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Sat 27 Mar 2010 04:00 AM

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Keeping cool in all weather

Ensuring that the choice and installation of insulation is correct can have a huge impact on the long-term operation of a building. Construction Week examines the different types of insulation materials available and their potential applications.

Keeping cool in all weather
Keeping cool in all weather
Marco Vincenz, GM of Pittsburgh Corning Middle East.
Keeping cool in all weather
Tiger profiles’ products were used at the Nad Al Sheba horse racing club.
Keeping cool in all weather
Abu Baker Shaikhani heads up Rubber World Industries.
Keeping cool in all weather
Foamglas W+F insulation is suitable for roofs.
Keeping cool in all weather
Mike Whelan of Resolco International.

Ensuring that the choice and installation of insulation is correct can have a huge impact on the long-term operation of a building. Construction Week examines the different types of insulation materials available and their potential applications.

With high temperatures and humidity the norm in the Middle East, combined with the recent upsurge in sustainability issues, insulation is now a primary feature in the region’s projects. Selecting the most effective insulation material for a job is only the first step; the incorrect installation of a product can have a profound effect on its role and the overall success or otherwise of the building’s long-term operation.

The thermal, fire safety and environmental barriers of many products will be reduced significantly if, for example, they become wet. And although damage from humidity is the primary concern for moisture ingress in the region, the recent period of heavy rain and thunderstorms has compounded the need for any insulation materials to be correctly sealed and protected. The impact of poor insulation application is several-fold. “Wet insulation is inefficient; energy costs are increased; the air conditioning system is ineffective; pipes can corrode; mould can spread and the cost of replacement or refurbishment is high,” stresses Mike Whelan, Resolco International.

A wide variety of products are now offered in the market that can effectively combat the potential of water ingress, in addition to providing the required insulation. These include materials such as cellular glass, phenolic foam, gypsum, polyurethane and specialist coatings, with manufacturers continually adding to the options available. In many cases manufacturers also offer contractors training to ensure the best practice installation methods are followed.

Phenolic foam

The effectiveness of phenolic insulation in the region’s climate has meant its selection for several high-profile projects including the Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa and Dubai Metro Stations.

Resolco Insulation is the official distributor, fabricator and sales partner for Resolco International in the UAE and Gulf states. As such, it offers the firm’s Insulphen CFC and HCFC-free closed-cell, rigid phenolic thermal insulation.

Initially manufactured as rigid blocks, the Insulphen is then fabricated into pipe sections, sheets and pipe supports as needed using CNC-controlled profile cutting machines. The product is used primarily in hospitals, schools, universities, offices and shopping malls for insulating chilled, cold, hot water and heating pipes in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

“Insulphen has a number of major advantages,” reports Whelan. “It has the lowest thermal conductivity of any material, therefore the thickness can be reduced and space savings made; it is environmentally safe; and it is available as a higher density product for use at pipe support points to maintain the integrity of the insulation system and vapour barrier.”

In addition, phenolic thermal insulation meets international fire and smoke safety regulations, producing low smoke emission in the event of a fire. Its closed-cell structure provides the all-important protection against water. “[The structure] resists the ingress of moisture, which is important in high temperature and humid climates such as the Gulf,” stresses Whelan.

There are, however, several key elements that should be considered during the application of phenolic foam if it is to prove successful. “Insulation design and thickness calculations should relate to the local ambient conditions,” warns Whelan. “The UAE and Gulf states have harsh conditions: condensation can be a major problem so [contractors] must ensure the thickness is more than sufficient to prevent condensation,” he adds.

The system should be protected with metal cladding if installed in areas of high mechanical abuse and insulated pipe supports are important for providing load-bearing. “The use of a good quality, factory-applied vapour barrier, usually aluminium foil, is imperative, as is the use of an experienced, qualified installer,” Whelan stresses. For external applications the product specifications should be increased and good maintenance is essential in all applications.

Cellular glass insulation

With sustainability high on the construction industry’s agenda, Pittsburgh Corning’s Foamglas is making a big impact on the market. The closed-cell thermal insulation is produced from recycled glass and continued improvements to the product features have meant strong recognition for its green credentials.
“We were recently certified by Masdar sustainability department and are listed in ecospecifier, a library of proven ecological materials,” explains Pittsburgh Corning Middle East general manager Marco Vincenz. “LEED credits or ESTIDAMA pearls can be gained with the use of Foamglas and it has been shown as the thermal insulation with the lowest CO2 equivalent,” adds Vincenz.

Pittsburgh Corning supplies and produces the cellular glass insulation in densities ranging from 100 to 165kg/m3. It is fully resistant to moisture, so does not degrade. In addition, it does not contain any organic materials, so is fully fire-resistant, with ASTM and EN tests proving no flame spread or smoke development in the event of a fire. This makes the product particularly suited to wall applications in high-rise and public buildings. “We can provide a solution for wall applications as soon as fire protection is being discussed, for lightweight cladding façade, GRC elements or stone finishing,” assures Vincenz.

Foamglas is also suitable for roof insulation and has been applied in such applications for more than 50 years. “The compact installation of Foamglas on the roof brings even more benefits,” states Vincenz. “The waterproof properties of the insulation, combined with the fully-bonded application and closed joints prevents water from penetrating into the system,” he explains. For roof installations, in general hot bitumen is applied to provide a binding component for the product. Mechanical fixtures or a cold adhesive is used for fixing wall applications. Underground applications should generally be given an additional coating to ensure protection during land-filling work.

“The application [of the product] can be done by any contractor that is used to insulation jobs,” assures Vincenz. The firm offers a free training session to local contractors to ensure the highest quality standards of installation can be met. “Even if not correctly installed Foamglas will not suffer or degrade like other materials; the durability of the material is not affected and the thermal performance is guaranteed for the long-term,” states Vincenz. “The failing system has to be fixed to enable the calculated performance,” he warns, “but even after years it can be reused for the improvement of the failure.”

A recent addition to Pittsburgh Corning’s product range is its Tapered Roof System. The integrated slope removes the need for a sloping screed, reducing weight and construction time. The product is currently being installed at Doha Airport. And with sustainability in mind, the firm has another product launch planned for the near future: Foamglas W+F. Suited to most roof applications, the product has an improved thermal performance and high compressive strength.

Extruded polyurethane foam

Tekurat rigid extruded polyurethane foam insulation boards from Hapri Middle East Insulation are installed in an ‘upside-down’ approach to flat roofs, while providing a high level of insulation and moisture resistance. Laminated on both sides with aluminium foil, the insulation is installed above the roof’s waterproof membrane, with physical properties such as low water pick-up, ruggedness and ease of handling saving time on site while ensuring a water-tight protection is provided.

Advantages of the system include ease of installation and maintenance; high insulation capacity; solvents resistance, so it will be unaffected by any bitumen solvents used in the waterproofing; plus it will maintain the roof temperature close to that of internal building temperature. In addition, the insulation provides a layer of protection for the building’s waterproof membrane, shielding it from temperature extremes, UV radiation, mechanical damage and damage due to interstitial condensation.

In order to ensure an effective result several steps must be taken: the waterproof membrane must be clear of debris before and during installation of the insulation; the insulation boards must be initially loose laid, half lapped in a brick bond pattern; full inter-locking of the edges must be ensured.

Rubber insulation

Closed-cell rubber insulation manufacturer Rubber World Industries (RWI) is finding continued success with its Gulf-O-flex insulation products within the region. In March the firm announced a contract win worth AED600,000 to supply a range of Gulf-O-flex products to the Saadiyat Island project in Abu Dhabi.

Under the contract, RWI will supply Gulf-O-Flex rubber insulation tubes, rubber insulation sheets, PVC black tape and Gulf-O-Glue for application in the 15,400m2 visitor centre at the Manarat Al Saadiyat art venue on Saadiyat Island. Designed for professional MEP contractors, Gulf-O-flex has been proven to prevent condensation or frost formation on refrigerant lines, cold water plumbing and chilled water systems.

“We are confident that our products will meet the project’s requirements, which are focused on reducing costs and energy consumption,” states RWI chair Abu Baker Shaikhani. “We intend to leverage this as we look into securing more deals and partnerships with leading developers of massive mega projects, in line with our aims to increase our share of the regional market,” adds Shaikhani. Phase one of the project opened in November 2009, with further art galleries due to open in April 2010.

With the options for insulation continuing to increase, contractors are set to have more choice in the future. But with new choice may also come new installation techniques, so installers should be alert in order to avoid system failure in any future downpours.

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