UK fire safety warning issued over pre-insulated pipework

UK fire safety warning issued over pre-insulated pipework

Two UK leading trade associations have warned that more rigorous checks are needed to ensure the fire safety of pre-insulated pipework.

The call comes from the UK’s Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and the Thermal Insulation Contractors Association (TICA). The pair have issued a joint statement that raises questions about the suitability of pipework that’s normally used for underground and buried applications, such as primary heating networks, being deployed inside buildings.

The two bodies states this is a “fundamental change in product application” and takes the products outside their usual scope, which is detrimental to the quality of what’s needed. With fire safety an ever increasing hot topic in construction and building safety, the pair are keen to highlight the issues using unsuitable products could cause.

Building services pipe insulation specifications typically reflect the requirements of BS 5422 to ensure full compliance with the Building Regulations. Yet, pre-insulated pipework systems generally use either PUR or PE insulants, which does not meet the fire performance criteria currently specified for buildings.

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

Buildings could be put at even higher risk

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

The joint statement aims to remind manufacturers, distributors and installers of pre-insulated polyethylene pipework systems that they have a responsibility to provide evidence of the suitability of these products for the specific application, and should be mindful of using unsuitable products and causing fire risks. The statement also highlights that each product must have the appropriate Euroclass fire rating.

Critical fire safety issue

Graeme Fox, BESA’s head of technical, said: “This is a critical fire safety issue. Both organisations are determined to present a united front in helping to protect Best Practice in building services installations.”

Fox continued: “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 also information on the arrangement of the insulants in the test to determine their exposure to heat and flame.”

He later added: “We would also expect them to be able to provide clear evidence of compliance with BS 5422 heat loss/gain tables.”

TICA’s technical policy manager Chris Ridge stated that all responsible companies should be able to provide current Euroclass fire test certification for “the complete range of polyethylene pre-insulated pipework products”.

Ridge added: “Looking ahead, we will 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. It should also include pre-insulated ductwork products.”