Kingspan Insulation utilised several custom insulation solutions including a proprietary software to address the technical challenges of the RAC Arena project in Perth, WA.

Formerly Perth Arena, RAC Arena is a showpiece of contemporary Australian public architecture built in 2012 by BGC Construction. The 50-metre high arena is a multipurpose centre built to host sporting, theatrical and musical events for up to 15,000 guests. The original design called for bespoke treatments of all basic structural elements, including insulation, to meet ambitious thermal performance targets and ensure the long-term integrity of the structure.

The asymmetrical lines and sweeping irregular shapes of the structure presented a unique set of design and engineering challenges, especially during the installation of insulation.

Even early in the design stage, it was clear that high-performance insulation would be intrinsic to the building’s overall viability. There were two primary insulation-related considerations: how to minimise the risk of condensation; and how to achieve high thermal efficiency (R-value of RT2.7).

“It’s a large steel structure with a unique construction, and there were challenges in relation to condensation and the high R-values that were required within the building systems,” says Craig Burr, Kingspan Insulation’s State Manager WA.

Approximately 7,200 tonnes of steel were used to construct the arena; this was significant because large masses of cold steel within a building fabric can lead to temperature differentials between the steel and ambient air, causing condensation build-up. According to Burr, ‘cold bridging’ was a real concern in this project.

Kingspan’s proprietary condensation risk analysis software was used to analyse the building’s physical and geographical characteristics, as well as the behaviour of all relevant associated wall materials. This helped Kingspan provide a solution to the threat of condensation without sacrificing thermal performance.

Burr explains that the software enabled them to advise the clients on how to reduce condensation, taking into account all the building elements for that envelope, where to place the insulation on the envelope, and how a vapour-permeable membrane would be best utilised to wrap the building before the aluminium cladding was installed on the exterior. Kingspan offered a full-layer system from external to internal, showing where the insulation should be placed within that system.

The resultant full-wall profile, which included Kingspan Kooltherm K12 Framing Board rigid insulation panels, was designed specifically for the arena to promote passive vapour expulsion even though the system is sealed.

Burr noted that this was just one of many practical challenges associated with the project. Given the many irregular shapes incorporated into the façade, it was necessary to pre-cut as many K12 insulation panels as possible to guarantee correct sizing and facilitate speedy installation for the builders, BGC Construction.

At least 70% of all insulation panels fitted into three distinct sizes and were all supplied custom-cut. The entire project involved the installation of approximately 17,000 square metres of Kooltherm K12 insulation. Overall, several thousands of separate insulation panels and strips were required to complete the project.

Feedback from the project site indicates that the building insulation has performed to specification and there have been no reports of condensation build-up even months after the completion of the project.