Episode 11

Sustainability, Heating Networks, and Thermal Insulation

With recent regulation and guidance looking to encourage the sector to decarbonise projects and the growth in sustainable methods of construction such as off-site construction, there is still a great deal of work required to achieve net zero.

I am sure you have either managed or carried out an M&E installation on-site and thought:

  • How can the construction & M&E sector reach the net zero 2050 carbon emissions target with inefficient insulation?

The answer to this question starts with an open and honest dialogue with the entire construction & M&E supply chain, the policing of industry legislation and the continual drive to raise awareness of thermal efficiency within buildings.

To help you gain further insight into this question we sat down with Chris Ridge – the technical policy manager at TICA (Thermal Institute Contractors Association) to discuss the current situation and the importance of thermal contractors.

After listening to the podcast and reading the article you will understand:

  • The current progress to net zero 2050.
  • The heating and building strategy
  • What are the different types of heat networks available?
  • The challenges of poorly insulated pipework.
  • Code of Practice and pipe thickness insulation
  • How can early engagement help resolve space heating with residential applications?
  • How can early engagement help Manufacturers and Thermal Contractors?
  • Why do new buildings have to be ready for 2050?
  • Are there any other factors that can help us achieve net zero?
  • What are the challenges for building insulation when retrofitting buildings?
  • A short overview of the insulation and industrial market?
  • The implications of cheapest price vs spec compliance?
  • How can Modern Methods of Construction help?
  • What are TICA doing regarding Net Zero?

Please note the views expressed within this article are from Chris Ridge.

What is the current journey to net-zero 2050 looking like?

Space heating in buildings contributes nearly 25% of the UK’s carbon footprint. We’ve been discussing decarbonisation for nearly a decade and progress has been slow. However, there is now a real drive in the industry to do something positive – this was clearly reflected during COP 26 in Glasgow. Whilst there is a clear focus across the sector to achieve net-zero there is much to do in a short space of time. In fact, a huge amount of decarbonisation needs to be achieved by the end of the decade if we are going to meet 2050 targets. The drive to net-zero will impact the whole construction sector, including the mechanical and electrical, and thermal insulation sectors.

The heating and building strategy

The UK government recently published the heating and building strategy in October 2021. This helped to shine a light on the space heating methods that will be employed in order to meet our 2050 targets. At the heart of the report is a very big commitment to heat pumps. Whilst heat pumps are effectively an “electrification” solution, the Coefficient of Performance associated with heat pumps means that they are a far more efficient use of the UK’s electricity grid than direct electric heating technology. However, heat pumps cannot be the sole answer and a diversified approach is required. The Heat and Buildings Strategy also highlights Heat Networks as a key driver for decarbonisation.

What are the different types of heat networks available?

Heat Networks take heat from a central source and distribute it to buildings and apartments within their network. Heat networks can include large district heating schemes as well as stand-alone schemes with central plant.

It’s worth pointing out that whilst heat networks rely on central plant (rather than localised boilers in each apartment for example), heat networks that are heated by waste to energy plants and water from local rivers and mines are often referred to as “decentralised” systems because they are operating separately to the electricity and gas grids.

We can expect to see more and more innovative solutions from a heat network perspective.

For centralised heat networks, you will need to consider the heat losses from the source to the point of use. For example, the underground pipework that runs from the point of heat generation to the building (the primary network) and the pipework that runs from the incoming building plant area and through corridors and risers to individual apartments (the secondary network).

The challenges of poorly insulated pipework

A lot of work has been done around building insulation and the airtightness of buildings. However, if the pipe insulation specification is not fit for purpose this can result in excessive and costly heat losses and occupants living in buildings with overheating corridors and communal areas

What is the code of practice and how does it impact pipe insulation thickness?

At the beginning of this year, CIBSE released a code of practice for heat networks, CP1 code of practice for heat networks and it puts in some exacting performance criteria for insulation. This is perhaps a rare example of the wider industry getting involved in pipe insulation standards and a clear indication that good pipe insulation is being recognized as an important piece of the jigsaw when considering heat networks. Getting pipe insulation right can have a big impact in terms of heat loss and reducing the carbon within a building.

According to the code of practice, there should be a minimum insulation thickness of 50mm on heating pipework. This of course means that the pipe blocks and clips are going to have to size up too!

It will of course be interesting to see if a recognized minimum pipe insulation thickness will encourage architects to allow more room for services in ceiling voids and risers!

How can early engagement help resolve space heating with residential applications?

By the time the LTHW and domestic hot and cold services have been considered, ceiling voids can often be overcrowded with pipework. This can often leave the Thermal Contractor with very few options for the type of insulation they can use and can also make insulating to even the base British Standards really challenging. The code of practice should allow us to start an early, open, and honest conversation with design teams so that they can allow enough room in the building design for appropriate pipe insulation thicknesses.

How can early engagement help Manufacturers and Thermal Contractors?

The CIBSE CP1 Code of Practice states a maximum permissible heat loss value of 876 kW.h per dwelling per year. The M&E design team will have to prove that this can be achieved at the design stage. Reducing heat losses from the secondary heating pipework will play a big role in achieving the maximum permissible heat limits. This means that thermal insulation manufacturers will need to step up and offer W/m heat loss calculations based on project-specific information

  • Thickness of pipe insulation
  • Thermal (lambda) value of pipe insulation
  • Service temperature of pipework
  • Size of pipework

Currently, the pipe insulation specification is often lacking in performance detail and it is left open to interpretation by the contracting team at the eleventh hour. We know that if it is designed for and set in stone in the early stages of a project then pipe insulation will only go wrong if someone breaks the specification and with the code of practice that will be more difficult to do.

I think the CIBSE code of practice will drive further awareness across the entire supply chain. The code of practice will help to focus mechanical contractors’ minds on the thermal performance of the pipework system and encourage them to specify and install thermally efficient insulated pipe supports to the same thickness as the insulation system, rather than turning to less efficient options. Installers will also be more inclined to carry out a compliant installation. This will all help to ensure the heating network within a building is efficient.

Early engagement

Why do new buildings have to be ready for 2050?

It is imperative that we do get to a position where this is policed and heat network projects undergo a rigorous quality assurance approach. 20% of the buildings that will be around in 2050 have not been built. I think it’s useful to see things almost like a balance sheet, where every building that does not meet that criteria goes into that liability column, and every building that is being built 2050 ready or 2050 enabled (with a few improvements it will be 2050 ready) is an asset.

Are there any other factors that can help us achieve net zero?

If we look at the UK’s carbon reduction timeline, the various forecasts show that we are focusing on operational carbon in the medium term – this is where the switch to heat pump and heat network technology will hopefully do a large amount of the heavy lifting. The work now needs to be done to get things working of course, but if we are successful then by the 2030’s a large proportion of what is left will be tied up Embodied Carbon (the carbon footprint associated with the manufacturing and distribution of actual building materials). Embedded carbon is probably a more challenging one to face but good work is already being done in this regard. emphasis on embedded carbon is going to see a concentration on retrofitting buildings rather than building new.

What are the challenges for building insulation when retrofitting buildings?

The growing emphasis on embedded carbon is going to see a concentration on retrofitting buildings rather than building new ones. 80% of the buildings that will be around in the UK in 2050 have already been built. How many of these are net zero carbon ready? Retrofitting places a greater importance on the M&E sector as building services will often be the biggest single element of future retrofit projects. The ideal situation would be if we could replace gas boilers with heat pumps, but this may not be possible in all circumstances. We can hope that hydrogen will play a part, but it is unlikely to do so this decade. On the most basic level building owners can start checking that their pipe insulation is adequately installed and ask the following questions.

  • Is there pipework system adequately insulated?
  • Are the valves insulated?

Insulation and the Industrial Market

The industrial market and the impact of insulation is quite remarkable. According to the EIIF ‘Industrial Insulation’ Fact sheet 2021, the national insulation savings potential from insulating pipework in the industrial/power generation markets alone is equivalent to the annual energy consumption of: 863,000 households or more than 1.7 million cars.

Industrial Insulation

The implications of cheapest price vs spec compliance #1

M&E contractors and main contractors must take the work thermal contractors do seriously as it would make a huge difference in terms of the energy performance of a building. If M&E Contractors will need to place a higher value on thermal insulation as a key enabler for a successful project. 

The implications of cheapest price vs spec compliance #2

Actually, the value of doing things right is very important. We need to examine the overall lifetime cost of constructing and operating a building and ensure the M&E services are as efficient as they can be. By insulating pipework correctly, we can ensure that the building will cost a lot less over the building's life span and emit a lot less carbon. When people talk about price and focus on the initial capital cost only, they are robbing the future for the present.

In many cases, the cheapest price that comes in can be the result of a contractor misunderstanding the level of insulation or type of insulation required in a specification. As a result, two things can happen: either the contractor will get hit in the pocket because they must amend the insulation, or they get away with it and the problem is passed down to the occupant/owner resulting in overheated buildings and energy losses. It is therefore important to open up a dialogue with the thermal contractor at an early stage of the project.

Are Modern Methods of Construction helping the sector achieve net zero?

I think what has been missing from the conversation is that on-site elements are often siloed. Problems can occur when the Thermal Insulation Contractor is not involved with the offsite process. We should start by asking the following questions:

  • How do we ensure continuity of product and specification compliance when the Offsite facility favours product A and the Thermal Contractor favours product B?
  • How do we decide who is responsible for the thermal insulation workmanship at junctions between the offsite and onsite installation?

I think that the insulation contractor should be consulted at an early engagement stage and should be involved in the decision-making process. The chosen insulation material and thermal performance specification should be agreed between the Thermal Insulation Contractor and their client before the final offsite module designs are completed. The Thermal Insulation Contractor should then be employed to manage the thermal insulation installation, both onsite and offsite.

The importance of Net Zero Carbon and what are TICA are doing?

The drive towards Net zero carbon is definitely gathering pace. Last year’s release of the construction playbook placed a greater emphasis on net zero carbon. Recently the government have introduced procurement rules, these rules mean that any contractors looking to bid on a government contract above £5 million must outline a carbon reduction plan to show how they will achieve net zero. We can expect this practice to filter through to M&E Contractors and Thermal Insulation Contractors as Main Contractors look to show that they are behaving responsibly within their own supply chains.

We recently installed solar panels at TICA house. They will supply all our newly installed electric vehicle charging points with renewable energy and help us to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles. We are also taking many other small but meaningful steps. It is a journey we are going through so we can show our members what it is going to look like. I would suggest that we are all in this together and we are all going to have to undergo a similar journey.

REFERENCES

The Heating and Building Strategy [Gov UK, 2021] accessible: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1036226/E02666137_CP_388_Heat_and_Buildings_Accessible.pdf

CIBSE/ADE CP1 (2020) Code of Practice [purchased here: https://www.cibse.org/knowledge/knowledge-items/detail?id=a0q3Y00000IMrmGQAT]

Episode 10

How to control thermal expansion

The critical importance of thermal expansion

For the specification and installation of all pipework, thermal expansion must be considered. Defined simply as 'the general increase in the volume of a material as its temperature is increased' thermal expansion can, if not managed, cause pipes to leak,

As a provider to the M&E sector, questions around thermal expansion often crop up. For those specifying and installing pipework, thermal expansion is an issue that must be managed. In order to gain a deeper understanding of this topic we caught up with Dan Baker from Stourflex, a leading supplier of pipework expansion joints and pipeline equipment as part of our podcast series.

After listening to the podcast you will have an overview of:

• What is thermal expansion?

• How can you control thermal expansion?

• Why do some contractors blame expansion bellows for pipe failure?

• At what stage of an M&E project should expansion thermal products be involved?

• What advice would you give to a contractor on a project regarding thermal expansion?

What is thermal expansion?

As Dan explains: "thermal expansion in Lehman's terms is how a material reacts in a change of temperature so when you heat a piece of steel how far it grows over its length. For example in our industry, steel pipe will be at a low temperature at water situation and will, once heated up, over a 30 metre length will expand 30mm for example”

How can we control thermal expansion?

As Dan states "If you do not try to mitigate thermal expansion then it is hard to know whether or not the pipe will burst from the movement. For instance, if a pipe elbow grows in length, as soon as you install it you are likely to get leaks. When I look at thermal expansion, we look at the whole pipe system, examine how much it is growing by over its length, and look at the best ways to control that expansion". It is typically an issue for low temperature at water systems, steam systems, and chilled systems, which can cause an issue over a bigger period of time.

Is it the same for all types of pipe?

No. We are looking for the temperature of the pipe material, that is what dictates thermal expansion. For example, a 15mm copper pipe will expand the same as a 150mm copper pipe.

What is the best way to mitigate the risk of thermal expansion?

There are numerous different ways to mitigate the risk of thermal expansion. The first is through the natural flexibility of pipework, the other way is by adding expansion bellows into the pipework system.

Is Pipework installation the main cause of failure?

In most cases, yes it is. For instance, if we have installed expansion bellows into the pipework but they have not been adequately supported then the expansion bellow can fail under the weight of the pipe. This is outside of our control as a supplier. We can carry out load checks and specify the anchors that should be used, but if it has been installed incorrectly, then we are not liable.

Can early engagement help resolve installation issues?

Early and continued engagement is recommended to resolve the majority of issues. The sooner a conversation starts between the entire supply chain the more time to resolve installation issues. For us, as a supplier, we recommend that the consultant starts the conversation around thermal expansion and outlines with the specification the importance of mitigating the risk of thermal expansion. Once the specification is taken on by the contractor, it must be their responsibility to ensure that the pipework system is installed correctly with expansion joints and associated supporting anchors/fixings where required.

What advice would you give to a contractor on a project regarding thermal expansion?

Communication and early engagement are critical to the success of mitigating the risk of thermal expansion for pipe runs. Here are four points to consider:

• Early dialogue with project consultants to raise awareness around the importance of thermal expansion and the need to add natural flexibility at the design stage of pipe systems.

• The importance of supporting anchors and fixings.

• To encourage contractors to collaborate with qualified consultants in the industry.

• Keep communication free-flowing throughout a project’s lifecycle.

What is the future for expansion joints and bellows?

Within the industry, there is an increasing awareness around thermal expansion and a clear idea of how to control it. The growth in modular core risers has led to a greater need to understand how thermal expansion can have an impact on pipework systems. This comes from an increased focus on the protection of branches, low temperature, and hot water pipe runs in risers. Companies like Stourflex are investing in R&D to bring about innovations that will solve more problems created by thermal expansion.


Episode 9

Why is Galvanizing important for M&E supports?

For products and solutions supporting mechanical and electrical services, the environment surrounding and finish of the product can impact its product life.

Although the ISO standards are well-known within the industry, we thought we would sit down with a galvanizer to get a real insight into galvanizing.

A member of our sales team Jake Lyons sat down with Lucy Foster-Bowen from Joseph Ash Galvanising to discuss galvanizing. By the end of the blog, you will find out the following information:

1.) What is galvanizing?

2.) The history of galvanizing.

3.) How do you galvanize steel, what is the process?

4.) What is the life expectancy of a product after galvanization?

5.) What is the issue of ventilation and draining?

6.) What does the term ‘pre-galvanised finish’ mean?

7.) What are the environmental impacts of galvanizing?

8.) Will the demand continue to grow for galvanizing?

The importance of galvanization can’t be underestimated, especially within the M&E industry where an unsuitable finish on a length of steel can impact its durability over time.

What is galvanizing?

According to the galvanizing association, galvanizing is the process of applying a protective zinc coating to iron steel, to prevent rusting.

What is the history of galvanizing?

As Lucy explains, galvanizing has been around since the 1700s, when it was first discovered that a zinc coating could be obtained on iron, by immersing it in molten zinc. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 19th century that a man named Sorel from France took out the first of many patents for the process of coating steel by dipping it in molten zinc after first cleaning it” (Galvanizers Association, 2020). In the UK, the first use of galvanizing corrugated iron was believed to have been in 1844, in Pembroke Docks. By 1850 the British Galvanizing industry was using 10,000 tonnes of zinc a year. Galvanizing is used today for practically anything that is situated outside, from lampposts to fences, security products to drain covers.

Take me through the process of galvanizing steel

Hot dip galvanizing has been used worldwide for well over a century because it provides a long-life, low-maintenance corrosion protection which safeguards the steel from atmospheric attack. Applying a hot dip galvanizing process to steelwork provides fabrications with a robust, durable, and corrosion protective finish that under normal conditions will last for many years without maintenance of any sort.

It is simply the process of applying a protective zinc coating through alloy layers to steel, to prevent rusting. The most common technique is hot-dip galvanizing, in which a section of steel is submerged in a bath of molten zinc. The process has remained similar for many years, other than the different bath setup and bath chemistry.

All galvanizing at Joseph Ash plants adheres to BS EN ISO 1461:2009 and BS EN ISO 9000 quality assurance specifications. We are first looking to ensure that the piece of material is as clean as possible before we introduce it to zinc.

What is the life expectancy of a product after galvanizing?

As a supplier to the M&E Industry, we are often asked for advice on which finish is suitable for a particular application, dependent on the environment. There are standards to adhere to, such as ISO 1461. For the galvanizer, the standard states how much zinc we need to put on the product, based on the thickness of the product to enable it to last ‘X’ number of years. The corrosion category of an anchor's finish is also a critical factor for anchor selection. The simple answer is that although there are guidelines as a galvanizer that we should follow, there is no guarantee that the product will last ‘X’ amount of years. The guide provided by the galvanizers association outlines the standards for each finish.

What is ventilation and draining?

Venting and draining are two integral parts of the galvanization process and are important topics of conversation. The reason why this topic is important is that when we are introducing a product into a hot and pressurized environment, there should be suitable hanging holes within the material, for a 2D product this is relatively straightforward but for a 3D product hanging holes need to be positioned with precision because there is a higher risk of an ‘air lock’. What we want is for the air to escape from the product and zinc to enter the product. When air is introduced into a zinc bath at temperatures of 450 degrees we may risk explosion through a weld or a plate, or the path of least resistance which can sadly lead to a loss of life. To reduce the risk of this occurring we encourage and educate our customers to understand where to add holes. The location of draining and venting holes also influences the product quality.

What does the term 'pre-galvanized' mean?

We often hear the term “Pre-galvanized” and although this is a type of finish, that looks aesthetically pleasing, it offers very little in terms of protection against corrosion. This is usually requested when there is a limited understanding of galvanizing.

What are the environmental impacts of galvanizing?

The environmental impact of galvanizing is very important, traditionally the industry has been seen as old-fashioned & industrial, but in fact, when compared to other methods of finishing, galvanizing has the least environmental impact. As a manufacturer, we are audited regularly on the sustainability of our practices. The market is changing, many years ago, customers were winning quotes based on pricing or delivery, but now the environmental impact and social values are taken into consideration. For customers who wish to see the environmental impact of our galvanizing process, they can access the information if they request it.

Will the demand continue to grow for galvanizing?

One area we are expected to see growth is social housing. As the demand for social housing increases so does the requirement for galvanized steel as ultimately it leads to a lower maintenance budget over the lifetime of the house because the steel won’t need to be maintained for a good number of years, it can be left alone. As discussed earlier, with contractors requiring all projects to meet certain sustainability targets, it’s likely that they may turn to a hot-dip galvanized finish over other finishes, not only for application purposes but also to remain environmentally friendly.

How does galvanizing impact M&E supports?

Quite simply, galvanizing impacts every M&E project. In particular, the finish of fixings and anchors, as well as supports for pipework and electrical services, rely heavily upon the galvanizing. A case in point is BS 8539 – British Standard for post-installed anchors for concrete and masonry as part of the selection criteria all anchors should be selected based on their environment, therefore an anchor and fixing should have an appropriate finish for their environment.

Conclusion

Galvanizing can be found all around us, in everyday life. Overall, for stakeholders within the M&E industry galvanizing should be discussed before any solution is supplied to site. If the finish of a solution isn’t considered, then it can lead to failure on-site.

Episode 8

How can technological innovation help the M&E sector deliver projects on time?

How can technological innovation help the M&E sector deliver projects on time?

The M&E sector has gone through tremendous technological change within the past sixty years. Perhaps the most significant of them all was the introduction of Computer-Aided Design (CAD). Designing buildings went from a purely pencil to paper task to 3D modeling using sophisticated computer modelling software.

To get a better understanding of how technological innovation has impacted the delivery of M&E installations we caught up with a CAD team in one of our recent podcasts.

After listening to the podcast, you will have an overview of the following questions:

• What design software is commonly used and how can it help an M&E contractor?

• Why do M&E designs go through so many iterations?

• Is it possible for BIM to be the solution?

• How would communication and early engagement help reduce design iterations?

• How can M&E contractors help the process?

• Are there any emerging technologies that could impact the design of service supports?

• Are there any unseen external factors that are commonly overlooked which may impact a full design?

What design software is commonly used and how can it help an M&E contractor?

As the CAD team explains, most of the designs sent across are modeled in 3D, so naturally, we draw our models in 3D CAD. Over a certain size, Navisworks model becomes the industry standard. From a contractor’s point of view, it is always best to work with Navisworks models because in most cases the model enables designers to see everything in the surrounding environment to detect service clashes. This is critical, as in most cases designs are drawn up but the reality on-site is very different. Issues such as parasitic loading otherwise known as ‘piggy backing’ can mean clashes are very common, so if a support frame has been designed to set criteria and then that criteria changes, regardless of the technology used to create the design, the supplied design won’t be compliant.

Why, is it, that within the M&E sector, the first design is never the final?

There is no simple answer to this question. In other industries such as automotive, a quality-controlled timeline of procedures lead to fewer design iterations. Typically, within the M&E sector unforeseen circumstances, for example, changes to the specification of services as a result of pricing, delivery and availability, can mean models are sometimes inaccurate once they reach those that are designing the supports of the services.

Is it possible for BIM to be the solution?

According to ISO 19650:2019 BIM can be described as the “use of shared digital representation of a built asset to facilitate design, construction and operation processes to form a reliable basis for decisions”. As technology and digital data improved business information modelling (BIM) began to be utilised amongst principal contractors. However, not all contractors have access to the latest BIM framework. The recent release of the governments ‘construction playbook’ outlined a vision that all public sector contractors should use the UK BIM framework to standardise the many different data variables for a project. The Construction playbook also advocates the UK BIM framework to be utilised to suppliers as well. However, for the reality of many, entire supply chains do not have access or the technology to really make the most out of BIM. Unless BIM is universally applied across the entire supply chain then this is unlikely to make a different to the time it takes to deliver accurate supports for services.

How would communication and early engagement help reduce design iterations?

As with many issues around the M&E sector early and continued engagement between the entire supply chain can reduce the amount of time it takes between design and delivery of supports. For instance, in many cases, the supply of M&E supports is left to the last minute, along with the anchors/fixings. This last-minute approach means not enough attention and time is given to ensure communication and information flow runs seamlessly throughout the chain. As the information needs to flow vertically (up the chain), changes from one installer may impact the accuracy of information passed onto the designers of the supports. There have been occasions where due to the design accuracy of the original building model, and the fact that service installers have gone to meet their deadlines, designs for services supports have had to be redrawn.

How can M&E contractors help the process?

M&E contractors can play a significant role in helping the process. Their willingness to communicate with the entire supply chain early can help to minimise interruptions. This can be as simple as making the supplier aware of any changes to the services, the timeline of other installations. As well as early and continued engagement, it is important that we are provided with a 3D design model preferably within Navisworks, as that way we can see the 3D environment and can identify service clashes.

Are there any emerging technologies that could impact the design of service supports?

3D scanning is another form of technology that can help improve the accuracy of a design. For example, if a highly accurate 3D scan is provided of the whole site, it can help especially when you need literal millimetre accuracy. However, at the end of the day however accurate a Navisworks model or Revit model is it won’t ever be perfect on-site. 3D scanning technology will revolutionise the design of M&E supports, as you can’t miss anything.

Are there any unseen external factors that are commonly overlooked which may impact a full design?

There are two key factors that influence the design accuracy and delivery of designed supports.

Firstly, legislation and compliance will become a central issue that will force a contractor’s hands. As an example, if a design for M&E support has been ‘signed off/approved by the contractor and then the extra load is placed upon that support then the design is no longer valid. Within the M&E sector this is quite common, otherwise known as ‘piggy backing’. If a site failure occurs under these circumstances, it is the contractor that is liable not the supplier.

The second more deep-rooted problem is the necessary mindset change. Every person is a creature of habit, if their work is based upon time-critical decisions, it is highly unlikely that behaviour will change. Traditionally, within a project, services are seen as a priority but not the supports. It is only when the designers provide a full 3D CAD model rather than a 2D ‘fag packet’ drawing and there is a move towards the long term safety of a building rather than short-term costs, will there be a difference.


Episode 7

What is meant by the term 'fire rating'?

What is the fire performance data or ‘fire rating’ of products within a cable management system?

Since the tragedy of Grenfell, many contractors/buyers within the M&E sector request fire performance data as part of a product’s technical specification. With the industry heading towards a compliant, evidence-based, traceable future this is a question which will continually asked, and it deserves an answer. As a provider to the sector, it is a question we are asked weekly.

“Can you provide the fire performance data of channel, threaded rod etc”

To remove confusion around fire performance data and to tackle this topic in an open and honest manner, we decided to put it as a core topic in one of our podcasts.

After listening to the full podcast, the following questions can be answered:

• What does the term ‘fire rating’ mean?

• Why the German standard DIN 4102-12 is not a suitable standard for testing cable basket.

• Why BS 476 fire curve is not a reliable indicator for the performance of cable management systems

• Why should the industry understand the meaning of a ‘fire rated’ product?

• How can an M&E contractor follow best practice?

“There is no point having a fire-rated product that after 120 minutes has the load-bearing capacity of a leaf” (Tim Brown, 2020)

Define ‘fire rating’

When a buyer requests the ‘fire rating’ of a particular product, there is no definitive answer. What they are commonly looking for is the classification shown on the BS 476 fire curve. To carry out a test compliant with the British Standard, a specific material is put under a furnace for a set amount of time (usually, 2 hours) whilst the temperature gradually rises. Time and ambient temperature are recorded until a product is deemed to ‘fail’. After the test has been carried out, the manufacturer can say that their product can withstand temperatures of ‘X’ over a given time.

Why is the standard DIN 4102-12 not a suitable standard to provide the fire performance data of a cable management system?

To put it simply DIN 4102-12 is a standard to test cable. It therefore can’t be validated against a whole cable management system, for example a cable basket.

Why BS 476 shouldn’t be relied upon.

BS 476 is the go-to British Standard for identifying a ‘fire-rating’. However, just because a product can withstand a certain ambient temperature it does not mean that the product has the same working load. To answer this question as best as possible, there needs to be a universal test which covers not just individual components that make up an M&E support, but the whole system, including all associated anchors/fixings. The results should also take into consideration how the ambient temperature effects the working load capacity a complete M&E support.

When specifying cable management systems, the buyer should ask:

1. Has the fire test been carried out by a third party?

2. Is the test based on an ambient temperature or based on the performance of the product at the end of the test?

3. How is the load performance of a cable management system after the fire test.

Why it is important to understand terminology?

In an industry often dominated by generational product language, terms used can be confusing and misunderstood. For example, if we simply take anchors/fixings, a ‘deformation-controlled anchor’ are frequently referred to as: wedge anchors, drop-ins, red-heads, ceiling anchors etc. This misconception can damage trust within the supply chain.

For example, M&E contractors may assume that if a cable has undergone fire testing then that would mean that the whole cable management system has achieved a fire rating. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. As there is no harmonised fire rating standard for a cable management system, the manufacturer can’t provide a ‘fire performance rating’ in the truest sense of the word. Removing the confusion around technical terms helps to set expectations between the supply chain.

As the industry moves towards a traceable, evidence-based future, terminology must be clear. If a manufacturer has claimed that a product is ‘fire rated’ to a certain standard, and that product fails, then the manufacturer is liable.

How about other fixings?

The topic of fire rating is also referred to when a buyer specifies anchors/fixings. As we know, anchors/fixings are often left to the last minute and therefore specified anchors may not be fit for purpose.

However, if an ETA-approved anchor has been specified then fire performance data can be given as it is shown through the ETA certificate. However, regardless of the ‘fire-rating’ recorded, it does not take into consideration the impact temperature has on the load-bearing performance of the anchor.

Are there any other organisations looking into this issue?

There are several key organisations within the industry that looking to create a universal standard. If we look at BEMA, they have spent time and resources creating a separate cable management committee.

As Tim notes within the podcast, the committee is completely devoted to creating a standard. However, standards take a long time to create, as it requires the full ‘buy-in’ from all relevant stakeholders. Not only must the standard be created but it then must be promoted within the industry to help educate the supply chain. This is off course a separate but just as important task.

How can an M&E contractor abide by best practice?

In an industry faced with tight deadlines, time is of critical importance. As with many issues within the industry, early and continued engagement with the relevant stakeholders is necessary to ensure the whole supply chain is confident to answer the questions around, the ‘fire rating’ of a product. Without this necessary early, open and honest continued engagement then it is highly likely that products will be supplied on-site without the necessary performance data. As a provider to the M&E sector we recommend that contractors ask the following questions, when given a ‘fire rating’ of a product.

• What is the fire rating of the product?

• The first route a contractor should take is to speak to the manufacturer’s technical department and ask the following questions:

• What tests have been carried out?

• Have those tests been carried out by a third party?

• Can you provide test results?

• Can you provide performance data after testing?

To conclude, the industry is heading in the right direction with the supply chain in agreement that any asset that is supplied on-site must have quantifiable evidence to back-up its performance. As the building safety bill is amended, it will include the ‘Golden Thread’ legislation. To put it simply the intention of this legislation is to ensure that one stakeholder, otherwise known as the ‘duty holder’ will be responsible for managing the performance data on each and every product supplied to site that could potentially impact the health and safety of the building or its occupants.


Episode 6

Zinc whiskers and the risk to data centres

The topic of zinc whiskers has been discussed within the mechanical and electrical sector for quite a long time. Almost all products that support M&E services have zinc present in their surface layer to protect the base material from erosion. Zinc whiskers typically grow out of stress from the manufacturing process, cutting/bending cable management on-site. 

Traditionally those that specify cable management systems (ladder, basket, tray) for data centre environments outline the risks of zinc whiskers and how they can be mitigated. If zinc whiskers break free from the base material they can easily get into hardware through the air conditioning and cause data centre downtime. 

In our latest podcast, Steve Grknic sits down with Tim Brown from Zip-Clip to discuss the impact zinc whiskers have on M&E supports within a data centre. Tim provides answers to the following questions:

  1. What are zinc whiskers?
  2. When were zinc whiskers discovered?
  3. How do zinc whiskers grow?
  4. How do they cause damage within a data centre environment?
  5. What are the best ways to reduce the risk of zinc whiskers?

There are currently over 6,041 data centres running across the world (Statista, 2021). This number will continue to grow with our insatiable demand for data. Tim has researched zinc whiskers for over twenty years and still, to this day, are often regarded as a myth. In this blog, we take you through the main findings from our podcast.


Episode 5

BS 8539:2012 Code of Practice Guide

BS 8539 Code of Practice for post-installed anchors for concrete and masonry.

Anchors are a small component to which little consideration is frequently given but are absolutely vital to preventing the collapse of the structure or installation that depends on them. It is quite common to hear that they are only specified once on-site, this does not allow enough time for the necessary guidance outlined in BS 8539 Code of Practice to be followed.

The introduction of BS 8539:2012 Code of practice for post-installed anchors for concrete and masonry has helped towards this change. The main purpose of BS 8539 is to reduce the risk of site failures caused by poor anchor/fixing selection, installation, and training. The guidance outlines the roles and responsibilities of all those within the anchor and fixing supply chain and best practices for anchor selection, supply, installation, and testing.

To provide a deeper insight into BS 8539:2012 and its impact on the M&E sector we caught up with Peter Gorden from RawlPlug, one of the largest European manufacturers of anchors/fixings.

After the podcast, you will have a clear understanding of:

• BS 8539:2012 overview

• Key points from BS 8539:2012

• Why was BS 8539:2012 Code of Practice introduced?

• Who does BS 8539:2012 affect?

• How does BS 8539 affect designers, specifiers, contractors, installers, site testers, manufacturers, and suppliers?

• When selecting an anchor, what factors should be considered?

• Understanding substrates

• How does BS 8539:2012 differentiate between cracked and non-cracked concrete?

• How does BS 8539 guide the specifier to understand the load rating when selecting an anchor?

• What role does the environment surrounding an anchor play in selecting an anchor?

• What are the working principles of an anchor/fixing?

• What type of approvals should be considered when selecting an anchor?

• What are should a supplier offer?

• Can you change the specified anchor to another of similar size and description?

• How does the BS 8539:2012 affect the installer?

• Why do anchors/fixings fail?

• How can you provide evidence of a compliant anchor/fixing installation?

• How does BS 8539:2012 code of practice guide on-site testing?

• How does a subcontractor provide evidence of a compliant anchor/fixing installation?

• Before a proof test is carried out onsite, what type of information do you require?

• What is an anchor/fixing policy?

Why should I follow the guidance within BS 8539:2012 Code of Practice?

Although it is not applied by law, if followed BS 8539 can help to remind those within the anchor/fixing supply chain of their individual roles and responsibilities and ultimately reduce the risk of site failure caused by poor anchor/fixing selection, installation/training, and testing.

What are the main points of BS 8539?

• Always specify an ETA-approved anchor, if it is available.

• Installers must be trained and 'competent' before carrying out anchor installations

• If the original anchor/fixing that has been specified does not arrive on-site, then an alternative anchor can only be proposed if the change management procedure is followed.

• All anchor/fixing testing must be carried out in accordance with Construction Fixing Association (CFA) guidance and should only be completed by a CFA-trained tester.

Why was BS 8539:2012 Code of Practice introduced?

The code of practice was actually an adaption of previous Irish standards, introduced because of several fatalities, proven to be caused by poor anchor selection & installation. The primary purpose of BS 8539 is to both educate and guide every stakeholder within the anchor/fixing supply chain to ensure both the safe selection and installation of anchors/fixings into concrete and masonry.

What am I responsible for?

The code of practice outlines the role of each stakeholder and their responsibility. If you are reading this article and you fall between one of the following stakeholders then BS 8539 can provide advice.

• Designer

• Specifier

• Installer

• Site tester

• Manufacturer

• Supplier

How do I select an anchor/fixing?

Several factors need to be considered before specifying an anchor.

• What type of substrate is the anchor/fixing being installed into?

• Loadings - what will the applied load be on the anchor/fixing, if an ETA-approved anchor has been specified this information would be outlined within the report.

• Environment - the type of environment surrounding an anchor will determine its working load over time, for example, corrosive environments such as a chlorinated environment require a different finish of anchor over an anchor installed inside a car park.

• How will the anchor/fixing be installed - more relevant to the installer, however, depending on if the anchor/fixing is a pre-installed flush fixing (e.g. deformation-controlled anchor) or a through fixing,

• What are the working principles of the anchor/fixing

• What approvals do I need?

How do I supply an anchor/fixing?

BS 8539 is clear, you should only supply the specific anchor that has been specified. The task seems simple, but it isn't, because in many cases cost is still considered as the dominant determining factor in anchor selection, so if the procurement/buyer team believes the specified anchor is too expensive then it most likely won't be supplied to the site.

Under BS 8539 it is the responsibility of the supplier to ensure:

• The specified anchor arrives on-site unless a specific change management procedure has been followed.

• Ensure all associated setting equipment is offered to the contractor such as drill bits, hole cleaning equipment, setting tools, torque wrench etc. in order that the installer can install anchors correctly

• Provide installation training or facilitate this being provided by the manufacturer.

• Provide guidance in anchor selection.

• Ensure the change management procedure is adhered to if asked for alternatives

How do I install an anchor?

By following the manufacturer's instructions. The guidance states that any individual carrying out anchor installations must be 'competent. 'Competent' is defined as: 'suitably trained and qualified by knowledge and practical experience, and provided with the necessary instructions, to enable the required task(s) to be carried out correctly. Quite often there is a misunderstanding around the importance of using the correct setting tool for that specific anchor and how to correctly tighten an anchor. Please find the anchor installer videos available from the resources section.

There are a few situations where an installer/supervisor should stop carrying out an installation and refer to site management or engineering before proceeding. This practice should be encouraged on-site and is another reason why we recommend the BS 8539:2012 awareness session, typical examples of when an anchor installer should stop are:

• Rebar - if you strike reinforcing bar whilst drilling.

• Tension bars - if you strike tension bars whilst drilling

• If you come across an unknown base material

• If you do not have the required information such as drill diameter and depth to install the anchor

• If you do not have the relevant tools such as setting tools or torque wrenches

• If you are asked to install a non-specified anchor

How do I test an anchor, should I carry out a 'pull' test?

Technically, a 'pull' test doesn't exist, BS 8539 outlines two main type of anchor/fixing tests:

1.) Allowable load test (determines the allowable working load of an anchor for that particular substrate)

2.) Proof test (verifies the quality of the anchor installation')

Allowable load test

An allowable load test is carried out where the application involved is not covered by a relevant ETA, or the strength and condition of the base material is unknown, with no published data. Without carrying out an allowable load test you can’t accurately determine the allowable working load of the anchor.

Proof testing

Ultimately, a proof test tests the quality of the anchor installation. These tests are usually carried out after the anchor has been installed.

How do you carry out a ‘proof test’?

A test load is applied to the anchor (no more than 1.5 x recommended) and any movement is observed. This type of test only validates the installation.

How do you carry out an allowable load test?

A pre-determined number of anchors are installed into the substrate. The test metre is attached to each anchor, in-turn, and loaded to a pre-determined level. At this point, the readings are recorded. Each anchor is then taken to a failure point and the readings are recorded. Following on all anchor tests, the average value has a safety factor applied, which gives us our new recommended load for this anchor in the tested substrate.

Both of these tests are often referred to as a 'pull' test. This is the incorrect term but it reinforces the need to raise awareness about the two main types of tests available.

Peter Gordan states that: "many now see 'proof testing' as a box-ticking exercise or a commercial requirement more than a safe installation issue".

How do we reduce the chances of site failures caused by anchors/fixings?

Bracket suspension failures occur too frequently on-site. The best way to mitigate the risk is by following the guidance outlined in BS 8539. Anchors and fixings compliance will not go away, fortunately, as the industry is changing and the confidence rises between the whole supply chain, the selection, supply, installation, and testing of anchors will start to become compliant.


Episode 4

Firestopping guide for building services contractors

Since the recent tragedy of Grenfell, building design and safety has become a national conversation, listen closely and the majority of them will be around passive fire protection. This has led to a greater amount of building service contractors taking on the responsibility of passive fire protection. The growing concern is that many of those contractors have not received adequate training and are not aware of best practices in relation to the supply, installation, training and testing of fire stopping solutions.

As this is clearly a topic of conversation around the M&E sector, it was our intention to provide a deeper insight into fire stopping. We caught up with Andrew Kay, an experienced mind, who has been talking and working within passive fire protection for over 20 years, to discuss this topic.

Within our conversation we discuss the basics of firestopping and move onto best practices around supply, installation, training and testing.

After listening to the podcast, you will have an overview of:

• Firestopping

• The different firestopping products available.

• Where firestopping products should be installed.

• Legislation and regulation around testing firestopping products

• Firestopping classifications around products

• The importance of surface suspension points either side of the wall

• How do you provide evidence of a compliant installation?

• Recent examples of firestopping best practice on-site


Episode 3

Can we insulate our way to net zero carbon by 2050?

As the construction and M&E sector heads towards a sustainable future, there is a great deal of work needed to achieve net-zero and it will take supply chains to work together. With contractors focused on delivering M&E installations on time, the importance of selecting, supplying, and installing pipe insulation blocks and their impact on carbon emissions can be forgotten.  In order to gain a deeper insight into pipe insulation, we invited an experienced head to discuss the topic in more detail.

After watching the podcast you will have a deeper understanding of:

  • What points need to be considered when specifying insulated pipe support blocks?
  • What are the main issues for a contractor after installation?
  • How can inefficient thermal insulation impact residents?
  • Which British Standards need to be considered?
  • What impact will net-zero have on the construction industry?
  • How can we keep pipe support insulation at the front of a contractor's mind?

As is often the case, the solution lies in early and continued engagement between the supply chain. For contractors to take pipe insulation blocks seriously, they must understand the consequences of poor practice. For example, poorly installed pipe insulation blocks can impact the safety of residents because of overheating, not to mention spiraling costs due to thermal inefficiencies. Overall bad practice reduces the chances of the industry reaching net zero 2050.



Episode 2

Wire suspension systems - Why M&E contractors are taking notice

Why M&E contractors are specifying wire suspension systems?

With over 40 years of experience, Tim Brown (ZipClip) in today’s podcast discusses why the M&E industry is recognising wire/zip systems as the preferred choice over traditional methods of threaded rod suspension.

He discusses:

  1. What are the key reasons why M&E contractors are not specifying wire/zip systems
  2. Why accountability and performance data is helping contractors to change their perception of wire systems
  3. What the future of wire systems looks like


What are the key reasons why M&E contractors do not specify wire/zip systems?

  1. Inferred perception – how can a threaded rod hold less than a wired system
  2. Natural reluctance – experience tells us that change is risk and risk is cost
  3. What is in it for me to try something new from a contractor/installer perspective

I have been in the industry since 1978 and there has always been resistance to change. A good example is the industry changed from angle iron to channel, why? because change introduces risk and risk introduces a cost.


Why should we change from threaded rod to wire/rope systems?

It is only through complete transparent accountability that contractors and installers begin to change their minds. Contractors and installers need to trust that a new product is superior both in achieving the job and costs less. This can only be shown through a product demonstration and performance data.

That is our job as manufacturers to provide our customers with confidence and accountability. To show them that the product we are offering is of benefit to them. We have had the CIBSE (Chartered Institute of Business Services Engineering) Accredited by CPD, carry out some performance data in comparison to the traditional steel suspension method and they found the following differences.


Wire systems v traditional steel suspension systems:

  • 33% saving in components
  • Reduced wastage
  • 50% saving in installation time
  • First prime cost is reduced
  • Guaranteed weight loadings from 10kg to 500kg per support
  • Carbon footprint reduced as it is easier to store and transport
  • 100 metre coil of wire is equivalent to 33 x 3 metres of threaded rod


CIBSE (Chartered Institute of Business Services Engineering) Accredited by CPD, 2020 

Tensile strength

When you show a new contractor the complete system solution the first thing they assume is that the wire can’t have the same tensile strength as traditional components but that quite simply is not true. I have shown a 2mm wire to potential contractors and shown them that the tensile strength is identical in performance. That makes people gradually move away from traditional methods of suspension onto our zip wire complete system solution. It is imperative that as a manufacturer we hold the customer’s hand all the way every step of the way, to give them the reassurance that the product is strong, lightweight, and stands up to traditional steel support systems.


Q. Visually wire is not as rigid as rod, so again what’s your argument around the rigidity of a wired system?

A: Although visually wire is not rigid as a rod, the most important factor is the flexibility and the tensile strength. Sometimes rigidity is a double-edged sword – you want the strength which a wire suspension system can offer but you do not want the rigidity.

If you are putting the cable basket onto brackets with 1200mm centres and you have specified threaded rod brackets, when the cable basket goes onto the channel and the beam wire of the cable basket sits on the middle of the channel you have to apply pressure to the basket or the channel bracket to make it fit.

If the contractor or installer has specified a wired system you don’t have to do that, you just have to move it enough to accommodate the hold-down clamp or clip. With traditional channel brackets, you are introducing stress into the system.

Therefore flexibility is a strength, especially when you get the natural expansion and contraction of pipe, as the wire can take that up. Regardless of the flexibility once you get ductwork onto the brackets and you start coupling them they introduce rigidity to the system.

Another key advantage is the time saved through installation – this is often clearly shown when working in retail – when using a wire suspension system, what you can do when you install brackets on wire is to push the bracket out the way if there is something coming in that needs to put around it.


Q: Tell us why accountability is so important?

Performance testing

A: With independent data we can prove the safe working loads from 15kg to 500kg per wire from 30kg to 1000kg per bracket, when you go to your local supermarket, lookup, you will often see threaded rod hanging at an angle. The performance data supplied does not state what the change in load-bearing capacity is when the threaded rod is suspended at an angle. With wiring suspension system you can, this is why accountability and performance data will help change our contractor's minds.

People overlook accountability and have this in-depth acceptance of what a product does but doesn’t think of the ramifications of forcing a rod against a surface – with wire you can feed it through the gaps.


Q: Do wiring systems comply with the BS 7671:2018 18th edition?

The 18th edition requires a full metallic suspension solution so yes we are complaint to that, there is no plastic in any of our products, obviously with the catenary we have a lot of flexibility and options to use wire compliantly and in that respect no problem at all.


Q: Do you find the weight difference between a wiring suspension system and a traditional fabricated system sway a customers preference?

If you wanted to put in 100 x1 metre trapeze brackets you would have 200 metres of rod and 100 sections of channel but we could put the equivalent wire in a rucksack – they could pick it up on their bike and bring it to site.

You could pick this up on a pushbike on the way to work (you can see it made a difference) – its difficult to that on a bike with 200 metres of rod – you can bring it to the backpack.


 Q: With environmental concerns becoming a major issue within construction with the net zero 2050 target around the corner – how can wire/rope suspension systems contribute towards that goal?

It is important that as a manufacturer we don’t want to waste material, when we speak to contractors it is important that we discuss that we could be hanging up less, less suspensions especially as the load bearing capacity does not reduce.

“One container of 2mm wire with a total length of 1.44million, in order to get the same length and load bearing capacity you would need 32 containers full of 10mm rod”

The reduction in C02 is massive for wire, if more and more contractors were using a wire system it has a good impact on the environment especially for reaching the net zero 2050 target.


Q: So, from your point of view what is the future for wire suspension systems as a whole?

  1. Environmental and the sustainability of suspensions and supports will help wire systems become a go to solution
  2. Accountability and traceability – with the increasing regulations and standards contractors want to see the performance data and wire systems can provide that

The future for wire systems – end users are more likely to use a wire system than a threaded rod purely because you have engineered it as one complete bracket with complete accountability and traceability to back up the performance.

The industry will embrace new technologies and once they can see the cost savings, environmental concerns and performance testing then the industry will naturally move towards wire systems.

Thank you Tim for your time today, it is always great to hear from an industry expert.

Discover our range of zip clip wire systems or alternatively if you would like to find out more about Tim Brown then please visit Zip Clip.


Why M&E contractors are specifying wire suspension systems?

With over 40 years of experience, Tim Brown (ZipClip) in today’s podcast discusses why the M&E industry is recognising wire/zip systems as the preferred choice over traditional methods of threaded rod suspension.

He discusses:

  1. What are the key reasons why M&E contractors are not specifying wire/zip systems
  2. Why accountability and performance data is helping contractors to change their perception of wire systems
  3. What the future of wire systems looks like


What are the key reasons why M&E contractors do not specify wire/zip systems?

  1. Inferred perception – how can a threaded rod hold less than a wired system
  2. Natural reluctance – experience tells us that change is risk and risk is cost
  3. What is in it for me to try something new from a contractor/installer perspective

I have been in the industry since 1978 and there has always been resistance to change. A good example is the industry changed from angle iron to channel, why? because change introduces risk and risk introduces a cost.


Why should we change from threaded rod to wire/rope systems?

It is only through complete transparent accountability that contractors and installers begin to change their minds. Contractors and installers need to trust that a new product is superior both in achieving the job and costs less. This can only be shown through a product demonstration and performance data.

That is our job as manufacturers to provide our customers with confidence and accountability. To show them that the product we are offering is of benefit to them. We have had the CIBSE (Chartered Institute of Business Services Engineering) Accredited by CPD, carry out some performance data in comparison to the traditional steel suspension method and they found the following differences.


Wire systems v traditional steel suspension systems:

  • 33% saving in components
  • Reduced wastage
  • 50% saving in installation time
  • First prime cost is reduced
  • Guaranteed weight loadings from 10kg to 500kg per support
  • Carbon footprint reduced as it is easier to store and transport
  • 100 metre coil of wire is equivalent to 33 x 3 metres of threaded rod


CIBSE (Chartered Institute of Business Services Engineering) Accredited by CPD, 2020 

Tensile strength

When you show a new contractor the complete system solution the first thing they assume is that the wire can’t have the same tensile strength as traditional components but that quite simply is not true. I have shown a 2mm wire to potential contractors and shown them that the tensile strength is identical in performance. That makes people gradually move away from traditional methods of suspension onto our zip wire complete system solution. It is imperative that as a manufacturer we hold the customer’s hand all the way every step of the way, to give them the reassurance that the product is strong, lightweight, and stands up to traditional steel support systems.


Q. Visually wire is not as rigid as rod, so again what’s your argument around the rigidity of a wired system?

A: Although visually wire is not rigid as a rod, the most important factor is the flexibility and the tensile strength. Sometimes rigidity is a double-edged sword – you want the strength which a wire suspension system can offer but you do not want the rigidity.

If you are putting the cable basket onto brackets with 1200mm centres and you have specified threaded rod brackets, when the cable basket goes onto the channel and the beam wire of the cable basket sits on the middle of the channel you have to apply pressure to the basket or the channel bracket to make it fit.

If the contractor or installer has specified a wired system you don’t have to do that, you just have to move it enough to accommodate the hold-down clamp or clip. With traditional channel brackets, you are introducing stress into the system.

Therefore flexibility is a strength, especially when you get the natural expansion and contraction of pipe, as the wire can take that up. Regardless of the flexibility once you get ductwork onto the brackets and you start coupling them they introduce rigidity to the system.

Another key advantage is the time saved through installation – this is often clearly shown when working in retail – when using a wire suspension system, what you can do when you install brackets on wire is to push the bracket out the way if there is something coming in that needs to put around it.


Q: Tell us why accountability is so important?

Performance testing

A: With independent data we can prove the safe working loads from 15kg to 500kg per wire from 30kg to 1000kg per bracket, when you go to your local supermarket, lookup, you will often see threaded rod hanging at an angle. The performance data supplied does not state what the change in load-bearing capacity is when the threaded rod is suspended at an angle. With wiring suspension system you can, this is why accountability and performance data will help change our contractor's minds.

People overlook accountability and have this in-depth acceptance of what a product does but doesn’t think of the ramifications of forcing a rod against a surface – with wire you can feed it through the gaps.


Q: Do wiring systems comply with the BS 7671:2018 18th edition?

The 18th edition requires a full metallic suspension solution so yes we are complaint to that, there is no plastic in any of our products, obviously with the catenary we have a lot of flexibility and options to use wire compliantly and in that respect no problem at all.


Q: Do you find the weight difference between a wiring suspension system and a traditional fabricated system sway a customers preference?

If you wanted to put in 100 x1 metre trapeze brackets you would have 200 metres of rod and 100 sections of channel but we could put the equivalent wire in a rucksack – they could pick it up on their bike and bring it to site.

You could pick this up on a pushbike on the way to work (you can see it made a difference) – its difficult to that on a bike with 200 metres of rod – you can bring it to the backpack.


 Q: With environmental concerns becoming a major issue within construction with the net zero 2050 target around the corner – how can wire/rope suspension systems contribute towards that goal?

It is important that as a manufacturer we don’t want to waste material, when we speak to contractors it is important that we discuss that we could be hanging up less, less suspensions especially as the load bearing capacity does not reduce.

“One container of 2mm wire with a total length of 1.44million, in order to get the same length and load bearing capacity you would need 32 containers full of 10mm rod”

The reduction in C02 is massive for wire, if more and more contractors were using a wire system it has a good impact on the environment especially for reaching the net zero 2050 target.


Q: So, from your point of view what is the future for wire suspension systems as a whole?

  1. Environmental and the sustainability of suspensions and supports will help wire systems become a go to solution
  2. Accountability and traceability – with the increasing regulations and standards contractors want to see the performance data and wire systems can provide that

The future for wire systems – end users are more likely to use a wire system than a threaded rod purely because you have engineered it as one complete bracket with complete accountability and traceability to back up the performance.

The industry will embrace new technologies and once they can see the cost savings, environmental concerns and performance testing then the industry will naturally move towards wire systems.

Thank you Tim for your time today, it is always great to hear from an industry expert.

Discover our range of zip clip wire systems or alternatively if you would like to find out more about Tim Brown then please visit Zip Clip.


Episode 1

What are the impacts of lightweight modular steel systems for the construction industry?

As the industry moves towards a traceable, compliant, and sustainable future, there is a growing desire to implement modern methods of construction, whereby modular supports are used to support both shell and core applications as well as mechanical and electrical services on building projects.

Many M&E contractors are now turning to off-site construction and pre-fabrication to help eliminate waste on-site, reduce health and safety risks and improve cost efficiencies.

Both of these methods have lent themselves to the popularity of secondary modular steelwork.

As the industry utilises secondary modular steelwork, we sat down with Nigel Thompson from SIKLA to discuss secondary modular steelwork in more detail.

By the end of the podcast you will be aware of:

  1. How the introduction of lightweight steelwork has helped change the construction industry
  2.  Why is offsite manufacturing becoming the go-to option for companies outside of construction
  3. The main driving factors behind the construction industry adoption of DFMA (design, fabrication, manufacture and assembly)
  4. How COVID has put the spotlight onto off-site manufacturing
  5. How MIDFIX are driving the change towards off-site modular steelwork