Two trade bodies have issued a statement to clarify the type of pre-insulated pipework in buildings that needed more rigorous checks for fire safety reasons.
In July, the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and the Thermal Insulation Contractors Association (TICA) expressed concerns about the suitability of pipework that is normally used for underground and buried applications, such as primary heating networks, now being employed inside buildings.
They said this is a “fundamental change in product application” and takes the products outside the scope of the quality standards that are normally applied to their performance. Considering the current focus on fire safety in buildings, the two bodies said they were anxious to draw attention to this issue.
They explain that building services pipe insulation specifications typically reflect the requirements of BS 5422 to ensure full compliance with the Building Regulations. However, pre-insulated pipework systems typically use either PUR or PE insulants, which do not meet the fire performance criteria typically specified for buildings.
Now, BESA and the British Plastics Federation (BPF) in a statement have explained that district heating pipe systems were “generally used” outside of a built environment and were usually buried within a trench or a specially constructed conduit.
The statement says: “Although these pipes are generally buried underground, it may be possible that they could be laid above ground, but these applications should be confirmed with the manufacturer to ensure their system is suitable for that use.
“However, whether used above or below ground, where these pipes may transition from the outside of a construction project to the inside of a built environment, care must be taken that the relevant standards regarding fire safety and fire control are strictly observed.”
It adds that advice should also be sought from the project’s design team to guarantee compliance with Building Regulations and all appropriate standards.
The BESA and BPF statement also emphasises that there is “a wide variety of pre-insulated plumbing pipes on the market”. These are available in a range of different thicknesses and insulation materials, including pre-insulated district heating pipe designed to be buried below ground for district heating and heat networks, pre-insulated plumbing pipework designed for domestic services in buildings, and pre-insulated pipework designed for cooling applications typically above ground both inside and outside buildings.
It is important, therefore, that any insulated pipework used inside a building is approved by the design team to ensure compliance with Building Regulations and the relevant associated standards, the bodies said. They also urge contractors to seek confirmation of suitability from manufacturers.
Graeme Fox, BESA’s head of technical, said: “It is also absolutely essential that any pre-insulated pipes entering a building are properly protected from damage and terminated correctly to contain the insulation and retain the fire integrity of the outer sheath.
“Installers should seek specialist fire stopping advice and evidence that all fire stopping products have been fully tested and third party certified where relevant. The installation must maintain the integrity of the specified fire performance of the combined building fabric and pipe installation.”
Caroline Ayres, director of the BPF Pipes Group, said: “By working together, we can better ensure best practice across the industry.”