Construction Products Regulation – Cables

Tower Fire at Telstar House, Central London.

Comms Business Magazine talks to Andrew Percival, Managing Director of infrastructure solutions company Mayflex, about CPR, the recent update to the BS6701 Standard and the challenges they pose for the whole cabling industry, from manufacturer to installer.


The Grenfell Tower fire in London which tragically killed 71 residents last June will spawn many inquiries, reports and recommendations for the improvements in processes that should lead to improved safety in high rise buildings.

Just 16 days after that fire on 1 July, and by co-incidence, a new set of EU regulations called the Construction Products Regulation came in to force relating to the capability of cables used in buildings to resist fire. On 30th November 2017, British Standards issued BS6701:2016+ A1: 2017; an amendment to the frequently used standard entitled ‘Telecommunications Equipment and Telecommunications Cabling – Specification for installation, operation and maintenance.’

There are complex issues here for cable manufacturers to address and for resellers and specifiers to understand but, as Andrew Percival, Managing Director of infrastructure solutions company Mayflex, whose own exclusive brand of cable, the Exel range, is affected by the new rules, acknowledges, “Yes, at certain levels it is complex but you need to peel away these layers to understand what the options and solutions are.”

“Before 1 July the choice of cable used in buildings was down to installer best practice and customer choice but now there is a legal requirement.

Any cable in a building, power, data, copper fibre, alarm cables etc. (Patch cables are not included) has to comply with one of the new EU classes for cable safety. This is a challenge for the UK as the market and building standards for materials are not regulated there is no government regulation or law saying materials must comply with the CPR.”

The CPR adds a component relating to the heat a cable emits and includes aspects such as melting droplets – a higher level of performance that we had before.

Percival says the Consequences are broad.

“The cost of compliant cables is significantly higher – in the region of multiple double digit percentages higher than previously due to meeting the flaming droplet and heat compliance standards. There is also a knock-on effect in that the physical size of equivalent cables is getting bigger and posing real challenges for manufacturers in re-designing well known cables to meet the specification and then still remain usable. A good example here would be a fibre cable for both indoor and outdoor use.

From purely a practical perspective other challenges arise such what happens to building works in progress? That’s a difficult issue as cables may have been specified say a couple of years ahead of work starting. Another practical problem is the amount of pre-existing stock held around the UK and both these issues make it very hard for existing projects to come in on budget.

Percival says there is a huge education task at every level in the industry from IT manager, consultant, data installer through to distributor channels.

“Some manufacturers are finding it difficult to meet the standards for common, say Cat6 cables. Additionally, there is another challenge as we can’t just say we comply with the new rules but instead must use a third-party test house to get certification for products and the factory. Despite the advance notice of the new regulations being introduced the test houses just don’t have the capacity to carry out all this testing.”

NEW RULES

The aim of the new rules was to harmonise these specifications across all EU member states through a pre-defined classification structure; ‘Euroclasses’. This classification structure covers seven Euroclasses from A to F, where A-class cables have the highest retardance to fire, and F- the lowest.

Within the various updates contained in this amendment, is the requirement for installations aiming to comply with this standard to use a minimum specific Euroclass from the series of classes defined in the Construction Products Directive, which came into law across EU member states on 1 July 2017. To comply, the amended BS6701 end users, specifiers and installers must use a minimum of Cca S1b d2 a2.

Further details are available at www.excel-networking.com and in the Excel Understanding CPR Pocket Guide.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine