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EPS in Building  

(EPS - Expanded polystyrene)

With ever increasing building costs, the requirement for rapid building, rising energy costs and greater awareness of global warming and energy conservation as an important aspect of building design, expanded polystyrene (EPS) is becoming increasingly used in modern day construction.



EPS consists of 98% air and has long been used as a thermal insulator in a number of applications. The insulating ability of EPS makes it an ideal material for energy efficient building products particularly when combined with its other properties:

Lightweight making it easy to transport and install;

Moisture resistant increasing water penetration resistance;

Sound absorbency which increases sound insulation particularly when used in combination with harder building materials such as concrete;

Safe to use. EPS is non toxic, does not contain CFCs, can be 100% recycled, does not harbour micro-organisms, is odorless and non-allergenic;

Versatile in that it can be moulded, shaped and cut into virtually any shape or pattern. This allows the cost effective production of numerous decorative building products such as mouldings and cornices;

Fire retardant. All EPS used in ABP's building products is fire retardant and will not propagate or contribute to the spread of fire

Long lasting. EPS does not rot or degrade over time and remains dimensionally stable so EPS building products will remain fully functional for the life of any building in which they are used.

Expanded polystyrene scores on fire safety

Recent tests have confirmed the fire retardant properties of FR grade expanded polystyrene (EPS) thermal insulating board. The key finding of the tests is that, in a fire, EPS does not support the spread of flames.Fire Retardant - click here for larger image
“Architects and specifiers can now confidently incorporate EPS in designing energy-efficient and cost effective building solutions,” says Mike Myers, Chairperson of EPSASA, the Expanded Polystyrene
Association of South Africa.
The tests, commissioned by EPSASA, were conducted by Firelab cc, at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). They were carried out in line with the protocol defined in SANS 428:2006 – “Fire performance classification of thermal insulated building envelope systems”.
SANS 428 covers the fire safety evaluation requirements for thermal insulated building envelopes, such as under roof and side-cladding insulating materials, liners, insulated wall and roof panels, insulated ceilings and insulated wall and ceiling coating systems.
This testing protocol requires that large-scale fire testing of thermal insulation materials (SANS 10177:11) must be done in a facility that simulates the real-world, end-use conditions in which the product is typically installed.
EPS boards of 80mm thickness, FR (fire retardant) grade, and without any facing material, were used in all the tests.
Myers comments that this is the material typically specified for building insulation. EPSASA generally recommends 80mm to 100mm EPS board for ceiling and roof applications, depending on relevant climatic conditions.
He adds that continuous improvements in FR grade EPS, in the polystyrene raw material, and fire Retardant properties and processing have now produced a material that is classified as fire safe.
The Firelab assessment entailed a series of three tests to evaluate the material’s fire propagation properties in different applications: under- roof without a sprinkler extinguishing system; under-roof with a fixed sprinkler system using slow response sprinkler heads; and in vertical side-cladding applications.
The test results show that although EPS does deform and melt in proximity to fire, it does not actually catch alight: the material simply disintegrates into small snowflake-like fragments.

The test report concludes that: “From a fire safety point of view, the FR grade EPS thermal insulation system, as tested under specific test conditions, may be used as part of the thermal insulated building envelope in all industrial and commercial buildings as an under-roof and side-cladding insulation material, both with or without sprinklers.”
It is nonetheless important to note that these test results do not relate to fire resistance, which entails different testing criteria and testing methods. Furthermore, factors such as adequate roof ventilation and/or sprinkler protection should be considered in individual installations, taking account of the specific wall and roof configurations, to ensure the fire-safe design of any building, according to SANS 10400:T.
When selecting EPS thermal insulation systems, specifiers may request a copy of the Firelab test report or it can be viewed at www.epsasa.co.za. Suppliers should be asked to verify their products’ conformity to the test materials. In due course, EPSASA will be issuing certificates of conformance to members supplying test equivalent products.
EPS FR grade – Fire performance classification code The test report classifies EPS FR grade in terms of the SANS 428 classification code for fire performance (which is required to appear on all packaging and data sheets of thermal insulating building products and systems) as follows: B / B1 / 2 / H&V. This code relates to the SANS 10177 protocol of testing. The code signifies: B – a combustible material; B1 – no flame spread; B1 & B2 – suitable for use in all occupancies except for the proviso listed in SANS 10400:T; H&V – suitable for use in both horizontal and vertical applications.
AAAMSA Group EPSASA - Expanded Polystyrene Association of South Africa
Tel: 011 805 5002

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