Stepping up standardised and globally interoperable product data in the building sector

Product library and ‘passports’ for building products

GS1 New Zealand continues to publish leading-edge research for the New Zealand building and construction sector, through our close relationship with the Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ).

Our research report, published in 2020, outlined the sector’s low productivity and recommended New Zealand take the lead from its European counterparts and implement a ‘product library’. Based on global standards, including GS1 standards, a product library was seen as a useful tool in providing a sector-wide, ‘common language’ of core product data, that could be shared broadly to improve productivity, efficiency and sustainability goals. This has generated significant interest from Government and other agencies, and calls are now being made for implementation.

Research published this year, expanded the product library concept by introducing the idea of a ‘Digital Product Passport’ for building products. Similar to an international travel passport, the ‘Digital Product Passport’ contains a core set of globally standardised and agreed information about a product, that can be shared for such things as regularity compliance and product authentication. (A conceptually similar ‘Digital Product Passport’ will become a requirement in the building and construction sector under new European draft regulations).

GS1 NZ’s research concludes that the New Zealand building and construction sector would benefit significantly by starting its journey towards a product library and a ‘Digital Product Passport’ development; a message that not only has strong sector support, but heightened interest from Government agencies.

Building product information requirements

In June, the Government introduced new regulations on building product information requirements - The Building Product Information Requirements Regulations 2022. The regulations place obligations on New Zealand based importers, retailers, manufacturers, and distributers to provide building product users with information about how building products comply with the NZ Building Code. The regulations come into effect in December 2023.

Depending on the class of product, information must include a product description and unique identifier, building and regulatory compliance information, as well as product specification details and information about the supplier, importer and distributor.

Commerce Commission market study

In August, the Commerce Commission delivered its findings of the Building Materials Market Study. The study included a strong recommendation to establish a centralised, digital national key products' registry to increase trust in building supplies and encourage market participants to specify and utilise new products with confidence.

A product registry is commonplace in other industry sectors, including food and grocery and healthcare, where products are uniquely identified using GS1’s Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), and data is shared between suppliers and their trading partners and regulators via GS1’s platforms. The Commission’s report identified benefits in introducing a national products’ register including enhanced, sectorwide sharing of information about new or innovative building products and methods. A register could also make it easier for designers, builders and building consenting authorities to find information about available building products quickly and easily, potentially reducing the barriers for the use of different building products.

A fertile environment

The New Zealand building and construction sector has an ideal opportunity to embrace the technologies and innovations highlighted in GS1’s research. Our research called on Government to provide a fertile, transformative environment to lift productivity and sustainability goals in the sector through the adoption of standards and infostructure. We are very pleased to see the Government and others have listened and have taken the first steps to achieve this for the many benefits on offer.