Building Products Testing: Six Things You Should Know to Ensure Your Product Fits its Purpose

Product testing is all about ensuring buildings are safe places

16 June 2022

In the construction and building products testing industry, customers often come to Intertek for the multitude of testing options we offer. But our world is much bigger than that – simply put, we’re in the business of ensuring that buildings are safe places.

As a third-party quality assurance provider, it is our responsibility to test the products that make up the building envelope and that those products successfully separate the indoor space from the outdoors. Our mission is to help our customers keep out the bad stuff, whether it’s a ballistic attack, a hurricane, a fire, or even the neighbor’s barking dog. As an independent provider of assurance, testing, inspection and certification services, our goal is to help ensure that your product will perform as intended.

The Six Things You Should Know

Here are some tips and insights on how product testing helps companies bring their products to market.

(This topic was recently discussed on Intertek’s podcast, you can listen to it here.)

1. Why Our Questions Will Be Important

As Stephen Covey, the organizational guru, says, we begin with the end in mind. Frequently, customers call us and request a specific test. Someone has told them a particular test is what they need to make their product successful. We often challenge that assumption.

We’ll ask you questions: Where do you want to go with this product? What market do you want to be in and why? How will it perform in the context of the market you’ve chosen? Where do you see your product in five years? Ten? Chances are the critical path to product approval may be far different than what you envisioned.

It's important to remember that architects and general contractors are buying performance, not a product. Our job is to assure them your product will perform as advertised. We take the long view, and we’ll help you do the same. Take advantage of our consulting approach, it will likely save you time and money and allow you to compete effectively.

2. Why You Need Someone to Coordinate Your Product Testing

Most of the products we test are made from many components that must all work together to achieve one performance goal. Let’s use a window as an example. You may buy the glass from Europe, the aluminum from China, and the locking mechanisms from South America. Each of those products must meet its own set of performance requirements.

As the window manufacturer it’s a tall order to coordinate and oversee that all these pieces of the puzzle comply with your objectives. The testing reports must be compiled and reconciled. International regulations may vary. These complicated details are probably not in your job description, but they are in ours.

Intertek is a one-stop shop, and we can coordinate these details into one testing plan that meets your objectives. We can quarterback your product, so you don’t have to. Decide if you want to “trace and chase” paperwork – or sell windows.

3. The Design May Be Great, But…

We see innovation and big ideas every day. Our customers are truly inspiring. Your design may be pure genius. But you need to share it with your component team. They are the experts in their own products, and they may head off problems you didn’t foresee. Ask them – will A work with B?

There can be multiple points of failure, and it’s better to work as a team before you get into the lab. Many customers don’t realize it’s important to oversee components even if their “part” works. But your component manufacturers will likely be happy to provide their advice free of charge, and it could save you time and money. Invite them to the testing lab, they are invaluable resources, not just vendors.

4. What to Expect in The Lab

Once you’ve got your game plan and understand all the boxes you must check, how do you maximize your time in the lab? The main problem we see is incompatibility when it comes to actual testing. Even if you’ve done your homework in advance and partnered with your component team, no one really knows how the product will perform until it’s tested.

We like to say a single test is worth a thousand opinions. Testing exposes the weaknesses in the system, and we can generally quickly pinpoint those weak spots and provide ideas on a remedy.

Product testing in the lab is a great barometer of how your product will perform, but field testing is always the final frontier. We’ve discovered some surprising things in the field and we’re always glad to take this last step when the situation calls for it.

We always encourage customers to test “beyond the code.” Instead of going for the minimum standard required, we’ve seen customers explore the outer limits of their products, and often with great success. Some have been able to elevate their products into new markets or meet previously unforeseen performance requirements. Surprise yourself.

Our goal in the lab is quality assurance, so we have a vested interest too. We want your product to pass and here’s where our engineering team can really help deliver some creativity.

5. Lessons from the Pandemic That May Change Your Approach

We must now consider indoor air quality in a way we never did before. Buildings are more than just the envelope – indoor air quality must be validated now. Occupant health and controlling transmission of aerosolized particles are just a few of the new challenges building owners and occupants now face.

Intertek is monitoring new developments as the lessons of the pandemic unfold. There is no going back – buildings must now be healthier spaces and we will be prepared for this new world.

6. Sustainability is Not Optional

The next generation prioritizes sustainability. They want to know how we are going to clean up the planet. As a product manufacturer, we know you are already considering how you can make your product as eco-friendly as you can. Architects are also demanding solutions, and we look at sustainability in our total equation too.

That’s why with our sustainability testing, we’ll help you answer questions, including what is the life cycle of your product? How can it be recycled? Can it be more energy efficient? How can you get it to market quickly with fewer shipping costs? Successful products will be carefully measured by their contributions to a more sustainable built environment.

Conclusion: Why Intertek is “GLOCAL”

Some years back, we had a decision to make. Would Intertek be local or consolidate in a few world areas? We chose both, and we call it “glocal,” which stands for both local and global.

With more than 1000 offices and labs in over 100 countries, Intertek utilizes approved testing methods, standards, and state-of-the-art equipment to assist clients in not only achieving regulatory compliance but also precisely identifying where hazards are likely to occur, where critical points for corrective action are necessary, and where continued monitoring in the supply chain is required. In today’s disruptive business environment, Intertek is ready to partner, no matter where your business is.

 

Vinu Abraham Intertek headshot

Vinu Abraham,
VP of Products, Building & Construction

 

Vinu J Abraham, P.E., is a licensed professional engineer highly sought after by clients globally to address stringent windborne debris requirements and aid in the development of protective glazing products that serve to safeguard homes, businesses, and communities from the effects of severe windstorms. He currently serves as Vice President, Products at Intertek and is responsible for the growth and management of Building & Construction operations located throughout the United States and Canada.