Engineers Discover Pyritic Block Work

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Dáil Issues, Environment, Oral Questions

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on the recent advice note from the Association of Consulting Engineers in Ireland regarding the discovery that concrete blockwork from at least one manufacturer of concrete blocks has been found to contain pyrite type materials, elevated levels of sulphur, which in the presence of water will lead to weakening of the load bearing capacity of the concrete blockwork and over time to the possible disintegration of the blockwork; the required testing of concrete blockwork for this known threat and the implications for structures built with this blockwork.
– Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 17th June, 2014.

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Mr. P. Hogan)

As I outlined in my reply to Priority Question [25602/14] I welcome the proactive approach of the Association of Chartered Engineers of Ireland (ACEI) and, indeed other professional representative bodies, in highlighting this very serious matter.

Under the Construction Products Regulation , manufacturers are required to provide robust and reliable information in a consistent way for construction products which are covered by harmonised European standards or European Technical Assessments. S ince 1 July 2013, manufacturers are required, when placing a construction product on the market, to make a Declaration of Performance and affix the CE mark to each product. The relevant harmonised European standard for concrete blocks is I.S. EN 771-3:2011 Specification for masonry units – Part 3: Aggregate concrete masonry units (Dense and lightweight aggregates ) .

Harmonised European product standards provide the methods and the criteria for assessing the performance of construction products in relation to their essential characteristics. T he harmonised standard includes the technical data necessary for the implementation of a system of assessment and verification of constancy of performance including third party oversight (determined as proportionate to the level of risk involved) which the manufacturer is required to comply with. The National Standards Authority of Ireland has also produced additional guidance to some harmonised European product standards in the form of National Annexes or Standard Recommendations which set out appropriate minimum performance levels for specific intended uses of certain products in Ireland.

The relevant Building Control Authorities are taking appropriate actions under applicable legislation to deal with this issue and my Department, in conjunction with the Building Control Authorities, will continue to monitor the situation. T esting has been carried out in a number of affected developments which has confirmed the presence of deleterious material in the concrete blocks , including pyrite and sulphate. My Department understands that in each case the costs of the resolution are being pursued, in the first instance, with the contractors and suppliers. The actions taken thus far by the relevant parties involved would suggest that the regulatory system is functioning effectively and that an appropriate means of redress is being pursued through those responsible for the building failure.