The National Construction Code (NCC) is regularly updated to improve our built environment and respond to increasing demands across a range of areas such as safety, comfort, energy efficiency and sustainability.
Meeting these increasing demands requires constant innovation and investment from building product manufacturers.
NCC’s three year change cycle means manufacturers must look six or more years ahead as the investment required is often well outside a three year payback.
Further difficulties result when inferior imported products find their way into Australia despite the strict requirements of the NCC and Australian Standards.
However, recent changes to the NCC and state regulations have seen a greater emphasis on the chain of responsibility across the construction industry, from manufacturers, designers and architects to developers, builders and installers.
This is to ensure use of conforming materials that have been tested and approved to meet Australian Standards and building regulatory requirements.
Building professionals must now be better informed about the use of products, as a product itself can conform to the NCC but if used in the wrong application or if installed incorrectly it can result in non-compliance. This applies to all building products in use today.
One form of cladding recently in the spotlight is ACP, which is a decorative panel with core material of varying percentages of Polyethylene (PE).
ACP panels are generally between two and six millimetres thick, and are faced with aluminium.
Recent changes to the NCC and State regulations require external claddings of construction Types A & B to be non-combustible as per AS 1530.1 or achieve an EW classification in accordance with AS5113.
This has a direct impact on ACP with PE of 30 per cent or more, with these panels effectively banned in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania for building Types A & B.
Another form of cladding which is both functional and decorative is Insulated Sandwich Panel (ISPs). These typically perform thermal and structural functions and range from 20 to 300mm in thickness.
ISPs have an insulating core sandwiched in between two steel facings of flat steel for walling applications, and a ribbed profile on one side to channel the rainwater in roofing applications.
These products take advantage of the main benefits of both components; the light weight core creates the extra thickness and moves the steel away from the neutral axis, making the composite panel much stronger in bending.
The strong steel facings protect the core from damage and wear and tear.
The insulating properties of the core, together with an airtight joint, makes ISPs an ideal energy efficient solution, which explains why they have been used in cool rooms, freezers and other temperature-controlled environments.
In March 2019 Section J of NCC Vol 1 was transformed with the aim of increasing energy efficiency in commercial buildings.
It is likely that the thermal and structural advantages of ISP’s will become more important as these changes are bedded in and will result in a greater usage of ISP’s across a number of sectors.
The three globally accepted core materials in ISP’s include EPS-FR, Mineral Wool and Polyisocyanurate (PIR).
EPS-FR cored panel has Fire Retardant added to the core. It has been used widely in Australia since the 1980’s, initially in controlled environments but more recently in wider applications where high thermal performance and light-weight materials are required.
It is the lightest of the panel types and depending on the building design details, can be used as external cladding of Type C construction.
Mineral Wool core material is the only non-combustible core product. When used with steel facings, the panel can be deemed as non-combustible under section C1.9 e of the 2019 NCC.
MW core panels are heavier than the other core types and are suitable for hot work areas and boundary walls. They can be used in all Construction Types subject to any other requirements such as specific FRLs.
Polyisocyanurate (PIR) is a thermoset, medium density, high strength foam. Due to its thermal and fire properties, it is widely accepted in Europe across a wide range of industries from cold chain to commercial and residential markets.
It has better thermal performance than EPS-FR and Mineral Wool, which means a thinner panel can be used resulting in larger floor space. Bondor_Metecno Kasset system using a PIR panel was the first panel system to pass the new AS5113 Standard for external cladding.
It is important to note that recently we have seen an increase in imported PIR products from a variety of origins including China and the Middle East.
The structural, thermal and fire properties of PIR products can vary greatly depending on the chemical composition and the manufacturing process.
As always, the best way to ensure that the product you are using conforms to the NCC, is to use a product that has been tested in Australia to Australian Standards.
Bondor Metecno also offer an easy guide to selecting cladding, visit the website to learn more.
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