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Contractor (May 2013) Quality Assured Concrete

12 May 2013

Rob Gaimster
Cement & Concrete Association (CCANZ)

As construction really does appear to be gathering pace in Christchurch and the high NZ dollar makes importing construction products more and more financially attractive, the issue of quality is currently a key concern.

Add to this questions raised recently about imported structural steel, along with the ever present spectre of leaky homes, and we have perhaps never been more aware that the products from which our built environment is formed must offer assurances.

PRECAST CONCRETE

To this end it is very pleasing to see that the Association representing the interests of the New Zealand precast concrete sector, Precast New Zealand, has recently launched its Plant Certification Program.

The purpose of the Program is to provide project specifiers, head contractors, building owners and others with a level of confidence that products purchased from a Precast NZ Certified Plant are supplied from an established operator and a plant with appropriate manufacturing facilities, quality assurance programs, as well as suitable levels of expertise and experience.

Whether precast concrete is required for architectural, structural, civil engineering or any other purpose, a Precast NZ Certified Plant ensures that its product has been manufactured using quality procedures audited by an independent and accredited inspection body, such as those on the JAS-ANZ Register.

Precast NZ Certified Plants add a further layer of assurance through an independent third party audit of quality systems and a detailed inspection process.

In its early stages, the program has certified 5 precast concrete plants, with another 5 applications currently under consideration.  More details about the Program are available from the Precast NZ website - www.precastnz.org.nz

READY MIXED CONCRETE

Quality assurance schemes are nothing new to the New Zealand concrete industry.

Consumers of ready-mixed concrete have been taking comfort for decades in the knowledge that concrete produced and supplied by a plant certified under the New Zealand Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NZRMCA) Plant Audit Scheme meets high quality standards.

The audit scheme is available to NZRMCA members (a total of around 185 plants), and most avail themselves of the opportunity.  It is audited to ISO 9001 by Bureau Veritas Quality International (BVQI).

The audit scheme operates to audit NZRMCA member’s ready-mixed concrete plants as defined in NZS3104 Concrete Production.  The audit scheme is of great convenience to the specifiers and purchasers of concrete, providing a rigorous audit of the quality systems in place at a ready-mixed concrete plant.

The establishment and monitoring of the production of a ready mixed plant are requirements for the supply of structural concrete for compliance with NZS3109 Concrete Construction and NZS3104, and in turn the New Zealand Building Code.

Plants report quality performance data to the plant audit committee annually and are subject to a detailed annual review of data, together with an onsite audit every second year.  Site audits may also be carried out at any time.

The audit scheme has recently been amended to account for imported cement.  Full details of the scheme can be found on the audit scheme’s website - www.rmcplantaudit.org.nz

REINFORCING STEEL

Reinforcing steel, the other key component in concrete structures, is also subject to quality controls.

For instance, the Pacific Steel Group, New Zealand’s only manufacturer of wire rod, reinforcing bar and coil products, operates ‘traceability’ which assigns a unique identifier to individual castings and bundles that corresponds to the appropriate test certificates.

PRODUCT ASSURANCE FRAMEWORK
The concrete industry based quality schemes fall within the Product Assurance Framework, established by the former Department of Building and Housing – now Building and Housing within the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

The Framework helps manufacturers and suppliers choose the best, most cost-effective ways to show Building Code compliance.  It gives more certainty about how New Zealand’s performance-based legislation applies to building products and systems.

The Framework is arranged in a pyramid structure with MBIE’s Codemark certification scheme at the top, followed by Appraisals (e.g. BRANZ appraisals), then Industry Schemes (NZRMCA Plant Audit and Precast NZ Plant Certification), then Independent Assessment, with Technical Information at the base of the pyramid.

Options further up the Framework’s pyramid structure are generally more costly but give more certainty for those specifying or approving products.  More information about the Framework (and Codemark) is available from MBIE’s website - www.dbh.govt.nz/product-assurance

FUTURE QUALITY

With the Framework established and industry suppliers aware of the importance of demonstrating excellence across all areas of operation and output, assurances around product quality enable confidence.

Key to reaching this stage has been the role played by the ready mixed concrete sector, and now the precast sector, both of which remain firmly committed to safeguarding the performance of their product.

Article appeared in Contractor magazine.