Deciding on product assurance

Last updated: 29 April 2016

Decide the best way to meet your Building Act responsibilities and show your building products or systems comply with the Building Code.

If you want your product to succeed in the New Zealand building market, it is important to invest in the right type of product assurance. To do so, you need to identify your goals and how you intend your product to be used.

From there, you need to decide which options to pursue to get your product assessed, tested and verified. Think about how likely it is that your product may fail, and the consequences of the failure.

You can work through this section to get a better understanding of what product assurance option you might pursue. You can use it to think about business planning, testing, and further assessment for your product or system.

Product assurance decision tool is a tool that we have developed to work through this section in an editable worksheet.

 

Product assurance decision process

Product assurance decision tree

Flow chart

Step 1: Assess your situation

Identify your business goals and challenges

To invest in the most appropriate forms of product assurance, it is essential to pinpoint your goals for your building product or method.

You also need to think about the challenges you might face getting it accepted in the market or achieving Building Code compliance.

Factors you might consider include:

  • How different and innovative is your product? Is it an improvement to an existing product or is it a radically different solution? Are you having problems getting a foot in the door with trade merchants, designers, builders or consumers?
  • What is the market size and your likely share? Is your product likely to be used in a few niche instances or is it possible it will be used universally?
  • What is the quality of your evidence base for the product? Has it been subject to local or overseas testing?
  • Are you facing challenges proving Building Code compliance to building consent authorities (BCAs)? Are you successfully proving compliance but facing additional costs and delays each time your product is specified?
  • If you make or distribute a range of building products, are there issues across the whole range or just for specific products, zones (such as wind or seismic zones) or uses? What percentage is this of total sales and is it an appropriate use of the product?
  • Is there anything else causing you extra difficulty, time or expense?

Define how your building product will be used

You need to establish how your product or system will be used before you introduce it to the New Zealand market. The way your product can be used will affect what you need to do to show Building Code compliance.

The purpose and use for your product takes into account:

  • how your product will be used (for example, as a structural element, as decking, as wall lining etc)
  • and what conditions it will be used in (such as in earthquake affected or high wind zones).

You should look at your building product in the context of the system it forms part of, not in isolation. This is critical when you are deciding which product assurance option to choose.

For example, for a cladding system you need to consider not just the cladding but also how it integrates with the building wrap, the window system and the external building features.

Complying with the Building Code

You should check to see whether your product needs to comply with the Building Code. Some products may not need to.

For example, products not covered by the Building Code could include kitchen cupboard door handles, architraves and curtain rails.

Some products may only be covered depending on their use. For example, the Building Code covers fire doors, but not other doors.

Determine the relevant clauses

If your building product or system needs to comply with the Building Code, determine which clauses are relevant. The particular clauses it needs to comply with will depend on the product itself and how you plan to use it.

You may come back to this stage and limit your product’s purpose and use so you have to comply with fewer Building Code clauses. This can make it easier to prove Building Code compliance for a new product, or to seek a product appraisal or certification.

For example, if your product is a decking timber you may limit its use to areas that are not access routes if you have no evidence of its slip resistance.

While not all Building Code clauses will be relevant, you will likely need to satisfy at least three:

  • the performance claimed (for example, a tap might be against the performance requirements of clause G12 Water Supplies)
  • durability (clause B2) and
  • hazardous building materials (clause F2).

You will need to provide evidence to show your product complies with the performance requirements of each relevant clause. You can do this by:

  • providing products that perform according to the methods set out in an Acceptable Solution or Verification Method for a particular clause
  • considering other ways to show your product meets the relevant performance requirements, for example, proving an alternative solution.

Alternative solutions

If you have to provide an alternative solution to show compliance with a Building Code clause, you need to identify or develop criteria that, if met, will demonstrate compliance with that clause. You then need to evaluate your product against those criteria.

When considering what this might involve, you may find it useful to:

  • compare your product against a relevant product standard referenced in an Acceptable Solution or Verification Method
  • compare the product to another document. This could include a New Zealand or overseas standard, other technical information, test results or research.
  • look at in-service history and performance of a similar product within New Zealand or in similar conditions
  • identify any relevant determinations issued by us. Is there a determination on a situation where a similar product is specified? As determinations relate to a particular case, their application may be limited. However, they do provide sound guidance on the application of the Building Act and Building Code at a particular time.

By this stage, you should have a good understanding of the performance requirements for your product and what the gaps are – if any – in your evidence.

 

New Zealand Standards

If your product complies with a New Zealand Standard, it is not necessarily compliant with the Building Code.

A number of standards have been cited, sometimes in part or with modifications, in our Acceptable Solutions or Verification Methods. As a result, that standard may form all or part of a way to show compliance with the Building Code.

Even if a standard has not been cited it may still help to support an application for building consent.

Step 2: Make sound business decisions

Consider risk

Your next step is to decide what product assurance options to pursue.

To help you make this decision, consider the risk that your product will not be accepted by the New Zealand market as Building Code compliant. You need to decide how much time and money to invest in managing this risk, while still getting an acceptable return.

Your business decision will depend on:

  • Technical factors such as:
    • how much the product varies from common practice and from the relevant Acceptable Solutions and Verification Methods
    • the consequences of product failure
    • the service and testing history of the product in New Zealand
    • product durability
  • Commercial factors such as:
    • likely revenue from product sales
    • cost of the appropriate product assurance options
    • whether the product is new or innovative
    • how long you expect your product to be in demand
    • market perception of your product
    • market perception of your product’s manufacturer or supplier.

When BCAs assess a building consent application involving your product, they may also take a risk-based approach to the use of it in the proposed designs.

They will consider your product’s use in the context of a particular building consent application. The more risk they perceive, the more certainty they are likely to want around Building Code compliance before granting a building consent containing your product.

 

Product assurance risk tool

We have provided a tool below to help you consider your product’s apparent risk and identify areas where this could be reduced if necessary. Knowing this information can help you decide what product assurance options to pursue.

Once you are aware of the likelihood and consequence of failure you think apply to your product, you can map your knowledge against the risk table. This information is only intended as a guide to help you with your decision making: assessing risk is always subjective.

For the purposes of this tool, the term ‘failure’ is defined as failure to meet the relevant requirements of the Building Code.

Likelihood of failure guide

Rare
Only in exceptional circumstances
Unlikely
Would not be expected to happen in durability lifetime of product
Possible
May happen at end of durability lifetime of product
Likely
Might happen in durability lifetime of product

Factors influencing your product’s rating

You should consider a range of factors when deciding where your product or system might sit on this scale, including:

  • Previous evidence of failure: have there been any problems in the past with your, or similar, products? Have there been any changes made (for example, to installation methods or product components) to reduce or remove this risk?
  • Installation: is the product simple to install, does it require some building knowledge, or can it only be installed by licensed building practitioners or company-approved installers? If it requires installation instructions are these clear and readily available?
  • Maintenance: how important is maintenance to the product’s performance/likelihood of failure? How likely is the building owner to carry out this maintenance, bearing in mind the product’s visibility and accessibility? Does a qualified person need to carry out this maintenance? Are maintenance instructions readily available?
  • Discoverability: is the product visible during daily use? During maintenance? Is it likely to fail without warning, or would any impending failure be apparent and therefore able to be fixed?

Ways to reduce this rating

Possibilities include:

  • limiting the product or system’s scope of use
  • making changes to the way it is produced or installed to mitigate previous problems or the likelihood of failure
  • implementing or improving a quality assurance system for its manufacture, improving your installation and maintenance requirements and information (such as for complex products or systems, you might require more controls or oversight on who can install these).

 

Consequence of failure guide

Insignificant
No risk of harm to building users
Minor
Might cause harm to building users
Significant
Causes injury or illness and/or financial loss
Major
Potential loss of life and/or substantial financial loss

Factors influencing your product’s rating

You should consider a range of factors when deciding where your product or system might sit on this scale, including:

  • Scale of failure: would this be minimal, moderate (for example, failure would result in a leak/water ingress) or substantial (for example, failure would render the building uninhabitable)?
  • Impact on other building components: would any product failure be isolated or could it affect other building components? How serious could this be?
  • Notice of failure: would there be any warning of failure so that any impact on people’s health and safety could be addressed before this was serious or, in an extreme case, to allow people to evacuate before the building collapsed?
  • Financial loss: will failure cause any financial loss to the building owner or neighbouring building owners, and if so to what extent?

Ways to reduce this rating

Possibilities include:
  • making changes to the way the product is installed to reduce the severity of impact if it did fail (for example, you could consider specifying more fixings than required for structural framing so that if one were to fail the remaining fixings would provide enough structural support)
  • changes to product design to put in place a backup system for any failure (for example, backup power for life safety systems such as emergency lighting and/or smoke detector systems)
  • implementing warning systems if possible – such as alerts if a smoke detection system has a fault.

Risk table

Risk table

Decide on your assurance options

Knowing what you require to show Building Code compliance and manage risk, you can decide which assurance options to pursue for your product.

Think about which building products or systems (or which uses of them) would be most beneficial to you if they were tested, appraised, or certified.

These may be the ones with the most customers, or those facing the most issues with building consent authorities.

Think about whether it makes business sense to do any of the following:

  • Limit the purpose and use of your products so they have to comply with fewer Building Code clauses (for example, limit where in the country and where on the building they can be used). Consider limiting by physical, geographical or environmental zones (for example, not in high corrosion or high wind areas) or by how they are used (for example, not for structural purposes).
  • Group your products into families (for example, you may have 50 different types of fixings but all with the same manufacturing and installation methods). Consider extra product assurance options for only some of these families (such as those that are widely used in a range of circumstances).
  • Take things one step at a time. For example, for a relatively low-risk product you could concentrate on improving your technical information and have this independently assessed before deciding whether you need a product appraisal or certification. This may prove to be enough for demonstrating Building Code compliance.

Step 3: Take action

Depending on the product assurance option you have chosen, carry out any testing you need or commission an assessment, appraisal or product certification.

Make sure any test results you obtain are relevant to New Zealand conditions and Building Code requirements.

Assemble and present your evidence to demonstrate to BCAs and others in the decision chain that your product complies with the Building Code. Designers and suppliers are unlikely to accept or use a product without good technical evidence.

Your evidence needs to include:

  • relevant technical information, as opposed to marketing material. For example:
    • Does the performance of your product comply with the performance requirements for that product type; eg a cladding that is weathertight?
    • How can users be assured that every product made is to the same specification and quality?
    • Is this information backed up by test reports or independent assessments?
  • a purpose and use statement including any limitations relating to the products use
  • clear design, construction and installation information and support for designers and builders
  • clear maintenance information – what is required and what is the impact on ongoing performance, especially durability, if this is not done?

We strongly suggest you develop a product technical statement to summarise your key product information and technical data.

If you do not have suitable experienced staff or advisors, you should seek expert help with your product’s compliance.

You may need help with:

  • understanding New Zealand’s building regulations
  • identifying the most appropriate ways to show Building Code compliance
  • carrying out technical assessments of your product for Building Code compliance
  • or testing and other specialist advice to support those technical assessments.

This information is published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Chief Executive. It is a general guide only and, if used, does not relieve any person of the obligation to consider any matter to which the information relates according to the circumstances of the particular case. Expert advice may be required in specific circumstances. Where this information relates to assisting people: