Material science

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A much greater understanding of material science and the behaviour and use of construction products is essential for buildings to meet all of the necessary criteria that is demanded of them.

Many essential construction products are combustible and continue to be used safely and successfully in the construction industry as they have been for many years. This includes many organic and natural products which have an important role to play despite being combustible.

The term combustible is often confused with the word flammable, but there is an important distinction between these two terms, which mistakenly have become interchangeable as products can be combustible but not flammable.

When used correctly combustible materials can continue to be used safely as they have a crucial role to play in helping buildings meet a range of performance criteria.

Insulation products meet a wide range of fire performance requirements as stipulated by Building Regulations and standards, as well as the insurance industry and warranty providers.

In most construction applications, insulation products are not exposed (for example, cavity wall insulation is installed between the outer substrate and the internal blocks). In other applications where high fire performance is needed, suitable products, tested to stringent fire tests, can be specified.

Fire performance is a complex science and systems containing class A1 and class A2 materials (as determined by EN 13501-1) cannot be automatically assumed to adequately prevent fire spread. Reliance on simplistic classification of individual products is therefore not sufficient as these classifications give no indication about how one material will perform with another as part of a complex system. It is important to use whole system testing to ensure built-up system performance.

Individual products offer different levels of fire performance depending on their end-use application. Insulation is used in horizontal and vertical applications as well as in pitched roofs.  It is important to ensure that the right product is used in the right end-use application from class A1 through to class F.