How can spandrel panels support building retrofit?

There are many reasons why a building may need to be refurbished or have retrofit works carried out. This can include routine repairs, upgrading thermal efficiency, improving aesthetics (especially when building has changed use or ownership) and of course to ensure fire safety and compliance following the multitude of changes we’ve seen come in over the past few years.

Where these projects involve a curtain wall system, there are several vital considerations that must be made – including what spandrel panel system to choose.

Why are spandrel panels so important?

Spandrel panels sit in non-vision areas to help to conceal the structure and services that lie between floors in multi-storey curtain wall buildings, adding visual interest or continuity to the facade. As part of the external wall finish, they have a key part to play in ensuring fire safety and compliance with the building regulations.

This is why spandrel panels – along with the rest of external wall systems – are subject to higher fire performance standards. Buildings in England and Wales require external walls of ‘relevant buildings’ over 18 metres in height, and more recently residential buildings in England between 11-18 metres in height, to be constructed with materials achieving European Class A1 or A2-s1,d0 in accordance with EN 13501-1 (Reaction to Fire). Scottish requirements go further, extending this to ‘relevant buildings’ over 11 metres or those below of a relevant construction (such as hospitals or residential care).

You can learn more about the fire ratings spandrel panels need to achieve in our blog.

In practice, creating an A1 panel is challenging due to the need for adhesives, with some products instead using mechanical fixings between the front and rear surfaces. However, these through fixings can compromise the thermal integrity of the panel and the wider facade as they offer a route for ‘cold bridging’, so specialist adhesives in panels achieving A2-s1,d0 often offer the best holistic solution.

What are the benefits of pre-insulated spandrel panels?

There are two main types of spandrel panel options. Traditional spandrel panels are built-up on site with a back sheet, insulation core and a face panel which are cut to size each time for every panel. However, more modern pre-insulated composite panels— such as Speedpanel A2®—combine internal and external facings, core material, tray, and other components into a single, pre-engineered unit. These types of spandrel panels offer several advantages over their built-up alternatives:

  1. Confidence in compliance

Whilst some products achieve an A1 rating at face-value because their components are non-combustible, that often doesn’t reflect the real-life fire performance of a panel or system. Instead, composite spandrel panels must be tested as entire units to be in accordance with EN 13501-1, which helps to reflect realistic fire performance and streamline specification.

  1. Reduced time and labour

Pre-insulated panels are designed for installers to be simply glazed into the facade, requiring no complex onsite assembly. This helps to reduce installation time, lessening the amount of time needed to work at height and the disruption to building users.

  1. Assured fit and finish

Tolerances are often tight in existing facades undergoing refurbishment. Pre-manufactured panels allow for thin profiles which are easy to slot into the existing frame.

  1. Consistent quality

Building facades often have tens or hundreds of spandrel panels, so consistent quality is essential for building-wide performance and efficient installation.

Our products have been used on several key facade retrofit projects— including those being completing under the Building Safety Fund. One of these projects has been the Citispace development in Leeds. You can read the case study here.

 

Want to learn more about the importance of spandrel panels in facade retrofits? Get in touch to book an in-person CPD session with our team.

Speedpanel

27 September 2023