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British Precast, the federation trade body which includes BPDA and a number of other precast concrete product associations, issued a Press Release on Monday 2nd September about precast drainage products placed in the UK market without any visible proof of conformity to relevant provisions of British standards or sufficient Declaration of Performance as required by relevant European Standards. The press release can be found here: https://www.precastdrainage.co.uk/news/UK-industry-uncovers-imports-of-unverified-concrete-products

The products in question include manhole rings, seating rings and gully risers. British Precast found units of these products without any visible proof of conformity to BS 5911-3 and/ or sufficient Declaration of Performance in accordance with EN 1917 and the Construction Products Regulation (CPR). Proof of conformity to any standard, whether European or British, can only be assured through some form of third-party certification such as BSI’s own Kitemark or an equivalent certification system. British Precast feels that the precast drainage sector has a responsibility to demonstrate that their products are safe and fit for purpose. Clients of the sector too have a requirement to ensure that the products they use meet their specification and whatever industry standard they need to comply to (e.g. Sewers for Adoption, CESWI, etc).

Below, we answer some of the main questions associated with that press release:

What are the main standards for precast pipeline products?

The main European standards for precast concrete pipeline products are EN 1916 and EN 1917:

  • EN 1916: Covers concrete pipes and fittings
  • EN 1917: Covers concrete manholes and inspection chambers

There are also complementary national British Standards for these products, which offer more details on geometrical requirements, concrete mix, structural characteristics and production specifications. The main standards include:

  • BS 5911-1: Covers concrete pipes and ancillary products
  • BS 5911-3: Covers concrete manholes, soakaways and ancillary products such as cover slabs, seating rings and corbels.
  • BS 5911-4: Covers inspection chambers
  • BS 5911-6: Covers gullies.

Not all precast drainage products conforming to EN 1916/ EN 1917 will automatically conform to BS 5911-1/ 5911-3. For example, concrete pipes can be manufactured to Strength Class 90 and seating rings can be produced with DC-1 concrete exposure class. These may comply to EN 1916/ EN 1917 and could be in use in a number of countries across Europe. But pipes and seating rings with such specifications cannot be manufactured under BS 5911: BS 5911-1 is restricted to Class 120 pipes and BS 5911-3 only makes reference to concrete manufactured to design chemical specifications higher than DC-1.

What do industry standards say?

  • Sewers for Adoption: SfA notes that ‘Precast concrete (in reference to Manholes) shall comply with the relevant provisions of BS EN 1917 and BS 5911-3” and “Precast concrete slabs and cover frame seating rings shall comply with the relevant provisions of BS EN 1917 and BS 5911-3”. SfA also notes that “Additional quality assurance requirements, including Third Party Certification, may be sought by the Undertaker” and offers Kitemarking as an example.
  • CESWI (7 th edition): Clause 2.98 notes that “Precast concrete slabs and cover frame seating rings shall comply with the relevant provisions of BS EN 1917 and BS 5911-3”. Clause 2.101 also noted that “Precast concrete manhole and soakaway units of circular cross-section shall comply with the relevant provisions of BS EN 1917 and BS 5911-3”.
  • Highway England’s Manual of Contract Documents for Highways (Vol 1. Series 500): Clause 507 (sub-clauses 4 and 5) note that precast chambers, cover slabs and inverts “shall comply with BS 5911-3”.

Is it legal to produce and sell such products?

For a number of regulated construction products, covered by harmonised European product standards, CE Marking is mandatory. The Construction Products Regulation (CPR) includes requirements for some construction products to have CE marking and to be accompanied by a declaration of performance (DoP) and other information if it is to be placed on the market in the European Economic Area. Most precast concrete pipeline products used and sold in the UK (pipes, manholes, cover slabs, benching rings and other ancillary products) are covered by this requirement. Conformity to British standard BS 5911-3 is not a legal requirement. However, in projects where some industry standards such as ‘Sewers for Adoption’ and CESWI form part of a water company or public authority contract, there might be a restriction set in specification for such precast drainage products to conform to relevant provisions of BS 5911 (Parts 1 to 6) and be third party verified in accordance with the requirements of that standard.

What is the main message?

The main message from the press release is as follows:

  • Manufacturers of precast drainage products need to ensure that their Declarations of Performance and CE Marks are in order and made visibly available, either on products or the manufacturer’s website. This is a legal requirement that manufacturers need to achieve in order to protect users, third parties and comply with the CPR.
  • Manufacturers and merchants are encouraged to seek third party certification if they intend to sell to specific markets where an undertaker (under Sewers for Adoption or any other industry standard) may require such certification as proof of conformity to relevant provisions of BS 5911-3. The Kitemark is one example of such certification.
  • Undertakers and clients need to understand that not all precast concrete drainage products are the same. In cases where no third-party verification is available, more scrutiny may be needed to ensure that a precast drainage product actually meet the project’s specification.

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