Leading Australian building insulation specialist, Kingspan Insulation welcomes the tightening of one Australian Standard in relation to standards affecting insulation and fire safety.
Australian Standard AS/NZS 3837–1998 has been amended to prevent certain types of insulation materials from gaining top fire ratings based on ‘small scale’ test results. The company has however called for another Australian Standard to be replaced by a more stringent model.
According to Keith Anderson, Technical Manager at leading building and construction industry supply group, Kingspan Insulation, AS/NZS 3837 stipulates fire test procedures for certain materials and products using a 100mm diameter sample in controlled conditions.
Unfortunately, some insulation products made from thermoplastic materials such as polystyrene were achieving high ratings using the AS/NZS 3837 test by virtue of their reflective facing, even though they would not perform well in a large scale fire situation due to their burning and melting characteristics.
Moreover, some manufacturers were using these inaccurate AS/NZS 3837 results to obtain high ‘Group Number’ product performance ratings as required by the National Construction Code (NCC) to validate the approved use of their products as exposed linings in buildings.
The recent update (Amendment 1) to AS/NZS 3837–1998 states that products and materials that melt or shrink away from flames cannot be tested appropriately by this test method. It also prohibits the use of data from the AS/NZS 3837 test method to calculate Group Number classifications for these kinds of inappropriate products and materials.
However, some insulation products such as Kingspan’s Kooltherm K10 FM still qualify for (the highest) Group Number 1 status, based on testing of the components of the product, including the rigid thermoset core material unfaced and unprotected by the foil facing. Keith explains that the core material is very important for fire safety in these materials.
Call to replace AS 1530.2–1993
Kingspan has also called for Australian Standard AS 1530.2–1993 to be abandoned as a tool for measuring reflective insulation membranes, known as ‘sarking-type materials’ in the NCC, and replaced with a more representative test, BS 476 Parts 6 and 7.
Urging other Australian industry stakeholders to support a push for this important reform in Australian fire safety testing standards, Keith argues that AS 1530.2 is inappropriate and inadequate for testing synthetic reflective insulation membrane products such as Kingspan’s Air-Cell range and similar products, since the Standard was originally designed to test materials such as fabrics, curtains and drapes.
He recommends BS 476 Part 6 and 7, which is widely used in the UK, Europe, Middle East and Asia.