The standardisation concept which has been used in preparing the present guide conforms with ISO/IEC Guide 2, "Terminology -General Terms and their definitions concerning standardisation and related activities", fifth edition 1986.
The drafting and presentation of this guide have been realised in accordance with IEC/ISO Part 3 directives - "Drafting and presentation of International Standards", second edition 1989.
The recommendations on standardisation, promotion and certification were drawn up by the experts from the national standardisation organisations who attended the Yaound seminar, based on the texts of the document "Standard guidelines - Fibre or Micro Concrete Tiles", FCR/MCR Toolkit - Element 4. SKAT-ILO. BASIN. St Gallen/Geneva. Switzerland. 1994.
The texts which appear under an "ARS" chapter heading have been formally ratified by ARSO. The ratification process is detailed in the chapter "Regional standardisation proceedings".
The International Standards Organisation (ISO) distinguishes between the terms «standards» and «normative documents» as follows:
- a standard is a: «document, established by consensus and approved by a recognised body, that provides, for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context» and «should be based on the consolidated results of science, technology and experience, and aimed at the promotion of optimum community benefits»;
- a normative document is a: «document that provides rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results» and therefore does not have the same scope, nor the same endorsement, but can become a «standard».
Various terms of the definition deserve comment.
«Consensus» does not necessarily imply unanimity, but «general agreement characterised by the absence of sustained opposition to substantial issues».
The objectives of standards are above all economic and social, to facilitate exchanges of goods and services and to protect the citizen (safety, product quality, etc.) and the quality of life (health, hygiene, environment etc.) This is why standards refer to «common and repeated uses» which therefore involve numerous partners and serve them as a means of reference for communication, for terminology, contracts, technical data, etc. This value as a reference rests of course on its scientific and technical viability for which approval by an organisation recognised for its moral authority and its respect for the rules on drawing up standards and on seeking consensus, is required.
The approval and the recognition of the standard, both by the parties concerned and by the moral authority, ensure «an optimum degree of order» required for exchanges and contractual relationships, and therefore for the industry and the economy. This "order" is of course linked to «a given context» and a given moment, which means that the document is not static, but rather one which is regularly re-examined and if necessary revised.
Standards thus enable technology dissemination from the relevant technical and economic collective body to all enterprises, providing the basis for replicable technical solutions and thus the gradual building up of a common «technical culture» which aims to remove various technical obstacles. This is particularly relevant in developing new products and in winning new markets.
On the basis of these objectives, innovation is clearly important and the standard should not prevent it from occurring. It is, however common to believe that a standard is rigid and constraining. It might indeed seem paradoxical to ensure «an optimum degree of order» and to «stimulate innovation», but to innovate it is vital to know and to use that which exists, and next to have the tools and the aids to enter the market in satisfactory conditions of competitiveness and commercial success.
For this to occur, everything depends on the type of standards the community has and it is important to distinguish between the «means» standard and the «results» standard. The former, which is the most classic, describes in practical terms the means to be used to achieve an objective, it is a little akin to a manufacturing guide, but it can make the technique inflexible.
The latter determines the result to be achieved (characteristics, performance, etc.) but leaves the service provider totally free to choose the means employed. Contrary to the former, there is no danger of its handicapping progress and it encourages innovation, but there is nevertheless a risk that this freedom to choose the means employed might lead to reinventing that which already exists and consequently using costly and complex means. A standard allowing for innovation should therefore describe means in such a way as to allow choice, rather than to impose them.
The transition from traditional, rural societies to industrial, urban ones has significantly transformed relationships within societies, making exchanges more fragmented and complex. The way exchanges have been transformed is particularly apparent in technical areas which were the first to undergo the effects of the «industrial revolution» or of «modernity».
Traditional systems involved few operators in the act of building: one could be designer, materials producer and builder all at once, or if clients did turn to a «professional», it was for a precise task of which they themselves had some experience, since all «citizens» of a given area shared a single technical culture. This kind of exchange, which still sometimes occurs, is inevitably tending to disappear as a result of a greater complexity of technical cultures which have become difficult to grasp in their entirety, and as a result of the greater number of parties involved. Apart from the user, there are now building material manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, building companies and sub-contractors, building societies, professional consultants, funding organisations, etc. In the face of this complexity, technical reference documents, standards, have become vital for exchanges between all these operators to occur. Such documents are in fact often produced on the initiative of the operators themselves.
As far as building materials such as the compressed earth block are concerned, the need for standards comes virtually unanimously from producers and/or users who want to prove that this material, although it has its roots in tradition, can take its rightful place in current construction practices.
Thus producers and users often find themselves confronted by technical hurdles, as for most new technologies, above all as a result of ignorance, since they are not yet part of the «common technical culture».
Designers cannot use the material since they do not know its characteristics and performances; construction companies do not know how it should be used; inspectors do not know how to test and measure its performances; and banks and insurance companies, without inspectors paving the way, cannot underwrite loans and 10-year guarantees for building works, etc. As a result, the only avenue still open to producers and/or builders is to ensure for themselves the promotion and the credibility of this technology. For example, building at one's own expense test walls to reassure the client and the inspector, or following expensive and complex test procedures, relating to other building materials, because existing standards do not provide any others and are applied with no regard for the production and utilisation context.
Refering to ISO guidelines on standards in the construction field, it can be noted that: «any standardisation in the field of construction should recognise that a building is built, above all, to meet the requirements of people particularly with regard to their health, comfort and safety. The best solution, ultimately, consists in expressing international construction standards as far as possible in terms of performance requirements for building elements, components and materials,» and particular attention is drawn to the fact that requirements should be formulated in this order rather than the opposite one.
This means focusing first on results (the building) and then on the means to achieve them (materials, production and construction, etc.), but if only the means are specified, there is a danger that it might become impossible to respect both the standard and the users' requirements.
For example, a restrictive specification stipulating very high compressive strength, when dealing with a simple, single-storey building, runs the risk of forcing the use of certain materials which might be out of the financial reach of the majority of the population.
The same ISO guidelines also state: «international construction Standards should still take account of various climatic or regional conditions, and notably of the skills available and of the various stages of technical and economic development. It is appropriate, as often as possible, for international construction standards to include different levels of requirements to be applied in different regions in the light of the conditions predominating».
It is therefore fairly clear that normative documents on compressed earth blocks are tools for promoting and defending this relatively new technology and that if demand emerges and is not met, the absence of normative documents would penalise the various operators who had invested or who wished to invest in it, in whatever particular way.
Naturally, for them to be effective and operational, such documents must follow the various principles stated above and which can be briefly summarised as follows:
- they must be precise, i.e. specific to this material and not a transposition of standards intended for other materials;
- they must be established by consensus, by the operators involved as a whole, whether public, private, technical, user, financial, etc.;
- they must be realistic, taking account of climatic and regional conditions (both technical and economic);
- they must be comprehensible to those qualified persons who were not involved in drawing them up.
Drawing up standards for products, goods and services falls under the responsibility of the National Standards Body (NSB), which uses a procedure valid for all products, including compressed earth blocks (CEBs), earth mortars (EMs) and compressed earth block masonry (CEBM).
The recommended method is known as the «Technical Committee Method».
In the light of needs expressed in a specific area, the National Standards Body (NSB) sets up a technical committee (TC). If necessary, sub-committees (SC) and working groups (WG) are also formed to carry out the work of the technical committee. These committees and working groups are made up of representatives of producers, users, technical teaching staff, researchers, professionals and various government structures, so that their conclusions are realistic and meaningful, and reflect the diversity of the environment. The NSB acts as the secretariat and co-ordinates the work of the TC.
The method consists of the following phases:
Phase 1: Feasibility study and programme definition
The NSB plans its work programme taking account of the requests or proposals forwarded to it by various parties. This programme reflects the needs and concerns of industry, of commerce, of users, of technical teaching staff, of researchers, of professionals and of administrators. The other factors the NSB has to take into account are notably:
- the state of development of the technique, including the most recent scientific and technological programmes, as well as changes in the design of products and materials;
- the availability of resources in the country with regard to technology, production process and materials;
- hygiene and public safety;
- national economic development objectives.
Phase 2: Preparation
The NSB prepares or has prepared by a technical associate a draft standard using existing texts at national level, the national standards of other countries, regional and/or international standards and in consultation with the sectors involved. This text, which forms the «base document», is submitted to the TC for detailed deliberation. Once a consensus on the essential points has been achieved, the TC prepares an «amended document».
Phase 3: Public enquiry
The project is presented to a wider audience, (ministry representatives, various government and private organisations, research institutes, housing companies, funding bodies, materials manufacturers, entrepreneurs, technical centres, laboratories, teaching institutions, technical control organisations, insurance companies, etc.) in order to obtain wider comments and suggestions: the audience consulted is then broadened to include the associates of the partners involved, including national and foreign practitioners.
Phase 4: Ratification
Following consideration and objective evaluation of the comments and suggestions resulting from the public enquiry, the «final standard» is drafted and submitted for ratification as a national standard to the relevant authorities (the department responsible for standards within the relevant technical department).
N.B. National standards can be obligatory for reasons of safety, health, protection of the environment, etc.
Phase 5: Publication
The national standard is then edited and published in the official record for generalised distribution.
To promote CEB standards, all the institutions involved in this technology should take concerted action.
An efficient way of making the standard familiar and ensuring that it is used is to regularly refer to it during training programmes. Manuals and other teaching materials should also be adapted in consequence.
Distributed through appropriate channels, articles and adverts in specialised journals, radio broadcasts and video spots are all important ways not to be neglected to make the standard known.
Holding events, for example combined with professional meetings or exhibitions, can also be a way of transmitting information to a wide audience.
The NSB should lead the authorities involved to amend their national building regulations and other legislative documents so that these take CEBs into account. By doing so, these authorities help to reinforce the standard.
City authorities should be encouraged to modify their building regulations by introducing the use of CEBs into relevant legislation.
To facilitate this, it can be useful to invite the authorities concerned to take part in study tours, in order to familiarise them with CEBs and with current developments.
Only the strict application of standards to check all CEB materials at the point of production will enable a consistent and reliable quality to be obtained in a given country. This is vital to win user confidence.
Standards should serve as a reference for:
- establishing and defining a certification procedure;
- checking production and product sales;
- drafting submission documents and purchasing contracts.
Proposed certification method
The NSB should run a certification system allowing producers to use a NS label (National Standard). This label can be awarded only if production respects a number of requirements intended to guarantee the quality of the finished products. This authorisation is awarded after thorough and regular inspection of an enterprise.
The inspection should review production, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, quality control equipment and procedures, staff skills, and any other factor enabling an appreciation of whether a producer is capable of respecting the standards. During the inspection, the NSB should provide as often as necessary technical advice allowing the producer to improve current production and quality control.
Thus, when a product is labelled NS, this means that it is good quality, reliable and strong.
The label of conformity to standards affixed to products and/or packaging should give the following information:
- name of producer;
- production label or other means of identification;
- the number of the standard;
- the date of production.
On request, the producer should provide a certificate attesting that the products conform to the standard in question.
Product control and laboratory accreditation
To support the certification label system and to encourage the development of standards, the NSB should work in collaboration with control laboratories.
These public or private laboratories work in collaboration with the NSB on product control. They should be the object of an accreditation procedure taking account of their skills, their integrity and their desire to work in close connection with the NSB.