New technology and product certification have an interesting relationship in the world of plumbing. We all understand the inherent risks in new technologies — the failures of plumbing products and systems can have profound implications. Often, there are no existing product standards to cover these new technologies. Regulators, public health officials, and authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) are responsible for minimizing this risk. As a result, they want all plumbing products to be tested and certified to recognized standards before allowing them to be installed in their jurisdictions.
New plumbing technologies can be challenging for regulators to accept if there are not existing standards for testing and certification. In response to this need, standards development organizations (SDOs), laboratories, and certification bodies will often assemble a team of expert individuals to create an industry standard until the market is large enough for the creation of an American National Standard, developed under American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited procedures. In Canada, regulators recognize these standards through the Other Recognized Document (ORD) approval process. An example of a recently approved ORD is ASSE LEC 2010-2020, Listing Evaluation Criteria for Proportional Flow Control Devices, with Protection from Cross-Contamination via Hydronic Water, for use in Drinking Water Installations. Canadian authorities, through the ORD process, have recognized the ASSE LEC 2010 standard, which is valid for five years. During this time frame, the industry can convert the Listing Evaluation Criteria (LEC) document to a Standards Council of Canada (SCC) accredited Canadian (CAN) standard or find a home for the test protocol in an existing CAN standard.
ASSE International’s LEC, IAPMO’s IGC, and CSA’s Technical Information Letter (TIL) documents are all examples of plumbing industry standards. Industry standards are common in the plumbing industry because they have a proven track record for speeding up the acceptance of new technologies.
SDOs, certification bodies, and laboratories are qualified to create industry standards because of their experience with similar products and certifications, and they have access to technical experts in the field who volunteer to participate in the development process. They also have experience working with and evaluating currently accepted American National Standards.
In developing industry standards, the certification body utilizes proven test methods and criteria to establish performance and safety requirements. Typically, industry standards are a mix of testing performance claims and conformances to existing American National Standards with similar applications. For example, if a new technology contacts drinking water, the industry standard will typically reference NSF/ANSI/CAN 61, Drinking Water System Components – Health Effects, as a requirement to verify the material safety of the system. Industry standards, like American National Standards, avoid duplication of test methods — rather, they reference test protocols in existing standards.
Once published, industry standards can be used by any certification body accredited with the applicable scope to certify these novel products. Over time, the standard can be incorporated into an existing American National Standard or developed into a new American National Standard or CAN standard. An example of this was the development of ASSE 1090, Performance Requirements for Drinking Water Atmospheric Water Generators. ASSE 1090 originated from LEC 2004, Listing Evaluation Criteria for Drinking Water Treatment Systems Using Air as a Source. After LEC 2004 was published, a project was opened to create the ASSE 1090 American National Standard because of the large interest from the atmospheric water generator industry.
The challenge with new technologies is that regulators are reluctant to accept unproven products. Industry standards can help overcome this reluctance by:
- Being developed by a reputable organization known to the regulators
- Establishing test methods for performance claims of the new technology
- Requiring evaluation to existing standards and test methods recognized by the regulators
- Providing the information for third-party product testing and inspection of the manufacturing location(s)
- Allowing for product certification by an accredited certification body and use of the associated certification mark on the product
After the process is concluded and this “new technology” is certified to the industry standard, the regulator or AHJ is more likely to allow its installation in their jurisdiction. The industry standard development process is a useful tool for allowing innovative new technologies access to markets while demonstrating performance and safety requirements. The industry standard development and certification process benefits innovators, manufacturers, and ultimately, consumers.
Article by Tim Reising appeared in Working Pressure magazine