Going beyond the thermal benefits of insulation

Paul Barrett, Head of Product Development at ROCKWOOL® UK explains how stone wool insulation can support complex legislative obligations, as well as provide multiple benefits including fire safety

GOOD school design can be transformative, having a lifelong impact on the learning outcomes of its pupils and more broadly, the productivity of a country and community.

For those involved in school design, there’s pressure to contribute to positive pedagogical outcomes through layout and flexibility of space for example, but also support greater operational efficiency.

By reducing running and maintenance costs, budgets can then be spent on additional teachers and support staff, meaning there is a very real correlation between the energy performance and learning. Likewise, studies have shown students citing their classroom as ‘comfortable’ in temperature achieving 4% more correct answers in a maths test compared to those who were too hot.

Improved insulation is an effective way to achieve thermal comfort, but insulation shouldn’t be considered in isolation or selected only for its thermal performance qualities.

With around 40 fire incidents occurring each month within our primary and secondary schools, as well as many rated as having ‘poor’ fire protection measures, it’s critical newly constructed or refurbished buildings are designed for fire performance too.

While we await the update to Building Bulletin 100 (BB100): Fire Safety Design for Schools following public consultation, the potential risk to the school estate shouldn’t be overlooked. In fact, our own research found that more than 70 UK schools are likely to feature combustible insulation which has been banned on external walls of ‘relevant’ residential buildings. In light of these figures, specifiers should be looking beyond minimum standards for external walls, as well as other areas of the building envelope.

One such area of the building that should be given greater consideration in terms of fire performance is its roof, which in a sense is its fifth facade. While flat roofs have long been used to house plant equipment and machinery, their scope and role in contemporary building design – including schools – is expanding. Now, this fifth façade is frequently used to create green and blue roofs, harvest energy through PV arrays or provide communal spaces.

With this expanding role however, there is also expanding risk. In addition to the hazard presented by hot works, both in the construction phase and during subsequent maintenance, electrical malfunctions in roof-mounted equipment, such as solar panels, have been known to cause roof fires. If a flat roof is relatively accessible, it too can become an easy target for arsonists.

Yet with the right material choices, not only can these fire risks be mitigated, the roof can even perform as a means of escape or place of refuge

With education projects complex, solutions that provide multiple benefits in a single specification make the job much easier for specifiers. By opting for stone wool insulation for example, it’s possible to deliver thermal performance, as well as provide enhanced fire resilience due to its inherent non-combustibility. What’s more, the structure of stone wool helps to reduce sound reverberation – a further critical challenge in school and classroom design.


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