Current affairs

low thermal bridging values, he said walls are energy efficient with good sound attenuation, and wind and blast resilience. As a ‘superior product all round for fire, acoustics and safety’, its life expectancy has also been rated by the USA’s Living Future Institute as 100 years. Tested at the Underwriters Laboratory, the product

was given a ‘four hours’ fire rating with a 150 core’. He explained the test in detail and a stringent test it passed for water penetration of walls in the US. The system uses expanded polystyrene (EPS), and in UK testing to EN 13501 for reaction to fire, Class C was the ‘best it [EPS] can achieve’, but he added, ‘for fire resistance testing, we are undergoing BS 8414 to BR 135 with directly applied render, and I know we will pass’. Mr Bouvier continued:‘EPS gets lumped in with

all the petroleum based products, so we’re always looked at as the bad boys of the insulating systems’, ‘It is smelly, black and burns, but EPS is non toxic, as proven by various bodies throughout the world.’ Asked to justify that comment later, he said: ‘The testing done on EPS says it’s no more toxic than burning wood’, adding that hydrogen cyanide gas is not a concern. ‘In the push to make buildings more efficient, we

have to use products and EPS is a good one. It’s 98% air and just a little bit of petroleum, but it stands up to the elements and is the best performing of any of the petroleum based insulations; it doesn’t off gas and it doesn’t shrink – its thermal conductivity is stable’.

BREEAM and fire

With BREEAM ratings focusing on the environmental and sustainability credentials of a premises, BRE Global’s Martin Townsend sought to address how fire and sustainability are handled, to maintain resilience and performance as buildings adapt over their lifetimes. The government wants us to build more, he

said, but we also need to build differently as usage changes. Historically, increasing performance increases cost – off site manufacturers and new forms of construction are responding to that: ‘There has been much about new build today, but we can’t just build and walk away.’ In the Netherlands, a new building can’t be built unless it’s paired with an existing one, and a percentage of the old material is reused, creating a circular economy. ‘We need to think about how a building will

be serviced as it goes into use and is later refurbished, the materials we’re using and how adaptable those spaces are’, to avoid ‘unintended consequences’. Building, fire and security systems often rely on WiFi connections, yet that connectivity can diminish as we insulate our buildings. Buildings must adapt for our needs, as well as performance – the NHS wants dementia friendly houses and, with an ageing population, we must heed social and resilience needs. BRE looks at different materials and how they perform, he explained, recounting how a building

was flooded to knee height as part of a Countryfile programme, ‘yet only five minutes later you wouldn’t have known that building had been flooded – we need to bring that resilience into fire’. Historically, BRE has supported government by

writing standards, researching and testing ideas in its UK Innovation Park, but it is now starting to write standards less for developers than for consumers, to inform them about the asset they are buying, its risks and how to maintain it: functions fundamental to a building’s performance. Efficiency drives put design teams under pressure, so they don’t necessarily design or model buildings as they should; but buildings must be designed to a performance standard, whether for fire or energy, with comeback if necessary, as happens in Australia. In 2018, BRE started to add a verification stage for buildings operating a couple of years. ‘There’s a massive role for BIM,’ Mr Townsend

asserted, referring to a recent University College London study showing how poor the construction industry is at sharing data and communicating. A design team needs to work in a much more integrated way, with data and information providing a chain of evidence to ensure ‘we do what we say’. As a result, the skills needed will change – already some companies with advanced BIM systems no longer need to employ quantity surveyors, he said. Business models are changing too, from selling goods to selling services. For instance, instead of just a lighting solution, a company will sell clients a month on month level of lighting for the whole year, and will support and maintain it correctly and cost effectively. With different forms of construction and new business models, industry professionals must also use their skills and knowledge to challenge received wisdom, where necessary. FEBRUARY 2019 49


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