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Harmonization of building regulations in the Nordic countries for wooden houses

This report is a descriptive compilation of regulations of the Nordic countries for wooden houses. The project went on during 2007 and was finished during 2008. The work is based on a questionnaire survey and on the comparison of standards and regulations.
  • Published 11/04/2012

The purpose of the project:

The purpose of the project is to strengthen the Nordic industry through the establishment similar and transparent regulations, so that with a minimum of technical ”trade obstacles”, the market can increase with the intention to further develop the construction of wooden houses. The aim is to compile a package of measures to accomplish a reduction of the differences in the current Nordic regulations that the industries experience as obstacles. The most important objective in this project has been:

  • to list the most common obstacles based on experience from the industries
  • to prioritize the obstacles
  • to compare and analyse the background of the obstacles
  • to recommend measurers to avoid or remove the obstacles
  • to compare Nordic standards and Nordic regulations
  • to recommend new standards based on function

 

Included are regulations and requirements that create problems and extra work or costs in getting houses accepted by an authority or future proprietor in any participating country. Difficulties can occur, for example, with regard to sizes and dimensions, design of rooms and houses, building products or design rules.

 

The study has achieved this aim by:

  • clarifying some of the differences between the countries based of information from the industry
  • clarifying and comparing the differences in the building codes
  • showing how important good communication is for harmonization of building regulations

 

Method:

The project was divided into three parts—Analysis of obstacles, Communication and Innovative Standardization. All three parts are important to attaining good understanding of the differences between the countries and providing good possibilities for future changes of the regulations.

 

Gathering information from the industry is included in the first part. We will find out the most important obstacles and problems experienced by the industries within exporting wooden houses/products in the Nordic countries.

 

Part 2 of the project includes a survey and description of ongoing work with development of digital information and communication systems in Nordic countries. 

 

In Part 3, the different standards for wooden products and performance that are relevant for building permits and products have been studied and compared with the requirements in the Nordic building regulations. 

 

Main results

 

Analysis of obstacles

About 60 questionnaires have been sent to the wood housing industries and construction companies in order to get information about their problems. Different areas have been pointed out as most interesting to analyse: stairs, size and dimensions of specific rooms, energy, structural design and moisture protection in bathrooms. There are different types of requirements, formal and informal, that a manufacturer of wooden houses has to have knowledge about with regard, for example, to cultural differences, building regulations, and building regulations.

 

Just to compare and find adequate information can therefore be very time-consuming for the companies involved.

The obstacles are mostly caused by:

  • small differences in the building codes
  • small differences in building standards
  • culture
  • tradition
  • lack of good information   

 

Communication

Storing and communicating all common information about a building and its parts in a standardized format, accessible to all stakeholders and at all stages, can improve the building process. It requires competition between companies on equal terms, and in the long term, the entire industry in the Nordic countries will be a winner on the commitment to open collaboration and communication. Environmentally sound buildings are increasingly considered a necessity. In order to know the total environmental impact, there must be declarations and use of open standards, and IFD could use the same standard in the Nordic countries.

 

Innovative standardization

Standards for wooden products and performance are relevant for building permits. Product requirements have been analysed and compared with the Nordic building regulations. The basis for the contents of performance standards has been analysed.

 

Conclusions

The following conclusions can be drawn from the results of the study:

  • The interviews and questionnaires show there is a need for more cooperation between the countries to avoid and eliminate obstacles. Small differences can have great importance for manufactures.
  • Most of the differences have no bearing on the quality of the house, and most likely, the end user have to pay more for the product.
  • When it comes to information, most of the companies seem to have difficulties finding relevant information in an easy way.

 

Recommendation for continued work:

  • Establish a “Nordic Building Harmonization Task Group” whose purpose will be to investigate and make recommendations as follows:
    -   Compare and make recommendations regarding new regulations and standards.
    -   Coordinate and collate a common “lowest” standard for different sizes, values and other requirements that are presented from the Nordic countries.
    -   Give third-party recommendations where opinions differ.  
  • Establish a common database for the building regulations in the Nordic countries. One of the biggest problems for industries that are interested for exporting is the lack of relevant information. Building regulations in all countries are complex, and at present, there is no efficient way to obtain good information. Sharing information is critical to gaining knowledge about other countries’ regulations.    

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