Designing Facades for Safety and Efficiency: The Importance of Sealing Interfaces – Elongation & Fire Safety
Facades play a critical role in the durability and sustainability of buildings The fact that the UK government has reported that up to 35% of heat loss in buildings occurs through their walls makes facades a critical area for energy efficiency improvements. And this is just one example of the many ways in which facades impact the performance of buildings.
The evolution of facade technology has been remarkable. However, with these advancements come new challenges. Sealing interfaces between facade components has become critical for preventing moisture & water infiltration and ensuring proper indoor air quality.
Facade design must take into account the movement and stretch capacity of its components, subject as they are to various environmental factors such as thermal expansion, live loads, wind loads, and soil pressure.
Life Sciences – University of Bristol
In 2016, a new Life Sciences building at the University of Bristol experienced facade failure just months after it was completed. The building’s facade was designed to feature alternating horizontal bands of brickwork and glass panels, but the glass panels began to crack and shatter due to excessive thermal movement. The incident resulted in the removal and replacement of the entire facade, costing the university approximately £10 million.
Fire safety in facades is important to prevent the spread of fire and ensure the safety of occupants and surrounding buildings. Building Regulations Approved Document B in the UK provides guidance on the requirements for external walls and facades to achieve adequate fire performance. The government issued a ban on combustible materials in the external walls of high-rise buildings in December 2018, following the Grenfell Tower fire. However, despite these regulations, there have been numerous incidents of facade fires in the UK in recent years.
It is important to note that while some combustible materials may be chosen for their aesthetic or cost-effectiveness, the potential fire hazard must be equally carefully considered. Proper sealing of a building’s façade with non-combustible material is crucial for fire safety. Similarly, proper sealing of the various interfaces of the facades helps to prevent the spread of fire by restricting the flow of air and flames through the facade.
To mitigate fire risk, construction industry stakeholders must carefully consider the fire safety of each material used in the facade. While the use of non-combustible materials may increase the cost of the facade, the potential cost of a facade fire, including loss of life and property damage, far outweighs any savings in material costs in construction. Despite this, while there is a growing concern about the use of combustible materials in facades, there are some materials like EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) that have continued to be widely used in facades due to their durability, flexibility, and low cost. However, EPDM is a highly combustible material, has a flash point of 242°C and can release toxic fumes when exposed to fire, making it a potentially serious fire hazard. By prioritizing fire safety and advocating for stricter regulations, the industry can work towards future-proofing facades and reducing the risk of fire hazards. Ultimately, this will contribute to making buildings safer and more secure for everyone.
- Is the technology ready?
With the dual concerns of building movements and fire safety in facade interfaces, it can be challenging to find a product that meets all of the necessary criteria without compromising on performance or design intent requirements. Thankfully, technology has advanced to the point where we no longer have to settle for less. Effisus ProFlex FR membrane is a prime example of a cutting-edge solution that effectively addresses the challenges of sealing an interface while considering both elongation and fire safety in facade sealing.
This multi-layered, fire-rated, weatherproofing elastic membrane boasts an impressive 200% stretch capacity, exceptional resistance to puncture, and outstanding mechanical resistance, with high tensile and tear strength. Its fire performance is rated B-s3 d0 according to BS EN 13501-1, in conformity with Building Regulations 2010 – Approved Document B updated June 2022. Not only is Effisus ProFlex FR is watertight and energy efficient meeting the necessary safety and performance requirements, it also offers ease of installation and a visually distinct white colour to prevent potential installation errors. Its eco-friendly, recyclable material promotes sustainable building practices that emphasize efficiency and environmental responsibility. Effisus ProFlex FR represents a groundbreaking solution to the challenges of facade sealing for movement and fire safety. With its exceptional mechanical and fire performance, as well as its ease of installation and customization, you’ll no longer have to compromise on safety or efficency. By choosing products that meet the highest standards of safety and sustainability, we can build better and with high confidence. With these high-quality materials, there’s no need to compromise on performance or durability.
In conclusion, the design of facades is a critical aspect of building performance, and it requires careful consideration of many factors such as sealing interfaces, considering building movement and fire safety. In the UK, the government has set a target for all new buildings to be net-zero carbon by 2030, meaning that they must produce as much renewable energy as they consume. Facade design will play a crucial role in achieving this target, as it is responsible for up to 40% of a building’s total energy consumption. Moreover, given the increasing prevalence of façade fires in the UK, facade fire safety has become critical and mandatory. The consequences of inadequate sealing interfaces can be dire, leading to water leaks, lack of airtightness, energy inefficiency, poor indoor air quality, and even mould growth.
We must also consider the human impact of our buildings. The tragic episode of Grenfell tower and the recent story of Awaab’s Law serves as warning & reminder of the importance of designing buildings with the life, health and well-being of their occupants in mind. We must ask ourselves, what kind of world do we want to live now and in the future? One where people are forced to live in substandard housing conditions, or one where everyone has access to safe and healthy living spaces?
Let us strive for buildings that not only perform well but also prioritize the health, safety, and well-being of their occupants. After all, our buildings are not just structures; they are the places where we live, work, and play.