Article reprinted from Principia Partner's -
Natural and Wood Fiber Composites - April 2006 Newsletter.
WPC companies seeking product Evaluation Reports (ER) from the Canadian Construction
Materials Centre (CCMC) face a long, cumbersome, and expensive process. Without
an ER, it is becoming increasingly more arduous to sell composite decking and
railing in Canada. The Canadian Natural Composites Council (CNCC; Mississauga,
ON) is working to standardize, to simplify, and to make the process similar to
the U.S. evaluation process, while still putting consumer safety at the forefront.
WPC manufacturers without an ER are spending considerable resources to answer
inquiries from local building code officials. A typical scenario is one
customer wants to build one deck with one composite product that does not
have an ER. One building code inspector is not comfortable with the product,
so additional information is requested from the supplier. The supplier
complies by sending test results and other relevant data to the inspector.
The inspector then makes a yes or no decision. Now, multiply this process
by many, many decks and itís easy to see how a company can be expending
a lot of resources to "sell" their product.
So, why doesn't every manufacturer have a CCMC ER?
First, to date, only three WPC companies have products with an ER. Trex
was the first to receive a report in June 2003, followed by Millennium
Decking and Weyerhaeuser (ChoiceDek) in July 2005. In the United States,
every major WPC manufacturer and most smaller companies have an
evaluation report from the International Code Council (ICC). Why the disparity?
The intent and structure of residential building codes in the USA and
Canada are similar. However, code recognition for alternative deck and
railing products in Canada is considerably more difficult to achieve
because of CCMC's process of evaluating new building materials. If no
building code standard exits, manufacturers of new products must
contact CCMC to develop custom technical guides for them.
Custom technical guides are developed via the CCMC, in consultation with
researchers within Canadaís National Research Council (NRC), and
selected technical experts at Universities. The CCMC initially
decided that the basis for granting building code recognition for
alternative decking would be based on equivalency to typical 5/8"
oriented strand board (OSB) type sub-floor sheathing. CCMC's
decisions on the types of tests, and pass-fail criteria were made
without input from manufacturers or testing agencies. As a result,
the manufacturers believe many of the required tests are
superfluous and could be eliminated without compromising consumer safety.
If a product doesnít meet CCMC targets, they reserve the right to not
issue an ER, or to issue a report with limited building code
applicability. Often, after considerable expense of time and money,
the manufacturer is forced to consider abandoning their application
or accept limited applications because of CCMC's interpretation of
what constitutes equivalency to OSB sub-floor sheathing.
Another barrier is the CCMC treats each material type and shape as a
unique product, thus a custom technical guide for each and every
profile is required. If the profile is made of the same materials,
but the shape is different (i.e. sold, hollow, or tongue and groove)
a separate guide is required. The cost and time to receive one
technical guide for one product can be as high as US$20,000 and take
about 6 to 12 months to complete. On top of that the testing costs
is typically $100,000 to $150,000.
How does this differ from the US?
The International Code Council's Evaluation Service (ICC-ES) through
public consultation with all interested parties issues Acceptance
Criteria (AC), which contains the performance requirements, testing
methods, and quality assurance items required to achieve building code
recognition. The AC applies the same set of requirements to all
alternative materials regardless of profile shape. Companies spend
about $80,000 and 9 to 12 months of time to receive an ICC-ES.
CNCC has two primary goals, one short term and one long term. In the
short term, the number one challenge is to simplify the ER approval
method, and to open up CCMC's process to public input. CNCC hopes to
work with the CCMC to develop a technical guide with a large percent
of standard tests to create a common performance criteria guide. The
guide also would contain a smaller percent of tests customized to
each manufacturer's product. Companies could use this common guide
to spring board from, and then incorporate product specific
criteria to create their technical guide. This would reduce the
amount of time and money to obtain a technical guide.
The CNCC is hoping the CCMC will allow interested parties to have
input into the testing methodologies and the criteria used to
determine pass and fail levels for each test. To date, efforts by
the CNCC to do so have not resulted in any changes, but they
continue to work with CCMC towards this goal.
In the long term, the CNCC is looking to create a standard that may
be incorporated into the National Building Codes (NBC). They are in
discussion with the Underwriters Laboratory of Canada to help create
such a standard. It will take approximately two years to write the
standard and then an undetermined amount of time to get it into the
NBC. The objective is to have it included in the 2010 NBC. The cost
to develop the standard is estimated to be $140,000 CDN.
The CNCC is working to get companies in the industry to share this
cost, as it will benefit any manufacturers and distributors selling
products in Canada. A letter was sent on behalf of the CNCC to parties
that may be interested in supporting this effort. Any company interested
in participating or learning more about this should contact Laurie Higgins
(LHiggins@cpia.ca) or Andrew Rush (ARush@BriteMfg.com) on or before
May 12th, 2006. A teleconference call with all interested parties
will be scheduled shortly thereafter.