“No Foam on Site” Policies for the Construction Industry

The construction industry is witnessing a significant and understandable shift in almost every sector towards using non-combustible insulation materials. For some, this is a continuation of policies that have reduced risk in building portfolios. For others, it is a low-risk approach, using products with genuine passive protection, in the face of ongoing regulatory reform. For all, the question of insurance is an important aspect–both for building insurance and for professional indemnity.

Fergie Taylor, Head of Development Delivery, Panattoni, Europe’s largest logistics real estate developer, said; “For our investors, tenants and clients it is essential that buildings insurance premiums are kept to a minimum, and we have driven a policy of reducing risk. The use of non-combustible building materials is not a new innovation, it is an essential feature for a modern logistics facility.”

It is common to see a built-up cladding and roofing system with non-combustible insulation specified in favour of a foam-insulated composite panel, however, foam-insulation might still be used in sundry items such as insulated gutters and insulating behind flashings details. In turn, this has led to some developers having to reinforce their specifications with a ‘no-foam-on-site’ policy to emphasise the need for mineral (rock) fibre insulated gutters and details.

Architects regularly specify a complete non-combustible building envelope to meet the client’s requirements, yet this needs to be policed to ensure compliance with the specification. It is essential that this applies for all materials on site, not just the main roof and wall systems, including products such as insulated gutters, fascias and soffits, to ensure they adhere to a no-foam policy. Often an architect’s PI cover may not permit them to specify foam insulation, in particular for cladding products.

For insulated gutters, these are widely available with a mineral fibre core, supplied with a minimum 1.2mm gauge outer steel and 1.2mm gauge textured membrane, in line with the recommendations of the MGMA*. By using a mineral fibre insulated gutter, a continuous level of protection at the junction between roof and walls will offer compliance with a foam-free specification, reduce risk and contribute to a ‘future proof’ construction.

The findings of the BRE and Grenfell public enquiry identified the gaps around the windows filled with PIR insulation as a significant contributing factor**. A well designed and detailed junction should be installed to correct tolerances to enable continuity of insulation, fire protection and airtightness, and use non-combustible insulation. The use of untested, unproven details with substituted products is likely to invalidate testing and certification, and this could compromise compliance with the specification and even affect insurance for the designer and the building.

A ‘no-foam-on-site’ specification policy will reduce risk, improve standards and ensure that a low-risk high-quality construction fully compliant with all available testing, certification and validation is achieved. The emphasis on ‘competence’ within the supply chain is a significant aspect of ongoing regulatory reform. Making buildings safer, by removing materials that could present a risk, is a goal that we should all be responsible for.

* Metal Gutters Manufacturers Association Guidance Document GD17 April 2016
** Dr Barbara Lane report Phase 1 Grenfell Public Enquiry

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