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BESA and TICA issue fire safety warning over pre-insulated pipework

19 July 2022

TWO LEADING Trade Associations have called for more rigorous checks on the fire safety of pre-insulated pipework being installed in buildings. The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and the Thermal Insulation Contractors Association (TICA) 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 Trade Associations assert that this is a “fundamental change in product application” and 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 this issue.

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 generally use either PUR or PE insulants, which do not meet the fire performance criteria typically 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.”

High risk

Both organisations 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,” observe the Trade Associations.. 

The joint statement reminds 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 in question.

Specifiers are also urged to check the thermal performance of polyethylene systems and  ask the supplier how it would meet the heat loss/gain requirements of BS 5422 and Part L of the Building Regulations. It’s also vital that each product has the appropriate Euroclass fire rating.

Critical fire safety issue

“This is a critical fire safety issue,” emphasised Graeme Fox, BESA’s head of technical. “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.”

Further, Fox noted: “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 added 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 concluded: “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.”

*Further information is available online at www.theBESA.com and at www.tica-acad.co.uk