Standards and certifications are essential, but it is of equal importance that there is sufficient knowledge regarding the technical scope and application of the standards and certifications in the market, says Brian Suggitt, President, Eurovent Middle East.
“Sadly, there are a lot of misconceptions that can come into the market, which I have seen in my travels across the Middle East,” he says. Recalling an interaction with a representative of an air-handling unit (AHU) manufacturing company, Suggitt says: “I asked them, ‘What is the standard thickness you use for your panels?’ The answer I got was, ‘Well, what do you want? We can do 1.8mm, 1.6mm or 1mm? How cheap do you want it to be?’ Now, if it is certified for 1.2mm and you are manufacturing at 0.8mm, then you are reducing panel skins by 33%, which will lead to issues down the road, such as leakage and rusting.”
Weighing in, Stefano Traversi, Engineering Leader, HVAC, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) says likewise, he has witnessed the abuse and misrepresentation of the UL mark in the market. “We have a team looking at advertising on the Internet, and the UL logo or word in the brochure or website, checking if UL could be applied to the product or not,” he says, adding that the company pursues legal action against manufacturers that are found to be abusing the UL mark. “We found more than 3.8 million products bearing the UL mark that were not suitable [last year] alone,” he says. “You have to be careful when looking at this. We have a big team and a website, but unfortunately, it’s still happening.”
Markus Lattner, Managing Director, Eurovent Middle East, also asks the industry stakeholders about the practice of some manufacturers that intentionally misrepresent certifications, for instance claiming certification of whole systems, even though only a component is certified. Suggitt confirms that he has observed such a practice throughout the region. “People put forward the Eurovent certification and say, ‘We have the certificate’, but you have to look at the holistic standard for the AHU, not just for one part of the certification,” he says. “It depends on the filter bypass, leakage, casing strength, thermal bridging, thermal transmittance and the different levels therein. The same applies to fans as an integral part of the AHU. The certification for the fan is for the total performance of the fan. If someone uses that certification and puts a different motor in there, it will have a different output, then that certification is not compliant. However, often, it’s not checked or looked at.” Further underscoring the importance of having a holistic approach, Suggitt says: “It’s the same thing with fire resistance. In general construction, for example, you don’t just test the gypsum board part of a wall, you test the whole wall, because that’s the flame barrier. The same way with AHUs – you have to test the whole unit, and that has to comply with data you have in your selection software.”
Suggitt points out that from a manufacturer’s point of view, standards and certifications can provide a level playing field, so long as the industry, as a whole, observes the same standards. “We don’t want a product in the market that can rust, break or catch fire,” he says. “Certification is hugely important, but it has to be the right certification, in the right manner.”
SAFEGUARDING THE MARK
Stakeholders have a high number of strategies in place to mitigate misrepresentation of certifications. Brand integrity, as Traversi points out, is one of the most important aspects that a certification body should confirm and maintain. “Every brand is vulnerable in this connected world, and we need to protect our brand and the brand of our customer,” he says “When it comes to how UL is doing this, we have an online database of products that are certified by UL and are currently bearing the UL mark.
Traversi says the database allows users to find components, such as the compressor, filter and so on, as well as end-user equipment, like a chiller or an air conditioner. “It’s connected and easy for everyone to understand if a product is certified or not,” he says. “[They can search the] model, or they can do a company search and see if the product is certified.”
Traversi says UL also has a follow-up mechanism for manufacturers of UL-recognised products. “We inspect the manufacturer’s facility to make sure the product is still manufactured in compliance with standards to ensure the product is the same that is tested at the beginning and not modified,” he says. “Then, we have market survey programs and dedicated teams
that are looking at the product inside the market.”
Eric Foucherot, Director, International Affairs, Eurovent Certita Certification (ECC), also underscores the importance of factory audits, adding that such initiatives greatly contribute to the trustworthiness of the mark. Foucherot adds that it is also important to improve the communication channels related to the scope of each certification programme among stakeholders, including MEP consultants, architects and everyone involved with the technology, such as ESCOs. “We try to improve and educate the direct end-user on people using the certification on what is certified and what is needed,” he says.
THE VALUE OF ACCREDITED LABS AND PROPER USE OF CERTIFICATION
Foucherot says that while ECC is also doing its part to monitor the market, it is important for certification bodies to remain competitive with their prices and not raise the already high certification cost, especially for holistic systems, such as AHUs. “States don’t have the money to have market surveillance for many of these systems,” he says. “Certification is the only reasonable way to have market surveillance for these systems.” The challenges related to market surveillance is greater when it comes to holistic systems, such as thermodynamic systems, VRF systems, chillers and AHUs, Foucherot says, pointing out that accredited laboratories can help develop a more robust ecosystem of transparency.
Speaking on the fundamentals of testing and calibration of laboratories, Traversi highlights the importance of being accredited to ISO 17025, for general competency for testing. “Having a laboratory accredited means the laboratory is assessed as a quality system in compliance with the standard and has a technical system,” he says. “So, the competency, the equipment and everything needed to perform the activity in the correct way [is in place]. It’s not
just first assessment, either. Every year, the laboratory is assessed by different accreditation members, guaranteeing the trustworthiness of test results.” Traversi emphasises that at the end of the day, self-declaration is not enough. “It could be used for sure,” he says. “It gives you a lot of insight and help, but we need an externally independent third party that can prove the reliability of the data the manufacturer is providing.”
Adding to this, Foucherot elaborates on the role of certification bodies in the context of the GCC region states’ energy- efficiency standards. “When it comes to efficiency, we certify what is claimed by the manufacturer, then it’s up to the market to design what the market needs,” he says. “It’s a matter of MEPS (Minimum Energy Performance Standards). We are not part of that. We are there to enable states to have a look at what the normal standard efficiency of a market is. We can support authorities and tell them, ‘If you put the MEPS high, you will have 10% of manufacturers for what you need; if it’s low, you open the market to 100% of manufacturers, worldwide.’ While ECC can provide data, it is ultimately up to the government authorities. It’s a decision of the authority to put the money on a certain level of efficiency of equipment they can trust.” Foucherot adds that however, there is a financial case for the states to produce, to drive money and support citizens to build efficient systems.
For Suggitt, it is important for individual countries within the GCC region to have a more thorough grasp of their standards, as they stand. “If you incorporate or give opportunity for each certification body and standardisation, be it AHRI, UL, Eurovent or AMCA, there is a mixture of thoughts and processes, some American, some European,” he says. “We need to blend those things together, to make sure requirements are met within standards and certifications available. Having an ISO-certified laboratory as the basis to use is an excellent way to go. If you can get that in the region, even better, so people don’t spend so much money sending things abroad.” Suggitt says that he would encourage stakeholders to look at developing an ISO-certified test lab in the region. “Don’t try to reinvent anything,” he says. “Standards have been around a long time. New standards are coming in to improve energy efficiency and IAQ. But, it is important to utilise what is available and for GCC region states to blend them with what is needed when it comes to developing their own standards.”