International interest in ECN models for risk assessment of construction products

Monday April 20, 2015 16:42

There is international interest in ECN models which can be used to assess the environmental risks of construction products. This was demonstrated at two international meetings involving consultations between model experts.

Construction products must be safe for humans and the environment throughout their working life, including their second life. This is the objective of the European Construction Products Regulation. The regulation also aims to reduce trade barriers by ensuring that the properties of construction products are assessed in the same manner across all EU Member States. This is not yet the case because each Member State has its own assessment methods.

Measurements and models
Measurements as well as models are required in order to assess whether a construction material carries an environmental risk. Virtually all of the measurement methods are now standardised, thanks in part to years of hard work by ECN. This means that eventually every EU Member State will have to prescribe the same measurement method to determine leaching levels in the laboratory.

However, Member Sates also require calculation models in order to set the maximum leaching level for their regulations.  These calculations establish the link between the leaching level in the laboratory and the expected long-term effect on the environment. It is important to ensure that, like the measurement methods, each Member State follows the same guiding principles for this risk assessment. Otherwise the EU will continue to be affected by trade barriers.

In the Netherlands, ECN's models are applied in regulations concerning construction materials, soil and dredgings. ECN's models and risk assessment system have also attracted a lot of attention internationally, because its approach produces concrete criteria with a sound scientific basis.

Consultation with experts
ECN recently took part in a meeting between international model experts in Rapperswil (Switzerland), organised by the Hochschule für Technik. The meeting concerned the method of modelling impact assessment. The aim was to share existing knowledge in this area and make it available to other countries that want to apply a similar system to assess leaching.

Network of specialists
Following the meeting in Switzerland, a second meeting in a slightly broader context was held in Holzkirchen, Germany. ECN took part in this meeting as a speaker at the invitation of the German mortar industry organisation Industrieverband WerkMörtel e.V. (IWM) and was joined by other model experts from Rapperswil. This industry is strongly in favour of a safe yet feasible assessment system, like the one used in the Netherlands, which is based partly on ECN's model approach. As a result of this meeting (read more about it in this German trade journal), a network of specialists was established that includes ECN. A meeting will be held in Switzerland in April 2015 with the aim of defining a method of impact assessment and rule-making that is accepted throughout Europe.

More information
More information on how ECN can help turn waste products into reusable construction materials or how to reclaim usable components from them can be found on our focus page about environmental assessment.

Category: Corporate, Environment