products/building structures in Sweden
6.3.1 General information about construction regulations
The basic requirements for construction works are specified under Swedish law in Chapter 8 of the Planning and Building Act (2010:900), PBL. These requirements are further developed in Chapter 3 of the Swedish Planning and Building Ordinance (2011:338), PBF. Based on the authority granted in Chapter 10 PBF, the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning announces regulations to help develop further the requirements with regard to building structures stipulated in the law and ordinance. These feature in the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning’s building regulations (2011:6) - regulations and general advice, BBR.
In addition to the authority granted in PBF, which forms the basis for the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning’s regulations regarding requirements for buildings, there is also authorisation granted in PBF for the National Board to announce regulations about the requirements regarded as making a construction product suitable to be incorporated in a building. However, the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning has not yet exercised this authorisation.
The requirements in the BBR are set out as requirements applying to the actual building and its installations. Such items which are permanently attached, e.g. doors, handrails and water valves are considered to be part of the building, but no loose objects, such as furniture and domestic appliances which are not permanently attached.
The BBR contains both regulations and general advice. The regulations, which are binding, are generally set out as technically neutral functional requirements. This means that they specify a particular function which needs to be achieved. On the other hand, they do not indicate which technical solution should be used to achieve the function. It is at the client’s
123 http://m1.rts.fi/en/emission-classification-of-building-materials-836edfcc-8e39-4ec5-abe1-ca2d52f78998 124 http://m1.rts.fi/en/m1-criteria-and-the-use-of-classified-products-2d03887d-aa6a-4a66-ad3c-ce25a512cf38
discretion to choose which method and which construction products are to be used, provided that the prescribed function is achieved. The general advice, which is not binding on
individuals, may, for instance, include examples of what steps should or can be taken to achieve the regulations’ requirements.
The BBR provisions are worded so that they set out requirements for the building’s
characteristics and not for individual construction products. However, it is indirectly inferred from the requirements for the buildings as to which construction products can be used. It is up to the client, i.e. to whoever on his own account carrying out or having the building work carried out, based on the characteristics stated in the construction products’ declarations of performance, to choose those construction products which will help fulfil the building structure’s functional requirements.
The requirements stipulated for buildings in PBL, PBF and the BBR apply above all when new buildings are being constructed. New provisions which are introduced does not have to be applied retrospectively to buildings already completed. However, if modifications are made to existing buildings, new regulations may be applicable. But, this is generally only the case with regard to the sections being modified, Chapter 8, Sections 2 and 5 PBL.
The builder is responsible for ensuring that the building which is constructed or modified fulfils the applicable requirements. It is mainly the actual clients who will ensure compliance with the regulations by performing their own inspections. In the case of measures which requires a building permit according to PBL or are subject to notification under PBF, the local buildings committee will monitor, to a certain degree, compliance with the regulations. When a building is completed, the owner is responsible for ensuring the building’s upkeep in order to mainly maintain its layout and technical characteristics, as specified in Chapter 8, Section 14 PBL. Normally, there is no kind of public monitoring to verify that the maintenance obligation is met. However, there are individual exceptions to this principle, such as a regular mandatory functional check on the ventilation system (known as OVK).
6.3.2 Building regulations regarding chemicals in buildings
It is stated by law that building structures must have the technical characteristics which are essential for providing protection with regard to hygiene, health and the environment – Chapter 8, Section 4, first paragraph, point 3 of PBL. The requirement is further developed in Chapter 3, Section 9 of PBF, which states that building structures must be designed and constructed in such a way as not to entail an unacceptable risk to the health and safety of the users or neighbours, especially not as a consequence of a number of specifically mentioned pollution sources, such as the presence of hazardous particles or gases in the air, hazardous radiation etc.
In a general provision in Section 6:11 of BBR, it stipulates that materials and construction products used in a building should not in themselves, or through their treatment, have a negative impact on the indoor environment or on the building’s local environment when the functional requirements in the buildings regulations are met. The regulations are
supplemented by general advice, along with information that rules for chemical substances and mixtures, as well as for chemicals in articles primarily feature in the EU’s chemicals regulation REACH, and that information about legislation regarding chemicals in articles and products is available from the Swedish Chemicals Agency.
A particular provision in Section 6:911, which applies when buildings are modified, states, among its stipulations, that materials present in the building must not cause pollution in a concentration resulting in a detrimental effect to human health. In a general piece of advice
supplementing the provision, it is also specified that, when a building is modified, an inventory should be drawn up of the materials present which might result in a detrimental effect to human health or the environment. It is also specified that materials which can have a negative impact on the indoor environment or the building’s local environment should be removed if there are no particular reasons for keeping them, that they can be enclosed or have their impact reduced through the use of appropriate ventilation, and that any remaining hazardous substances should be documented.
The building regulations on air and ventilation are also relevant to pollution in indoor air. Section 6:2 and its subsections contain provisions stating that buildings and their installations should be arranged so that they can create conditions conducive to good air quality in rooms where people are present more than on a temporary basis. The air must not contain pollutants in a concentration causing an adverse impact on health or unpleasant odour. Section 6:25 mentions that the ventilation system should be designed so that, for instance, substances harmful to health and decomposition products can be removed if there is no other way to avoid these inconveniences.
6.3.3 Swedish Environmental Code
The Swedish Environmental Code (1998:808) contains basic environmental legislation which is aimed at promoting sustainable development. A number of EU directives and decisions have been implemented into the Swedish Environmental Code, along with Swedish regulations. EU regulations relating to the environment are also supplemented with the Code’s provisions, including those on supervision and sanctions.
In Chapter 2 of the Environmental Code there are general rules of consideration, including requirements to be met by persons who pursue activities regarding to knowledge, precautions and choice of less hazardous chemical products and articles. Section 2 requires everyone to acquire the knowledge needed to protect human health and the environment against harm and inconvenience. The precautionary principle appears in Section 3, requiring all persons who pursue activities to take precautions that are necessary in order to prevent, hinder or
counteract harm to human health or the environment. Section 4 stipulates a requirement that chemical products and articles which may be at risk of causing harm to human health or the environment must be avoided if less hazardous products can be used instead.
As mentioned earlier, the Swedish Environmental Code implements harmonised product regulations, but also contains national regulations.
Chapter 14 of the Environmental Code contains provisions on chemical products and articles. The chapter contains provisions concerning chemical products, biotechnical organisms and articles which, because of their contents or treatment, have such characteristics that they need to be regulated as chemical products or biotechnical organisms. This chapter also contains provisions about equipment used for handling chemical products and biotechnical organisms. In Section 8 the Government is granted the authorisation to issue regulations. In this regard, the regulations are relevant concerning special conditions required, with a view to protecting health and the environment, for handling, importing and exporting a chemical product, biotechnical organism or article (point 3), as are the prohibition regulations, which are particularly relevant, with a view to protecting health and the environment, for handling, importing and exporting a chemical product, biotechnical organism or article (point 4). The term “handling” has a broad definition and covers an activity or action which involves a chemical product or biotechnical organism being manufactured, processed, treated, packaged,
transported, used, disposed of, destroyed, converted, sold, transferred or is subject to any other comparable procedure.
Provisions on the protection of health in dwellings and public premises
Chapter 9 of the Swedish Environmental Code contains particular provisions concerning health protection. It stipulates, for instance, that dwellings and premises used for public purposes, for instance schools and pre-school facilities, must be designed to prevent any harm to human health. According to the legislative history for the Code, particular consideration must be given to persons who are slightly more sensitive than normal, such as people with allergies, children and the elderly. The Ordinance concerning environmentally hazardous activities and the protection of public health specifies in greater detail the requirements as to how a dwelling should be designed: “In order to prevent the development of risks to human health, all dwellings shall provide adequate protection against excessive heat, cold, draughts, damp, noise, radon, air pollution and other disturbances of a similar nature”.
Therefore, the provisions on the protection of health in dwellings and public premises are targeted at the level of exposure users are subject to when present on the premises. As, according to the Swedish Environmental Code, whoever provides the dwelling or premises bears the main responsibility for ensuring that the conditions are not harmful to health, the regulations are aimed at exposures related to the building itself or its maintenance. This includes every type of exposure, including emissions from construction products.
Supervision of compliance with the provisions is carried out by the local authority which is meant to focus particular attention on buildings, including dwellings and educational premises.
The Public Health Agency of Sweden provides guidance on supervising compliance with these regulations. The guidance is provided in various forms, including general
recommendations, some of which also relates to the presence of chemicals in the indoor environment. For instance, the recommendation given on ventilation (FOHMFS 2014:18) stipulates that the ventilation should be examined in the case of increased concentrations of formaldehyde or other chemicals which are harmful to health. There is also general
recommendation given about cleaning in schools, pre-school facilities, and leisure-time centres (FOHMFS 201:19). One of the reasons behind offering this advice is that dust can contain chemicals which can affect the pupils’ health.
In addition to Chapter 14, the Government has issued various ordinances, including the Chemical Products (Handling, Import and Export Prohibitions) Ordinance (1998:944) and Chemical Products and Biotechnical Organisms Ordinance (2008:245).
Ordinance 1998:944 (known as the “Prohibition Ordinance”) contains various bans and restrictions on substances, as well as national regulations and EU provisions which have been implemented. This ordinance does not grant any authorisation for any authority to issue regulations imposing further restrictions.
Ordinance 2008:245 includes provisions concerning the Swedish Chemicals Agency’s Product Register and about transfer authorisations for particularly hazardous chemical products. The ordinance also grants a number of authorisations to the Swedish Chemicals Agency and other authorities to issue regulations. Some of the Swedish Chemicals Agency’s
authorisations may also be used by the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning to issue regulations required to protect the indoor environment.
General provisions regarding chemicals (i.e. provisions not dealing with pesticides) feature in the Swedish Chemicals Agency’s Chemical Products and Biotechnical Organisms
Regulations (KIFS 2008:2). These regulations primarily supplement the ordinances mentioned earlier and include provisions concerning the Product Register, transfer
authorisations for particularly hazardous chemicals, exemptions from Sweden’s mercury ban, as well as others.
Sections 19-26 in Chapter 5 contain provisions on formaldehyde emissions from wood-based panels, which is the only Swedish chemicals regulation for construction products. Those manufacturing wood-based panels or importing them into Sweden must ensure that the raw panels do not emit a higher level of formaldehyde than
1. 0.124 mg/m³ in air during testing according to standard SS-EN 717-1:2004, or
2. the value which definitely does not exceed this emissions limit value in a similar standard for carrying out emissions testing on wood-based panels.
Panels which fail to meet the requirements must not be sold commercially, transferred or used. Anyone selling wood-based panels commercially must ensure that the panels meet the requirements and be able to provide evidence of this on request. Anyone manufacturing commercially, importing into Sweden or selling joinery fittings or similar articles, assembled using wood-based panels, must ensure that the panels meet the requirements and be able to provide evidence of this on request.
6.3.4 Supervision/market surveillance
Construction products are included as one of several priority areas in both Action plans for a
non-toxic everyday environment125 which the Swedish Chemicals Agency was commissioned to produce by the Government. As part of the priorities in the action plans, various
supervision projects are being run for different sectors and product groups.
The Swedish Chemicals Agency carried out a supervision project in 2014 with regard to formaldehyde emissions from wooden panels (see the description of the regulation in the previous section).
The Swedish Chemicals Agency has previously carried out supervision (2012) on certain PVC flooring products126. The restriction regulations in Annex XVII to the REACH Regulation restrict the use of cadmium in general in PVC.
Construction products which are chemical products, such as sealants, cement and (certain) adhesives and which are imported into or manufactured in Sweden are registered in the Swedish Chemicals Agency’s Product Register and are included in the Swedish Chemicals Agency’s ongoing supervision of chemical products.
The National Board of Housing, Building and Planning is the supervisory authority for products covered by Construction Products Regulation (8:3 PBF). The National Board of Housing, Building and Planning is also the supervisory authority for non-harmonised
125 Swedish Chemicals Agency 2015, Rapport 1/15, “Handlingsplan för en giftfri vardag 2011-2014 slutredovisning” (Action plan for a toxic-free everyday environment 2011–2014 final report). 126 PVC flooring stuck to a base with adhesive is considered to be a construction product.
construction products (8:5a PBF). In the case of harmonised construction products, the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning verifies that there is a declaration of performance and that the reported values correspond to reality. The supporting technical documentation is also checked to some extent. In the case of non-harmonised construction products, supervision is carried out on the basis of suitability for use. When it comes to assessing the products’ performance, expertise is called upon, where required, from the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning regarding for example fire or mechanical resistance, and from other expert authorities regarding for example chemical contents.