Property is a valuable investment that should stand the test of time, provide a good return and consistently perform well – both in its day-to-day operations and in the case of damaging events such as fires. 

Aisling Sands - Kingspan

Aisling Sands, technical director, Kingspan Insulated Panels UK & Ireland

FM Approvals is a globally recognised body that provides a range of rigorous insurer-approved standards to assess different aspects of construction product performance. In this piece, we explore what FM Approvals is, and take a closer look at some of the key standards it offers for building envelope products – helping you to reduce risk to your property, beyond what is required for regulatory compliance.

While Building Regulations are primarily focused on ensuring occupants can safely exit a building in the event of a fire, insurer approval schemes have been designed to determine how well the building fabric will continue to resist fire spread after occupants have been evacuated, to preserve property and contents.

When assessing the performance of a complete construction, insurers recognise the limitations of focusing solely on small-scale individual product tests, such as those generally required for Building Regulations compliance. As such, their fire standards typically include large-scale testing of full systems as part of a product’s assessment. Indeed, case studies collected over the years by independent experts have shown that there is a very close correlation between the results of insurance industry large-scale testing and actual building fabric performance in real fires.

FM Approvals is a global testing and certification service run by FM Global, a worldwide insurance and risk management enterprise that specialises in loss prevention. Led by scientific research and rigorous testing, it ensures that every product meets the highest loss prevention standards of quality, technical integrity and performance. FM Approvals certification is recognised and respected by consumers and accreditation organisations around the world, including the United Kingdom Accreditation Service.

FM Approvals ensures that every product meets the highest loss prevention standards of quality, technical integrity and performance

FM Global considers that the full-scale testing involved enables the development of robust property loss prevention solutions that minimise the risk of operational downtime and supports business resilience.

As FM Approvals is conducted by a loss prevention insurer and accredited by numerous bodies, it can also help to make the process of insuring buildings simpler and quicker, making property more attractive to tenants.

As well as undergoing rigorous testing, FM Approvals requires manufacturers to undergo an ongoing auditing process to ensure that the products they send to the market will achieve the same standards as those that were tested. It states that “continuance of approval and listing depends on compliance with the approval agreement, satisfactory performance in the field, on successful re-examinations of equipment, materials, and services as appropriate, and surveillance audits of the manufacturing facility”. Any products or practices found to be missing the mark can lose their approved status.

It is important to note that the certification is only relevant for the specified build-ups that were tested. Using an alternative product, changing the formula or using any materials other than those specified would need to be reported and potentially retested to be considered certified.

A key factor for investors is the global recognition that FM Approvals commands, making it easier to attract both international funding and global tenants.

FM 4880 Approval Standard for Class 1 Fire Rating of Insulated Panels, Interior Finish Materials or Coatings and Exteriors Wall Systems is designed to assess how a panel could contribute to a fire. It is considered to be the foundation of the FM Approvals approach to determining the fire performance and assessing the risk of insulated panel systems.

Audi Dealership 1

The standard involves using a mixture of small- and larger-scale corner tests to assess the fire performance of these building panels or interior finish materials. Class 1 systems exhibit limited fire spread and fuel contribution in the event of fire.

FM 4880 categorises panels into two grades: Class 1 Limited Height (products must pass a 25ft FM room corner test and various other testing); and Class 1 No Height Restrictions (products must pass a 50ft FM room corner test or FM Approvals 16ft parallel panel test and various other testing).

Another standard – FM 4881 – was developed in 1992 following a Category 5 hurricane in North America. It builds on the fire performance requirements of FM 4880, seeking to establish how well these Class 1-rated panels resist damage when exposed to extreme weather conditions and natural hazards. This can help to determine their suitability for almost any geographic area, including those prone to cyclones.

Severe weather resistance

To achieve FM 4881, panels must first pass FM 4880 to determine that they are Class 1 fire rated. They are then tested to establish their wind load rating, windborne debris resistance and hail resistance. These tests have been designed to emulate natural weather hazards, with an initial set of static and cyclic pressure tests and a second simulated hail resistance test. This standard can therefore provide a valuable indicator of how well your property will stand up to the increasingly frequent severe weather events we are experiencing.

In addition, the FM 4471 test standard looks at the fire, wind, foot traffic and hail damage resistance of Class 1 panel roofs. This includes all the necessary components for the complete panel roof assembly. Tests include examining the potential for fire spread on the interior (FM 4880) and exterior (ASTM E108) of the roof panel, and its ability to resist simulated wind uplift and maintain adequate strength and durability.

Going even further, FM 4882 is the only testing regime of its kind in the world. Building on the performance requirements of FM 4880, it certifies that approved products do not allow self-propagation of fire and generate significantly less smoke than traditional wall or ceiling panels. This means they are appropriate for smoke-sensitive occupancies, such as facilities used for food or pharmaceutical manufacturing and storage. In addition to presenting a life safety risk, fires in these types of buildings can cause significant product losses and business downtime while the area is decontaminated of smoke debris. In fact, in many situations, the financial loss caused by smoke damage can be higher than those associated with direct flame damage.

The standard tests this performance through a combination of small-, medium- and large-scale fire tests designed to mimic real-life applications, including a severe 16ft parallel panel test.

As part of the drive to cut carbon emissions and make buildings more tenable over the long term, photovoltaics (PV) are becoming increasingly important – and often necessary – additions to the roof. This technology is not new; however, it is not currently regulated as a construction product in the UK.

An increase in the number of rooftop fires in recent years involving PV has led to the development of FM 4476 and 4478 to assess the performance of integrated and bolt-on photovoltaic systems on Class 1-certified roof assemblies. By recognising the need to assess the performance of the PV systems in combination with a certified roof, FM Approvals is supporting the construction industry to find innovative and safe solutions to the climate crisis and fill a serious gap in the regulatory system.

With this in mind, Kingspan insulated panels have been certified to a range of rigorous performance tests developed by FM Approvals. Kingspan has been testing and gaining certification to these standards for its products since 1995, and will be testing to FM 4476 and 4478 for its PV solutions, along with the new FM 4540 standard for fire-resistance-rated elements.

An insurer-backed warranty is available for the key areas of fire and thermal performance for up to 25 years, together with a 25-year circularity warranty and coatings warranty up to 40 years for Kingspan’s QuadCore range of insulated wall, roof and internal panel systems, providing a high level of confidence for property developers and owners.

About Kingspan

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Kingspan Insulated Panels manufactures a range of high-performance building envelope solutions primarily for the non-domestic sector, including steel-faced insulated panels, architectural wall panels and facade systems, wall daylighting solutions and coldstore and cleanroom systems. Kingspan Insulated Panels has consistently held FM Approvals certification for its tested products since 1995.