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November/December 2008
PerSpective

Accessing Markets Using Evaluation Measures

A Strategy to Add Value to a Company’s Products

As part of any company’s strategic goal, understanding market conditions and satisfying requirements are essential elements of expanding your market. Whether your vision is a global one or more local, this business principle provides growth potential and more customers. The ability to clearly demonstrate your product’s quality goes hand-in-hand with increased opportunities and profitability. It is therefore essential for a company’s short- and long-term prosperity and economic strength to embrace, with open arms, performance measures.

Being able to measure something is of great value. This is where codes, standards, guidelines and conformity assessment programs serve as underpinnings for customer satisfaction and the achievement of business excellence. These measurement tools and programs provide the framework on which companies can build their research, production and marketing strategies — and demonstrate the performance and safety of products. These tools provide insight for design, manufacturing, performance, operation and maintenance. They add value, safety, health and quality. They also transfer technology to the marketplace by providing intrinsic communications that are essential to satisfy customers from both the private and public sectors. They promote understanding among consumers, building officials, manufacturers, and distributors and help support both exporting and importing dynamics.

Creating Trust

All of these factors help organizations attain competitive advantages by assuring customer acceptance and satisfaction. Putting it another way, they create trust between the customer and supplier. Building product developers are discovering that developing a new product does not mean that consumers will rush to purchase it. A new or innovative product or technology can only achieve market success if it meets the building codes, standards, guidelines and requirements adopted at the various governmental levels both nationally or globally, depending on the business focus. Products that have difficulty securing code approval are less likely to be used, and the result to the supplier is a lack of sales and poor market performance.

Taking a new building product from idea through development and to market acceptance requires the convergence of many factors. The building industry tends to be highly regulated and product acceptance must be considered during technology research and development. If this issue is ignored, costs and resource allocations will escalate, and the producer’s ability to market the product will be hurt significantly. Simply put, one of the worst business positions to be in is to have a great product and no market access or customers.

Regulations affect the acceptability of new building products in both new and existing buildings. These regulations also create opportunities for the development and use of new products that address issues such as accessibility, energy efficiency, sustainability, water conservation, air quality and security. Building codes include enforceable technical and administrative provisions, including numerous references to standards that can serve as a comprehensive set of building regulations. Two key global organizations that provide a comprehensive framework for codes, standards and guidelines for building products and construction are the International Code Council and ASTM International.

The Roofing Market

Let’s look at one building sector — the U.S. roofing market — as an example. The $12.7 billion U.S. roofing market is expected to grow to 16 billion by 20151 in support of an ever-increasing demand for roofing materials that are less expensive to install, last longer and reduce building energy costs. This is good news for roofing manufacturers all over the world. In fact, such a large and growing market provides a solid opportunity for manufacturers to expand their customer base into the growing U.S. market.

Every product, design, material or technology used in construction in the United States must meet code requirements and safety criteria and must be approved prior to use on construction projects. In the U.S., the final approval of building products is the responsibility of the regulatory agency and local building departments. The building official has to ensure that every product suggested for a construction project complies with the requirements in the code that governs a product’s use. Building officials will often look to various technical resources to help in their review of products for code compliance. Sheila Lee, a building official with the city of Santa Clara, Calif., commented, “ICC-ES evaluation reports are very important to our building department. A product that has this report can get an automatic approval in my department because I know the product has already been analyzed by the experts at ICC-ES and that the product meets code requirements.”

The ICC Evaluation Service Inc. develops evaluation reports that are a major source of information for the regulatory agency. ICC-ES is the leading building product evaluation service in the United States and is growing globally every day due to market demand. It performs technical evaluations of products, components, methods and materials intended for use in the construction industry. The evaluation process culminates with the issuance of evaluation reports for products that comply with major building codes and serves as a passport enabling market penetration.

One of the largest categories of product evaluation reports issued by ICC-ES is directly related to roofing. At present, there are about 1,500 active ICC-ES evaluation reports, hundreds of which cover roofing-related products. These evaluation reports for products cover many roofing categories and are listed in ICC Evaluation Reports Covering Roofing Product Categories.

Obtaining an evaluation report begins with submitting an application that includes supporting data such as product information and test reports. The ICC-ES technical staff evaluates the submitted data and works with the applicant to build a comprehensive and objective engineering analysis called the evaluation report. Assistance is offered to manufacturers to establish a set of requirements that ICC-ES considers equivalent to the provisions specified in the code, and then the product is evaluated against those requirements. This result is captured in a published technical report.

These reports describe in detail how a product, material or design can be used in compliance with the accepted codes. Once the evaluation process is complete, the product is issued an evaluation report, which outlines the product’s performance as well as prescriptive provisions as per the code. In addition to building departments, engineers, contractors, specifiers and others in the construction industry have a keen interest in making sure products and systems meet building code requirements.

An ICC-ES acceptance criteria is issued to provide interested parties with guidelines for demonstrating compliance with performance features of the applicable codes. Consideration is given to alternate criteria, provided the report applicant submits valid data showing that the alternate criteria is equivalent. The purpose of the criteria is to provide a procedure for recognition of a specific product line, for instance “special roofing systems.”

This criteria is developed to provide an evaluation process because the code does not provide test methods and performance requirements. The scope of this criteria covers wood roof covering systems, plastic tiles and panels, cement-based panels and non-interlocking composite tiles consisting of an expanded polystyrene backing with a cementitious facing. For each of the product types the criteria calls out specific requirements. Standards are one of the significant sources of data and measurement verification.

Within the criteria, specific standards are called out from various reputable sources. The most commonly referenced standards in this acceptance criteria to accomplish data and measurement testing are those standards developed and published by ASTM International. Some of the ASTM International standards captured in this criteria can be found in ASTM International Standards Utilized in Acceptance Criteria. High technical quality and global relevance make these documents the standards of choice.

Supporting New Technology

Building codes, standards, guidelines, regulations and conformity assessment programs can affect new building technology in several ways. The development and implementation of regulations have established an infrastructure that must be addressed to effectively deploy new building products and technology. Manufacturers are likely to make significant effort to modify the infrastructure if they focus on it after a product or technology is developed and available for the market. Alternatively, they can engage in product planning through the timely consideration of building construction regulations and product development. Those that choose the latter are more likely to see a higher return on their investment in the new product or technology.

It is important to note that flexibility exists within this system for addressing new and innovative products. New acceptance criteria can always be developed through a streamlined process to accommodate the ever-changing innovative product offerings to market. ICC-ES also provides evaluations for products that are already specified in the code when it helps the manufacturer or the industry acquire a third-party review of data. New standards and standards development activities can also evolve as a result of new requirements and product testing needs that may arise. ASTM International is also very well-suited to address these new standards development needs within its existing technical committees or by establishing new standards activities based on stakeholder participation and market demand.

Understanding all of these evaluation measurement tools can provide a clear pathway and build a bridge to business excellence. Understanding market conditions and satisfying those conditions are essential elements of expanding your organization’s market. This is a global market and as ICC technical information and conformity assessment programs continue to expand their global reach, so too will companies, products and technology.

There is a huge global demand for better construction around the world driven by the impact of both natural and man-made hazards. ICC has been given a clear indication by the global building and construction community that it has substantial value to offer to this market. Whether we are working with our closest neighbors, such as Canada and Mexico, or the Middle East and Asia, our expansion into those markets highlights a significant trend to watch. Meeting the requirements of codes, standards, guidelines and conformity assessment programs is indeed a strategy to moving products and increasing the chances of business success. This approach all translates to a broader reach and greater product and service diversification for all involved.

Drew C. Azzara is vice president, International Services, at the International Code Council.

References

1. Research conducted by the Freedonia Group Inc., a Cleveland, Ohio-based industry market research firm.