliged to draw up a declaration of performance for the product and affix the CE marking to it when it is placed on the market. This mandatory application distinguishes standards under the Construction Products Regulation from other national, European or international standards.
European standards are only fully harmonised once their references have been published in the Official Journal of the European Union.
The problem of incomplete harmonised standards
Construction products that bear the CE marking pursuant to the Construction Products Regulation may be used if the performance declared for the product corresponds to the requirements for the specific use in the relevant Member State. In Germany, the requirements for the use of construction products in construction works are set out in the Technical Building Rules.
There are cases, however, where the performances that can be declared in accordance with the standard, are insufficient to determine whether the product fully complies with the German requirements for construction works. It is paramount that the harmonised standards concerned are revised.
The Conference of Construction Ministers has requested DIBt to further a quick revision of these standards. As a first step, the building authorities and DIBt have established a priority list of standards most requiring revision and sent it to DIN, asking the organisation to support a timely revision of the listed standards.
The Eurocodes, or EC for short, are a set of European standards aimed at creating a common basis for the design and execution of construction works in Europe. Even though the Eurocodes have been developed based on a mandate or standardisation request from the European Commission, they do not fall under the Construction Products Regulation, which is directly applicable in all EU Member States, because they are no product standards.
The first-generation Eurocodes consist of 58 standards – with more than 5000 pages – subdivided into 10 parts covering the following areas:
- EC 0: Basis of structural design (EN 1990)
- EC 1: Actions on structures (EN 1991-1 to EN 1991-10)
- EC 2: Design of concrete structures (EN 1992-1 to EN 1992-4)
- EC 3: Design of steel structures (EN 1993-1 to EN 1993-20)
- EC 4: Design of composite steel and concrete structures (EN 1994-1 to EN 1994-3)
- EC 5: Design of timber structures (EN 1995-1 to EN 1995-3)
- EC 6: Design of masonry structures (EN 1996-1 to EN 1996-4)
- EC 7: Geotechnical design (EN 1997-1 and EN 1997-2)
- EC 8: Design of structures for earthquake resistance (EN 1998-1 to 1998-6)
- EC 9: Design of aluminium structures (EN 1999-1 to EN 1999-5)
The individual standards may be supplemented by National Annexes (NA), which contain additional specifications applicable in the relevant EU Member State.
In Germany, the first generation of the Eurocodes is referenced in the Technical Building Rules.
The next generation of the Eurocodes is currently in preparation. The underlaying mandate (M/515) provides, amongst other things, for a Eurocode for structural glass as well as a work package to address climate change impacts.