In her report, ‘Building a Safer Future: Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety’, Dame Judith Hackitt spoke of the need for a golden thread of information to preserve the design and construction information in a standardised format. It’s proposed that keeping a permanent record of the material composition of a building’s fabric, for example, will ensure regulatory fire safety and energy performance is maintained and updated in the event of alterations.
By Simon Blackham, Technical Manager at Recticel Insulation
Dame Judith’s recommendation has been welcomed by the construction industry. Its implementation would allow all links within the building supply chain access to a raft of design information that will help bridge the performance gap which plagues the UK’s housing stock. Building products which are replicable perform as stated and maintain long-term quality will be crucial to upholding the golden thread and avoiding a post-refurbishment shortfall in energy performance, hence the need for insulation that fulfils the aforementioned criteria.
Designed with the installer and end user in mind
It could be said that Recticel’s high-performance full-fill insulation board Eurowall + was a product tailor made for the golden thread process, despite its development preceding Dame Judith’s report by a good many years. From concept to delivery, Eurowall + is a product produced with the applicator and end user in mind. The ease of its installation, which coupled with its innovative tongue and groove joints around its edges, meant Recticel was able to deliver a board with superb thermal properties that was able to be installed with consistent and repeatable performance on site.
Whilst many rigid full-fill products are 97mm or thicker for a designed cavity width of 100mm, Eurowall + offers a 90mm insulation board to achieve similar thermal performance, at the same time avoiding impediments to conventional bricklaying techniques. The 10mm gap allows installers adequate room to ensure the boards fit tightly to a cavity wall’s inner leaf in a process that reduces on-site labour times, but improves the quality of the installation itself.
The panel’s tongue-and-groove joint means it forms a secure tight lock with other boards, thus increasing protection against wind-driven rain and reducing convectional heat loss through gaps between boards. Unlike fibrous insulation solutions such as mineral wool which degrades overtime and slumps within the cavity, particularly when damp, in five, 10 and 20 years’ time Eurowall + panels will remain locked in position, performing as well as they did when first installed.
Compliant products a must for futureproof properties
Product stability and consistency are key characteristics for the creation of future proof buildings. It’s a performance which can be monitored thanks to the introduction of Building Information Modelling (BIM) providing a digital window into how a property’s performance tails off over time due to the changing composition of its fabric. Going forwards, if the golden thread of information is to command relevance within the industry, then products specified to insulate walls, roofs and floors must come with compliance in-built in order to guarantee performance for a number of years, rather than months.
Time to act
As with most good ideas, Dame Judith’s golden thread proposition is founded in good old-fashioned common sense. The fact that many properties fail to reach industry-required energy performance due to the quality of materials installed within the fabric ought not to be considered a revelation. Yet this poor practice continues. We can no longer afford to pay lip service to the demand for better quality buildings. Homes account for three-quarters of the UK’s CO2 emissions created by heating buildings; an unfortunate, yet unsurprising figure given that BBC analysis in 2020 revealed that nearly two-thirds of the country’s housing stock failed to meet long-term energy efficiency targets. If the UK government is to fulfil its pledge for mid-century carbon neutrality, then now is the time for the construction industry to take up Dame Judith’s golden thread proposal and run with it.