Transitioning To The New Construction Products Regulation

The European Commission- EC went on to publish the outcome of the trilogue process involving the EU parliament, EU Council as well as the EC for a new Construction Product Regulation- CPR on 10th April 2024. The document goes ahead and addresses all construction products defined by harmonised European Standards- hEN and European Assessment Documents- EAD.

The final CPR document happens to be at present undergoing translation into the languages of the Member States, which will go on to serve as the basis for the final vote in the EU parliament. While the document is all set for the second half of 2024, it is assumed that no further changes are going to occur, although technical errors may as well undermine voluntary technical harmonisation at the European level.

The new CPR looks forward to advancing the European construction market towards more digital and environmentally friendly concepts while at the same time maintaining a level playing field in order to ensure high-level harmonisation across the Member States. The hope is that the blockage when it comes to publishing European harmonised specifications can also be resolved.

A significant achievement of the new CPR happens to be that it retains the route to CE Marking based on European Technical Assessments- ETA for products or intended uses not fully covered by a harmonised European Standard- hEN.

Historically, the industry has faced challenges with the unpredictability of publishing dates for hEN and EAD, leading to legal uncertainty, delays in market introduction of new products, and financial losses. While stakeholders have discussed the detailed needs of the industry regarding the general legal framework of CPR, these discussions are not reflected in the final CPR document.

For products requiring mandatory CE Marking by hEN, the transition to the new CPR legal framework. The key point is that the existing hEN will be replaced continuously by a revised hEN that incorporates digital and sustainability characteristics. The final deadline is 2039 when the current CPR will be fully repealed.

For products qualified on the basis of EADs/ETAs and voluntary CE Marking, the transition to the new CPR legal framework will occur in a much shorter period than hEN.

It is well to be noted that the current CPR-based hEN will go on to remain valid until a new hEN under the new CPR gets to be published, up until 2039. However, an EAD based on the current CPR will become invalid in 2030, even without an updated EAD.

Other important points include that the application date of the CPR is November 2025, and the EOTA route is essentially frozen. This likely means that no new EADs developed under the current CPR will be published after this date. Notably, a substantial number of EADs with issued ETAs are still in the ‘request’ status, and it remains unclear what ‘request status’ entails in practical terms, adding to the legal uncertainty in the construction industry.

There also appears to be a period of about five years for current EADs to be reworked according to the new CPR requirements, such as sustainability and digital elements. These revised EADs will form the basis for the respective voluntary ETAs used for the new Declaration of Performance and Conformity- DoPC. Since the EC and EOTA own the EADs, they will manage the revision process without manufacturer involvement. There also happens to be an intention to move certain EADs into the hEN category, however the related concepts, mandates as well as the resources remain unclear.

Additionally, the EC has communicated that delegated and implementing acts for sustainability requirements and digital concepts will not be available for the first product families until 2027. This implies that transitioning current EADs into the new CPR framework can only start from 2027, leaving just three years until the EADs’ deadline in 2030.

Given that approximately 400 EADs exist and that the EC and EOTA have been publishing about 20 to 30 EADs per year, the likelihood of transferring all existing EADs into the new legal framework within three years is minimal.

Furthermore, considering that innovation projects for new construction products typically take about two years and that manufacturers usually invest in innovative products only when the performance criteria are clear, it could mean that from November 2025, investment in innovative products may halt until new EADs are published. Consequently, this could lead to a significant slowdown in investment in innovative products within the European construction sector.

In summary, the fastener industry fears the following consequences due to the new CPR:

  1. EADs not published under the current CPR may be lost during the transition period, with corresponding ETAs potentially being repealed once the new CPR is in force.
  2. The transition period for EADs is too short, leading to important EADs published under the old framework becoming invalid by approximately 2030.
  3. Investment in innovation might stop, with the industry possibly preferring national approval solutions.
  4. The entire EOTA/EAD/ETA system could be paralysed for at least five years.

The European construction industry faces a challenging phase, exacerbated by rising material prices and increased loan interest rates. While changes towards sustainability and digital concepts are necessary, a new CPR that halts investment in innovation by invalidating developed EADs without timely replacements is difficult to accept. This could severely impact leading construction industry sectors.

It is unclear why the hENs transition smoothly to the new CPR, while the voluntary EAD route for innovative products and applications faces disruption. It would be more straightforward and sustainable to handle the EAD revision process similarly to the hEN transition.

Ultimately, it is the manufacturers who have to find solutions in order to meet the customer needs for both existing as well as new construction sector applications. One potential solution could be to go ahead and ignore the voluntary EAD route and the European harmonisation legal framework, reverting to Member States’ assessments for product qualification, which may at least provide transparency along with predictability at the national level.