Building product manufacturers look to rein in the marketers

Manufacturers of construction products are seeking to put their house in order and stop making misleading or exaggerated claims about what users can expect from their products.

The reliability and trustworthiness of manufacturers’ information has been under the spotlight in the building products sector since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, where neither client nor contractor appeared to have been given pause for thought about installing a cladding and external insulation solution that was neither fit for purpose nor compliant with building regulations.

Recognising that they need to improve the consistency and clarity of product marketing information, building product manufacturers are taking action through their trade body, the Construction Products Association (CPA).

To get the project started, they have conducted an industry-wide survey exploring how product information is currently presented and made available to the construction supply chain. The survey report is expected to lay the foundations for reform to the way construction product information is provided by manufacturers and communicated to those that use it.

The need for a comprehensive regime that ensures all construction products are properly labelled and marketed was one of many recommendations in the Hackitt Review of building regulations, which was commissioned in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

The CPA survey highlights the current difficulties of accessing the relevant information required to assess the performance of a product and make informed decisions. The survey found that there is a desire for standardised and more complete information, including highlighting applications where the product may or may not be suitable for use.

Engineers clearly blame the marketing people. “Sometimes it is difficult to get actual proof of fire test performance… It is however often very easy to get marketing material which can significantly overstate or oversell the performance of a given product,” one engineer is quoted as saying in the report.

It is also apparent that there is a demand for standardised data sheets so that users and specifiers can make direct comparisons rather than having to cut through the sales spin.

Commenting on the report, CPA’s interim chief executive Peter Caplehorn said: “The importance of this survey will not be lost to those working in construction post-Grenfell. It was spearheaded by the CPA’s Marketing Integrity Group – a group of marketing professionals within the manufacturing industry – and represents a proactive and collaborative industry drive to improve the performance of construction products. I have no doubt it will prove a useful contribution as the industry embraces new regulatory reforms in the coming years.”

Adam Turk, managing director of Baxi Heating, chairs the CPA Marketing Integrity Group.He said: “I believe the result of this survey will be significant in moving our industry towards agreeing new standards which improve the availability of product information whilst also allowing firms to maintain their competitive position. It is vital that everyone in the supply chain can be confident that the information they are using to select construction products is clear, unambiguous, accurate and up to date.”