Independent testing recently commissioned by Kingspan Insulation reveals that three of three Chinese insulation products have failed to conform to Australian requirements. According to Kingspan Insulation, the use of non-conforming insulation in Australian buildings continues to undermine the National Construction Code.

Kingspan Insulation Australasia’s Managing Director Scott Gibson urged the entire building industry to take a stand against misleading, non-conforming insulation products because the costs are simply too great to ignore.

The test assessed three separate rigid phenolic insulation products imported into Australia from China. All three samples failed to meet the declared R-values for these products in thermal tests. Conducted by the NATA-accredited independent laboratory AWTA, the tests found that the Chinese products’ R-values were overstated by 70% on average, with the worst result at over 90%.

For instance, Product A, a 40mm-thick insulation panel, had an advertised R-value of 2.1, but AWTA’s test revealed an actual R-value of just 1.1. Product B, a 25mm-thick panel, had an advertised R-value of 1.2, but tested 0.8 while Product C, a 40mm-thick panel, had an advertised R-value of 1.9, and a tested R-value of just 1.1.

Kingspan Insulation’s Technical and R&D Manager Keith Anderson said two of these products were being promoted as ‘closed cell’ phenolic insulation, a claim that testing revealed to be false. The industry benchmark for closed cell content for phenolic insulation is 90%, whereas the tested products had insignificant closed cell content, i.e. 0.01% and 3.25% respectively.

Gibson warns that non-conforming insulation products are inefficient, unethical and potentially dangerous, and can impose heavy costs on the community.

Buildings with substandard or unfit-for-purpose insulation could be a fire hazard, as fire resistance characteristics might not meet with engineering specifications. Poor-performing insulation reduces the effectiveness of heating and cooling systems, causing unnecessary energy wastage. Energy wastage is a drain on the wider society, requiring enhanced infrastructure to meet energy demands and creating higher carbon emissions, contrary to government policy. Finally, occupants of buildings with poor-performing insulation face higher utility bills, which can reduce the appeal/value of real estate.

Gibson says all levels in the construction supply chain, including building professionals and regulators, have a duty of care to their clients and the community to make sure insulation products comply with mandatory performance benchmarks.

Gibson adds that the sale of non-conforming insulation products also breaches consumer law. He explains that when customers pay for a product and receive an inferior item, it represents misleading and deceptive conduct, and is immoral and illegal. Gibson expressed concern that non-conforming insulation has been installed in high-density structures in Australia, including hospitals, retail shopping centres and apartment buildings.

Advising builders and specifiers not to trust self-declared testing and performance claims, Gibson said the safest solution is to rely on third-party independent accreditation to ensure products are properly rated, and meet or exceed minimum quality standards. Insulation products with CodeMark certification, for instance, have been independently endorsed and tested in accordance with national standards and codes.