Insulation and fire safety: One standard amended, call to replace another
Australian Standard AS/NZS 3837–1998 has been amended. While the tightening of this insulation and fire safety standard is applauded, there is a call for another to be replaced by a more stringent model.
Australian Standard AS/NZS 3837–1998 has been amended to prevent certain types of insulation materials from gaining top fire ratings based on small-scale test results. AS/NZS 3837 stipulates fire test procedures for certain materials and products using a 100 mm diameter sample in controlled conditions.
“Unfortunately, some insulation products made from thermoplastic materials like polystyrene were achieving high ratings using the AS/NZS 3837 test by virtue of their reflective facing, even though they would not perform well at all in a large-scale fire situation due to their burning and melting characteristics,” Keith Anderson, technical manager at Kingspan Insulation, states.
“Furthermore, some manufacturers were using these inappropriate AS/NZS 3837 results to obtain high Group Number product performance ratings, as required by the National Construction Code (NCC), to validate the approved use of their products as exposed linings in buildings,” he adds.
Anderson has praised the adoption of the recent update (Amendment 1) to AS/NZS 3837–1998, which states that products and materials that melt or shrink away from flames cannot be tested appropriately by this test method. It also prohibits the use of data from the AS/NZS 3837 test method to calculate Group Number classifications for these kinds of inappropriate products and materials.
Anderson is now calling for the replacement of Australian Standard AS 1530.2–1993. He says Australian Standard AS 1530.2–1993 should be abandoned as a tool for measuring reflective insulation membranes, known as sarking-type materials in the NCC, and replaced with a more representative test, BS 476 Parts 6 and 7.
“AS 1530.2 is inappropriate and inadequate for testing synthetic reflective insulation membrane products. This standard was originally designed to test item such as fabrics, curtains and drapes,” he argues, “and it is clearly unsuitable for materials that shrink and melt away from the flame, as stated in the scope of the test method.”
He claims that BS 476 Part 6 and 7, which is widely used in the UK, Europe, Middle East and Asia, is a superior alternative and urges all other Australian industry stakeholders to support a push for this reform in Australian fire safety testing standards.