Non-conforming and Non-complying products: what to know

Non-conforming and Non-complying products: what to know

Darryl O’Brien differentiates between the ever present issues of non-conforming and non-compliant materials and what you need to know before deciding whether or not to purchase and/or install either.

The issue of non-conforming building products continues to gain media and industry attention following a number of high profile events such as the Docklands apartment fire and the Infinity cables recall. Managing the issue of non-conforming building products will require the efforts of all parties to the building and procurement process, including plumbers.

This article will focus on two related issues; non-conforming products, which are products that do not perform as claimed by the manufacturer and non-compliant products which can be considered otherwise compliant products that are used incorrectly.

Put simply, non-conforming products relate to quality, non-compliant products relate to context. The increasing range of new and innovative products available for sale makes it vital that plumbers understand the National Construction Code – Plumbing Code of Australia pathways used to ensure product compliance.

Non-Conforming Building Products
As stated by the recently released Building Ministers’ Forum Senior Officers Group consultation report1, non-conforming products are ‘products and materials that claim to be something they are not; do not meet required standards for their intended use; or are marketed or supplied with the intent to deceive those who use them’. Thus, the key question for plumbers is how do you know that product claims are valid and that they meet the minimum acceptable standards?

The rules for product compliance are found within Part A2 of the Plumbing Code of Australia – Acceptance of Design and Construction. For those products listed on the WaterMark Schedule of Products, certification must be provided in accordance with the WaterMark Certification Scheme. Further information on the schedule and scheme can be found on the ABCB website:

For all other plumbing products, compliance must be demonstrated under the Part A2.2 Evidence of Suitability framework. Put simply, the Evidence of Suitability rules offer manufacturers and suppliers of plumbing products three conformity assessment pathways that can be used individually, or in combination, to demonstrate product compliance. Briefly, these options are:

– A report from a registered testing agency. Registered testing agencies test facilities and labs that are accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities to test a range of building products and systems.
– A current certificate from a professional engineer or other person suitably qualified to certify that the product or system complies with the requirements of the Plumbing Code of Australia.
– Any other form of documentary evidence that demonstrates product compliance with the Plumbing Code of Australia.

It is also critical that the documentation provided by the supplier contains enough information to allow you to accurately assess the products suitability for the intended use. As a guide, information supplied by the testing or certification body should include; specific contact and registration details, the date of the test or certification, identification of any standards or codes relied upon, the results of any test and any limitations on the use of the product.

The important point to remember is that either WaterMark certification or the Evidence of Suitability options are the only valid product compliance pathways listed under the Plumbing Code of Australia. So when you are getting a quote or ordering your materials for the job, you need to insist that documentation in accordance with these rules is supplied and that you check that all details are correct.

Non-Complying Building Products
Having identified the pathways to product compliance, we will now move on to considering the issue of non-compliant products, or products that fail because they have been used in the incorrect context. To understand how to identify whether a product is non-complying, you need to have an understanding of the Plumbing Code of Australia Deemed-to-Satisfy compliance options.

Deemed-to-Satisfy solutions are those acceptable construction practices that are either contained within the Plumbing Code of Australia or reference documents (generally Australian Standards) directly referred to by the Plumbing Code of Australia. For example, for sanitary flushing requirements, you would refer to part B1.5 of the code for details in relation to volumes and cistern types. In the case of sanitary plumbing systems for example there are no construction practices contained in the code, rather you are directed to AS/NZS 3500.2 for details of correct practice. In both cases however, provided the design, construction and materials were in accordance with these practices, your work would be considered Deemed-to-Satisfy, automatically meeting the codes performance requirements.

The important point related to the management of non-compliant products is the need to identify the specific product type and where/how it is intended to be used. This information should then be directly referenced to the relevant part of the code (or the reference documents) to identify specific construction details, durability requirements and any potential limitations.

It is true to say that the Plumbing Code of Australia does not reference specific brands or products, but the manufacturers should provide the required design and construction details for their product that directly refer to the relevant Plumbing Code of Australia /Australian standard parts, allowing you to further check product suitability. If this information is not available how can you be sure that the product or how you are using it is complaint?

Lastly, when gathering the manufacture’s installation details, don’t forget to also ask for your watermark certification or evidence of suitability documents.
Finally, it is also possible to formulate a design or use materials that are not Deemed-to-Satisfy, known by the Plumbing Code of Australia as Performance Solutions, but this is a topic in its own right and one that we will consider another day.

To conclude
We live in a globalised world with new products and innovations occurring at an ever increasing rate. While this environment provides great opportunities it also introduces new risks. To help manage these risks, plumbers need to clearly understand the processes to determine product conformity and the correct application of the product. You should always ask the supplier for all necessary information to satisfy yourself of the products evidence of suitability and any conditions or limitations of use – if they cannot provide you with satisfactory answers you need to dig deeper or perhaps look elsewhere.

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