How the Construction Product Regulation will push forward the adoption of Digital Product Passports

By Lars Fredenlund, managing director of Cobuilder

Since its adoption in 2011, the Construction Products Regulation (CPR) has set out methods and criteria for assessing and expressing the performance of construction products and conditions for using the CE marking, which ensures they meet safety, health and environmental requirements.

As part of the regulation, manufacturers are obliged to adhere to harmonised standards when placing construction products on the market. EU Member States must do the same when setting requirements for their performance.

These standards have been drawn up by European standardisation bodies to create a common technical language which can be used throughout the construction sector. They enable industry professionals, public authorities and consumers to compare the performance of products from different manufacturers in different countries.

There are several benefits to this regulation. A construction product can be placed legally on the market in any Member State and then traded on the EU’s single market, while users of these products can better define their performance demands.

However, the EU Commission has identified shortcomings with existing regulation, which include the need to better support both the green and digital transition taking place in the construction sector.

Lars Chr. Fredenlund, CEO of Cobuilder

Moving towards greener and more digital practices

The formal legal process is well underway and is expected to be finalized in the autumn 2024. The revised CPR emphasise the need for digital solutions to reduce existing administrative burdens, including a construction products database or system. The EU has also highlighted that the revised CPR will need to align with circular economy principles – promoting the sustainability, durability and recyclability of products.

Digital Product Passports (DPPs), in particular, have been specified by the European Commission as solutions to meet these demands across sectors by the implementation of Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR). DPPs deliver information on construction products ‘including safety information, instructions of use and the declaration of performance and conformity.’

These DPPs will also enable various stakeholders to view a detailed breakdown of a product’s environmental data, ensuring transparency and traceability across all construction stakeholders – from manufacturers through to building contractors and end users. They will provide comprehensive and standardised information about a product throughout its entire lifecycle, with the aim of simplifying and enriching sustainability practices within construction.

The Digital Product Passport will play an important role for end users. It will become easier to calculate the environmental impact of buildings, easier to do green procurement, document the content of hazardous chemicals, ensure compliance with building codes, or client requirements. Another benefit is that market surveillance actors can access the information in a digital format instantly via mobile devices, and thereby ensure the reliability of construction products used in the European market.

Standardisation is the key to making DPPs effective

For DPPs to be created and implemented effectively, they need structured product data. This is data that has been standardised, clearly defined and is easily searchable. It must also be machine readable and made accessible across the European construction industry, for all organisations to benefit from.
The latest discussions around the CPR revision suggest the introduction of a common European data dictionary to enable this – which will introduce a “common digital language” and ensure companies working across borders are using the same standardised data framework.

Many construction stakeholders are already leveraging common systems and classification methods, to meet their individual needs. These systems simplify the measurement of construction materials, creating a single source of truth for everyone involved in a construction project to draw on the same data.

However, most of these systems are not interconnected or standardised – which is why a common European framework is required. This will make it easier for all organisations, regardless of location, to understand product data and collaborate on projects, while ensuring interoperability across different software and systems.

As sustainable and circular practices become increasingly embedded in construction – driven by new legislation such as the revised Construction Product Regulation – Digital Product Passports will be key enablers to show organisations sustainability-related information about a product. They will be most effective, though, when industry stakeholders find common ground in managing and sharing product data.