Fire safety and indoor emissions of wallcoverings. EU requirements and national solo-attempts

Wallcoverings are construction products, which have been harmonized in the European Union in the product standard EN 15102 "Decorative wall coverings - Roll and panel form products". Like all European product standards, this standard contains provisions to satisfy the Essential Requirements of the Construction Products Directive, which are the prerequisites for obtaining the CE-Mark. The CE-Mark then allows the wallcovering to be placed on the market in all EU member states.

EN 15102 contains requirements for fire performance and for the release of formaldehyde, dangerous substances (heavy metals, VC-monomer), sound absorption and thermal resistance. 

 Fire performance requirements are usually met by wallcoverings without further addition of flame retardants. If the product complies with the criteria of the CWFT (Classification Without Further Testing), no fire test has to be performed. The CWFT Table in the standard Annex shows criteria for seven families of different wall coverings with designated maximum surface area weights and thicknesses (they represent over 90% of the market). All seven families comply with the reaction to fire requirements of Euroclass D-s3,d2. This means that a reaction to fire Euroclass D must be met, while there are no requirements for smoke development (s3) and dripping (d2). 

As already said, besides fire performance, EN 15102 also contains further requirements concerning the Essential Requirement (ER3) "Hygiene, Health and the Environment". However, the requirements have not yet been harmonized by the Commission, so that national solo-attempts are made by various countries.  

In Germany, a general building inspection approval for health protection will require to affix a surveillance mark (Ü-Zeichen) on wall coverings in addition to the CE-marking of wall coverings to DIN EN 15102. This applies to the future use of wall coverings in places of assembly. The requirements are based on the „basic principles for the health evaluation of indoor emissions of construction products" of the German committee for health evaluation of construction products AgBB of the German Institute of Building technology (DIBt). The regulation is to be introduced in 2014.

In France, a decree of 19 April 2011 requires construction products, wall coverings or floor coverings, as well as paints and varnishes to affix a Mark for indoor emissions. The decree has become compulsory as of 1 January 2012. For products already on the market before, the date is extended until 1 September 2013

In practice, this means that the wallcovering industries have to affix the CE-Mark, the German Ü-Mark and the French Emission-Mark if they want to be present on these markets.

The Commission is not amused by these national solo attempts, as more and more countries (Belgium probably is the next candidate) may introduce their own compulsory national marks.

The Commission considers these activities as barriers to trade and has voiced the intention to bring charges against Germany and possibly other Member States. However, as ER3 has not been harmonized so far, there are only small chances for the Commission to win the case.