This is the first of a series of articles we will be writing about ETA third party product assessments. The aim is to give you an understanding of what ETA’s are and how they can benefit installers and specifiers when making product selections.
ETA stands for European Technical Assessment and is a voluntary scheme that manufacturers of firestop products undertake in order to obtain a CE mark for their construction products. This in turn allows them to freely market their products within the European Market.
Passive Firestop products (such as sealants, collars, wraps, fire batts etc) are currently not covered by a harmonised European Standard (hEN) and therefore adoption of such schemes is an entirely voluntary process undertaken by the construction product manufacturers.
The assessment of products is based on well-founded and harmonised technical specifications. The ETA provides full details of the assessed product ranging from a detailed description of the product itself and its components, to performance related information for its intended uses.
The ETA documentation gives full transparency to the end user, allowing them to assess the product’s suitability for the installation before it is specified or selected on a project. Without this clear documentation there is a risk that a firestop product is selected and then deemed unsuitable when it comes to the installation phase.
Furthermore, following an ETA and once a CE Mark is acquired, the manufacturer is required to undergo systematic auditing by 3rd parties (Notified Bodies). This involves periodic inspection of
the CE Marked product in order to confirm there have not been changes to its manufacturing that would alter its properties and performance, thus rendering the ETA invalid.
ETAs are part of a 3rd Party Accreditation scheme which is highly spoken of these days and plays a critical role in helping to build trust between suppliers and end users regarding construction products and their performance.
Further and more detailed information on what an ETA is can also be found on EOTA’s website
As already mentioned, an ETA is a voluntary but powerful document that should accompany construction products. Manufacturers who choose to provide this documentation are able to give the end user/contractor all the information they need about the products’ properties and performance, thereby enabling them to make a suitable product selection much more easily.
As is the case with all construction products, the performance and behaviour of passive firestop products can vary, depending on how they are used. For example, a fire collar is expected to behave differently when installed in walls compared to a floor penetration, and the fire resistance can vary tremendously.
There are other factors that can affect a firestop’s performance such as the orientation of the pipe (at an angle or vertical penetration), type of substrate, type of pipe, pipe dimension etc. All these variations can cause a firestop product to perform differently when installed which can seem daunting. However, the good news is that all this detailed performance information will be included in the ETA document thereby making product selection a lot easier.
Apart from the practical benefit (one document for all performance related information) it is also a great way to demonstrate credibility of the manufacturer. Obtaining an ETA for a construction product is a step to acquiring a CE Mark. By definition, obtaining a CE Mark automatically means getting involved in a continuous manufacturing auditing process which allows the end user/contractor to build trust with the manufacturer.
There are many firestop products on the market without 3rd party verification (like ETA’s) because ultimately this is a voluntary scheme that not all manufacturers will sign up to. These products may have some performance data published by their manufacturer, supplier or distributor but how detailed is it and can it be trusted, especially when we are talking about potentially life-saving products?
The reality is that determining the performance of a firestop in different installation scenarios is a complicated matter. ETA testing subjects products to a range of defined testing programs to be able to document specific performance criteria that can be relied upon going forward due to the continuous auditing.
Keep an eye out for our next article which will explore this topic in more detail and give some practical examples of how ETA’s can benefit you!