Evaluation Services are agencies that evaluate (test or inspect in some way) building products or finished construction work. In specifications, we are mostly interested in agencies that evaluate products in advance to determine their compliance with voluntary standards or regulations. In the U.S., there are only a few agencies that do product evaluation on a large scale. In contrast, there are a large number of "testing laboratories" that evaluate products and finished work for compliance with the project requirements. A key difference between these two situations is that building product manufacturers pay evaluation services to test their products in advance to prove that they will meet building codes or commonly specified levels of quality, in order to get their products specified. Some of these tests can be very expensive. On the other hand, field testing to demonstrate compliance with the specifications is done at the owner's request (via the design professional) and is ultimately paid for by the owner, either as part of the construction price or directly.
Even though building product evaluation services are sometimes referred to as "testing agencies," that term is too limiting, since some do not actually do testing. Most test (or require tests performed) according to accepted industry standards, such as those published by ASTM or NFPA. Some organizations promulgate their own standards. When considering whether products certified by one of these agencies may be acceptable, consider which standards are the basis for the testing.
Even in this age of the Internet, certain construction information is still valuable in print. Some evaluation services publish "listing books" that show all the products that have been tested to conform to particular standards. Since the listings are for long terms (minimum of one year) and most manufacturers maintain their listings for much longer, the books include all the tested products -- only those that have been tested after the annual publication of the books are missing. In addition, the books are typically easier to use than the web-based databases provided on-line.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL)
UL Directories contain listings of the products that have been currently tested by UL for conformance with industry standards and UL standards. When U.S. building codes call for independent testing or approval, most code authorities accept UL-listed products. There are 10 directories of interest, each published once a year.
Of the U.S. independent testing agencies for construction products, UL has the widest coverage of product types. UL tests products to UL standards in most cases. Many UL standards have equivalents published by other organizations, including ASTM and NFPA, but others are exclusive to UL. UL standards are not included in the directories and must be purchased separately; ask for the Catalog of Standards.
- Building Materials Directory; fire doors, construction materials; not roofing or operable equipment
- Electrical Appliance and Utilization Equipment Directory; air conditioners, electrical heating devices, etc.
- Electrical Construction Equipment Directory; circuit breakers, switched, light fixtures, fuses, transformers, etc.
- Fire Protection Equipment Directory; fire extinguishers, fire pumps, sprinkler system components, etc.
- Fire Resistance Directory; 2 volumes; hourly fire ratings for walls, floors, roofs; firestopping assemblies.
- Flammable and Combustible Liquids and Gases Equipment Directory; storage tanks, vaults, and containers; dispensing devices and vapor recovery systems; piping and hose assemblies, valves, connectors, fittings, gauges and flame arresters and related equipment used for storing, dispensing, containing, conveying or regulating gases, liquids, or waste materials.
- General Information for Electrical Equipment; current, voltage and horsepower limits, etc., on all product categories in the Electrical Construction Equipment and Hazardous Locations Equipment Directories and the electrical heating and air conditioning equipment categories. Also includes selected building materials, fire protection equipment and fire resistance categories.
- Hazardous Locations Equipment Directory; rated equipment for NEC hazardous locations.
- Heating, Cooling, Ventilating and Cooking Equipment Directory; heating equipment and appliances; air conditioning equipment and systems; refrigeration equipment, ventilation equipment; cooking equipment and sanitation food service equipment; fireplaces and chimneys; equipment using electricity, gas, petroleum based liquid, solid-fuels or solar energy.
- Mechanical Equipment and Associated Products Directory; automotive fuel tanks, industrial trucks, ladders, gauges and assorted mechanical equipment.
- Roofing Materials and Systems Directory; roof coverings and roofing assemblies.
- Security Equipment Directory; burglar alarm system units, safes and vaults, and surveillance cameras.
SpecLink does not reference the UL Directories themselves, but instead offers the option of requiring products to be UL Listed or Labelled, as appropriate.
ITS (including Warnock-Hersey)
- Intertek ETLSemko, www.intertek-etlsemko.com
- On-line directory
- Hard copy published annually may be complimentary; ask by Fax (800) 813-9442).
Like UL, ITS' divisions Warnock Hersey and ETL test products for compliance with recognized standards, mostly ASTM and NFPA. Their single directory contains all types of construction products. Although ITS is less well known than UL, their testing laboratories are widely accredited and sometimes their listings suit specific applications better than UL listings. The Warnock Hersey and ETL certification marks are by ITS. Has better coverage of West Coast and Canadian manufacturers than UL.
SpecLink does not reference the ITS Directory itself, but instead offers the option of requiring products to be ITS or Warnock-Hersey Listed or Labelled, as appropriate.
FM, FACTORY MUTUAL
- Factory Mutual Research Corporation, www.fmglobal.com
- Factory Mutual (FM) Approval Guide.
- Paperbound, published annually, any 1 volume $110; all volumes on CD-ROM $165; tel: (617) 255-4682.
- On-line ordering.
Factory Mutual certifies products and assemblies for the purpose of approval for Factory Mutual insured properties. Their 3-volume approval guide contains listings of 1) building materials, 2) fire protection equipment and products, and 3) electrical equipment. Although Factory Mutual conducts its approval process for its own purposes only (loss prevention for its insured properties), FM listings are commonly cited as evidence of performance for other types of projects.
SpecLink does not reference the FM Approval Guide itself, but instead offers the option of requiring products to be FM approved, if appropriate.
CSA, CSA INTERNATIONAL
CSA International is accredited in the U.S. by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL), and in Canada by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC). CSA marks are accepted by Regulatory Authorities in the occupational health and safety, electrical, gas, building, plumbing and many other fields in the U.S. and Canada.
CSA was formerly the Canadian Standards Association. For certain product categories CSA certification is the primary certification -- for instance, the former AGA certifications of the American Gas Association. Don't assume because it's in Canada that it won't be acceptable in the U.S.
SpecLink does not reference the CSA Certified Product Listing itself, but instead offers the option of requiring products to be CSA Certified or Labelled, as appropriate.
ICC EVALUATION SERVICES
- ICC Evaluation Services, Inc., (ICC-ES), www.icc-es.org
- ICC-ES Evaluation Reports, www.icc-es.org/Evaluation_Reports
- Print copies of reports should be available from a manufacturer whose products have been evaluated.
ICC Evaluation Service, Inc. (ICC-ES) combines the evaluation services operated by the three former code organizations (ICBO, BOCA, and SBCCI), which formally merged into the International Code Council in February 2003. Under ICC-ES rules, existing evaluation reports have the status of “Legacy Reports” and will remain valid until changed. Reports originally issued by one of the individual services (e.g. ICBO-ES) that are re-examined with no changes, or with editorial changes only, will be processed as ICC-ES legacy reports. Re-examinations that involve technical changes, on the other hand, will be processed as new ICC-ES reports. ICC-ES evaluation reports sometimes reference standards developed by ICC (or its predecessor organizations), rather than standards adopted by building codes.
SpecLink does not usually reference ICC-ES Reports, but instead offers the option of requiring products to be ICC-ES evaluated as appropriate for the purpose intended, as appropriate. ICC-ES does not label or certify products.
The SpecLink Specifiers' Library is provided as a service to our customers by Building Systems Design, Inc. Sources of information and costs are subject to change.