So how do Standards come about?
Standards can be created by a number of organisations.
In Britain, the British Standards Institution (BSI) is the UK National Standards Body, established in 1901 by the Council of the Institution of Civil Engineers. They define a standard as ‘something that is generally accepted’ and often publish technical specifications or practices that can be referred to in the guidance documents to help meet the Building Regulations.
Within Europe, CEN and CENELEC work across European countries to produce harmonized European Standards, and most of these are now adopted in the UK as Designated Standards. Many of these are based on existing national Standards that have been amended collaboratively to be applicable to member states.
Internationally, the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) – an independent organisation responsible for the production of voluntary international Standards, aims to bring Standardisation between countries in the way products are manufactured and used, in the construction industry.
But there are more organisations, in fact hundreds more, who are able to feed into the creation of construction standards; all with the same goal to standardize and provide guidance to complying to Building Regulations.
However, Standards are not a universal solution. Their function is to provide specifications, guidance and consistency, but because they’re created, quite often, independently of one another, the variation of quality and rigour set out in those standards may vary, with some content being left open to interpretation. Standards are not legal documents or regulations, but try to serve as the supporting act that may help you become compliant to the Building Regulations. And because of that, there is very often a lot of grey area to navigate through; especially for businesses that are embarking on new product innovation and construction methods.
What’s more, many products don’t have a specific set of standards; nobody makes a standard for something that doesn’t yet exist. It could be argued that standards, the very things that have been set out to help and guide, become the block on innovation and development, particularly if they are prescriptive on technology or solutions. ‘If you don’t fit the standard, then you may not comply’. A dangerously restrictive place to be if we rely on innovation and new technology to drive change and a safer built environment.