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pre-panelised systems: safety, efficiency and performance.

In the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster, construction has been under more scrutiny than ever. Contractors, architects and materials suppliers are under pressure to deliver buildings that are comfortable, affordable and above all safe, while guaranteeing local jobs in modular construction.

Pre-panelised systems are highly efficient when used to maximise the benefits of MMC. But speed and efficiency are only a part of the construction equation. Quality, performance and safety are critical areas that should never be compromised in the race to meet targets, reduce costs and provide an earlier return on investment.

Fire safety
 

Pre-panelised systems are required to meet the fire safety standards outlined in Approved Document B (AD B) of the Building Regulations (England and Wales), Section 2 of the Technical Handbooks in Scotland and Technical Booklet E in Northern Ireland.

Panels should be tested to BS EN 1364 standards, which covers non-loadbearing walls and BS EN 1365, covering loadbearing walls. Infill materials and facing boards required by designers and clients, including external-facing and insulation materials, should be rated as Class A1, non-combustible or A2, limited combustibility.

For residential buildings, the requirements in AD B stipulate the following fire resistance periods: 30 minutes for buildings up to 5m in height, 60 minutes for buildings not exceeding 18m, 90 minutes for buildings up to 30m and 120 minutes for buildings exceeding 30m.

Noise pollution
 

As we emerge from the peace and quiet of lockdown, noise pollution again emerges as the bane of modern existence. Any pre-panelised systems should be tested in accordance with BS EN 140 and BS EN 717. The reduction in generation of noise should be at least 45 decibels for flats, apartments and houses and 43 decibels for student accommodation and hotels.

All testing should be undertaken by a UKAS-accredited laboratory to ensure the ultimate in performance as well as safety.

Thermal efficiency
 

Energy efficiency and net carbon zero are the watchwords when it comes to delivering today's modular homes. This inevitably results in homes that are warmer and cheaper to run. Pre-panelised systems can help to minimise heat loss and gain from the fabric of the building, ensuring that new homes are as close to carbon zero as possible. Insulation and facing materials have an intrinsic part to play in a building's thermal efficiency and can be used to achieve the desired U values for thermal insulation.
Each combination of materials can be tweaked to meet the precise requirements of a residential construction project.

Collaboration
 

Creating safe and comfortable homes, everyone with jobs in modular construction needs to be collaborating efficiently and effectively. Designers, constructors and suppliers can achieve net carbon goals without compromise by continually developing and testing materials and methods that deliver the performance and safety the modern construction industry needs.

Pre-panelised construction can bring together the highest specifications of insulation and cladding, tested to specific standards, that ensure safety, efficiency and performance are quite literally embedded in the fabric of our modern post-Grenfell buildings.
 

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The outlook for modular construction post lockdown.