Steel-framed buildings must now conform to EC standards. Jane Ricketts Hein reports

Following on from the report in March’s Country Smallholding about the collapse of a lambing shed in north Wales, farmers and smallholders are warned that a change in the law governing steel-framed agricultural buildings will come into force on July 1 this year. From this date, all new steel frames for use in buildings will have to conform to European standards. The rules regarding timber-framed buildings will also be changed in the near future.

The CE mark, as it is known, can be found on many items from children’s toys to medical equipment. Although it is partly aimed at easing trade barriers between EC countries, it also ensures that the accredited products are produced to a consistent standard and are traceable should an issue arise at a later date.

For smallholders and others requiring new steel-framed buildings, the main consequence is that they should ensure that the company they use to supply, and build if required, their new shed is CE-accredited. Supplying frames without such assurance will be a criminal offence, and customers may find that construction work has been served with a prohibition notice, or even that their builder has been jailed! At present, it is unclear whether insurance companies will insure non-CE-marked buildings supplied after July 1.

Accredited builders and fabricators can be found through the industry’s associations such as RIDBA (Rural and Industrial Design and Building Association) or the BCSA (British Constructional Steelwork Association). When engaging potential builders, clients should check that any fabricated steelwork will be designed and produced to BS EN 1090. Buildings will be designed for specific purposes and the design calculations will be approved by structural engineers.

CE-accredited companies will have been issued with two certificates, which they will be happy to show to prospective clients: one is a Factory Production Control (FPC) certificate, the other a Welding certificate. Both should contain details of the approved company and the organisation that inspected and certified them. The customer should ensure that the company is able to provide an appropriate class of building (based on the building’s use and the amount of time that people spend in it) and is able to work with suitable sizes of steel. The certificates’ expiry dates should, of course, also be checked. Finally, on completion of the framework, the builder should provide the client with a third certificate – a Declaration of Performance – describing the standards that have been met. All the numbers on this should, of course, correspond with the other certificates. A plate or other CE mark should then be affixed to the frame.

While this looks like extra work for smallholders, it is simply a case of asking a few questions of your builder – and supporting those who have made the effort to be accredited, rather than the ‘cowboys’. The result should be improvements in building quality and safety.

* Dr Jane Ricketts Hein works for Cynidr Consulting, based in Powys, Wales.

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