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Kingspans Plan for Positive Change

Kingspan’s Plan for Positive Change

Kingspan’s Plan for
Positive Change

For quite some time industry professionals have been calling for a Building Regulations review, believing that the current regulations are inadequate and confusing. Unfortunately, it took the Grenfell tragedy to drive home their shortcomings to the government, and they have now commissioned an urgent assessment. Dame Judith Hackitt is heading this ‘Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety’ to look at the issues around efficacy, compliance, and enforcement and the initial findings of this are expected to be provided mid-December 2017 with a complete report by spring 2018.

Immediate Industry Action

The Hackitt Review has included a consultation with various industry bodies, government departments, and the public to look at recommended changes for the future including a more robust regulatory system, not just facades but for all areas of construction. As a result, the construction industry is preparing itself for immediate action following the report being published. It is crucial that we insist on stricter requirements with clearer guidance, to do all we can to protect building occupants in addition to helping to rebuild public confidence on matters of fire safety and building regulation.

With this in mind, and focussing on facades, there are five key changes that will bring better regulation of this crucial aspect of construction:

  • Large-scale system testing of all of cladding systems regardless of insulation material
  • Standardisation and regulation of Desktop Studies
  • Mandatory training for installers
  • Enforcement of fire safety throughout design and construction
  • More research into smoke from buildings and contents

Façade fire safety is a complicated issue, with many different factors coming into play, such as cavity barriers, fixings used and cavity width, which all have an impact on how the building will react in a real-life fire situation.

Full System Testing

A major concern is that, under the current Building Regulations, ‘non-combustible’ façade insulation products are not required to undergo large-scale testing as part of a system for use over 18 m. If there is one thing we should understand by now, it is that full system testing is essential to better understand the building materials we use, how they are affected by products installed alongside them and, as a result, help to improve the data we have on how all these products behave when installed as part of a specified system.

BS 8414 is the large-scale test that is undertaken to see whether a façade system meets the requirements of BR 135 – it is one of the routes to regulatory compliance. BRE Global now has a register of BR 135 classified external systems that have been tested in accordance with BS 8414 part 1 or 2 on its website. Note that more recent tests will not yet appear on this register.

Kingspan Insulations Plan for ChangeThere are compliant solutions available that are not limited to non-combustible insulation materials, and that provide significant benefits in other aspects of the performance that we need from our buildings. A responsible manufacturer will commit to an ongoing programme of severe testing for its products, to innovation, and to the promotion of best practice to ensure that buildings offer fire safety, energy efficiency and longevity in equal measure.

A copy of Kingspan’s plan for positive change is available to download here or visit the official Kingspan website here.

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  1. Things must start with the reactivation of the original functions of organisations such as BRE, Boreham Wood fire testing station etc, so that there is a UK testing base that would be both effective and respected for its impartiality. The revised Building Regulations would then be based on a rational set of tests and experience instead of on a knee jerk politically motivated reaction. The way forward from there must include building designers, manufacturers, and suppliers being willing to submit their designs, schemes and products for independent review and/or testing. Beyond that the various authorities must take back the resonsibility for inspection during construction, with possibly joint penalties with the constructors where a latent defect should never have occurred or not beeen detected.

    We must hope that the Hackitt report does just that and reports on things as they are, limiting the judgment in the Grenfell case to just how much the cladding design and other improvements were influenced by the worthy desire for a sustainable refurbishment. It should also comment usefully on just how a local authority should be expected to cope with the sudden displacement of hundreds of residents of a tower block. The political activists pursued the council as if in these times of critical housing shortage it should have found permanent alternative accommodation “just like that” as Tommy Cooper used to say.

  2. The architect and the design team are the initial specifiers of their building therefore it is important that every tender document goes out with clear instructions, product identification, fire test data and application details. The specifier who includes equal or approved within the insulation or fire stopping specification should stop using this term as approved does not mean equal. Higher U values will play a part in reducing the level of combustible insulation materials used. The U value should be secondary to the fire safety. A good U value along with a combination of air-tightness and good ventilation will increase the choice of non combustible insulation materials. Be careful to ensure that if we create airtight buildings that we do not trap radon, methane or any other dangerous gasses. Over inspect the application of radon and methane barriers. What is required is a common sense approach and joined up thinking. One room, one debate to include experts from each division of insulation and associated building materials. This way everyone will understand what impact they have on each others products or systems. On site education will also improve the levels of understanding by trades as to how and why we should install and protect fire stopping materials and protection barriers.

    Inspection – Inspection – Inspection.

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