pre-insulated pipework

Trade associations sound fire alarm over pre-insulated pipework

Two leading trade associations have called for more rigorous checks on the fire safety of pre-insulated pipework installed in buildings.

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and the Thermal Insulation Contractors Association (TICA) have issued a joint statement.

It raises questions about the suitability of pipework normally used for underground and buried applications. These include primary heating networks now being in operation inside buildings.

Fundamental change in product application

They describe it as a “fundamental change in product application”. As such, it takes the products outside the scope of the quality standards normally applied to their performance. Considering the current focus on fire safety in buildings, the two bodies are anxious to draw attention to the issue.

Building services pipe insulation specifications typically reflect BS 5422 requirements to ensure full compliance with Building Regulations.

However, pre-insulated pipework systems typically use either PUR or PE insulants. These do not meet the fire performance criteria typically specified in building services applications.

“In addition, the one-size-fits-all approach to insulation thickness typically undertaken by manufacturers of pre-insulated pipework simply does not allow for the required flexibility to meet individual specification requirements,” the joint statement said.

Concerns and increasing evidence

Both bodies are particularly concerned about the use of coiled flexible polyethylene insulated piping systems. “We have increasing evidence that these systems are being installed in high-risk buildings, such as large multi-residential buildings.”

Manufacturers, distributors, and installers of pre-insulated polyethylene pipework systems have a responsibility to provide evidence of the suitability of products for the specified application.

Specifiers must also check the thermal performance of the polyethylene system. Particularly, they must ask how suppliers will meet heat loss/heat gain requirements of BS 5422 and Part L of the Building Regulations.

Plus, it’s vital that the product in question has the appropriate Euroclass fire rating, according to the statement.

Pre-insulated pipework a “critical fire safety issue”

Graeme Fox, BESA’s Head of Technical, said: “This is a critical fire safety issue and both bodies were determined to present a united front to help protect best practice in building services installations.”

“One of the important lessons learned from the Grenfell tragedy was that products may have been tested and certified, but not necessarily for the particular application in question.

“We would, therefore, expect all responsible supply chain firms to be able to provide details of how the Euroclass fire rating of the PUR/PE system was achieved and the arrangement of the insulants in the test to determine their exposure to heat and flame,” he added. “We would also expect them to be able to evidence compliance with BS 5422 heat loss/heat gain tables clearly.”

Chris Ridge, TICA’s Technical Policy Manager, said all responsible companies should be able to provide current Euroclass fire test certification for “the complete range of polyethylene pre-insulated pipework products.”

He added: “Looking ahead, we seek to challenge the wider industry to ensure that all pre-insulated systems meet the required standards. This should not stop at pre-insulated pipework but should also include pre-insulated ductwork products.”