Non-conforming insulation — three out of three Chinese products fail Australian tests


The use of non-conforming insulation in Australian buildings continues to undermine the National Construction Code, according to manufacturer Kingspan Insulation. “It’s time for the entire building industry to take a stand against misleading, nonconforming insulation products — the costs are simply too great to ignore,” according to Kingspan Insulation Australasia managing director Scott Gibson. 


Kingspan Insulation recently commissioned independent testing of three separate rigid phenolic insulation products imported into Australia from China. All three products failed to meet the declared R-Values for these products in thermal tests, which relate to the insulating characteristics of materials. 


“The tests, conducted by the NATA-accredited independent laboratory AWTA, found these products’ R-values were overstated by 70% on average, with the worst result at over 90%,” Mr Gibson says. He says Product A, a 40mm-thick insulation panel, had an advertised R-value of 2.1, but on testing an actual R-value of just 1.1. 


Product B, a 25mm-thick panel, had an advertised R-value of 1.2, but a tested R-value of 0.8. The final Product C, a 40mm-thick panel, had an advertised R-value of 1.9, and a tested R-value of just 1.1. In addition, Kingspan Insulation technical and R&D manager Keith Anderson says two of the test products are being promoted as “closed cell” phenolic insulation, which testing revealed to be false. 


The industry benchmark for closed cell content for phenolic insulation is 90%. However, the tested products had insignificant closed cell content, ie 0.01% and 3.25% respectively. “Non-conforming insulation products are inefficient, unethical and potentially dangerous,” Mr Gibson says. “We shouldn’t tolerate deceptive products that impose heavy costs on the community.” 


The costs pertaining to non-conforming insulation are profound: 

Buildings with substandard or unfit-forpurpose insulation could be a fire hazard, as fire-resistance characteristics might not accord with engineering specifications. 

Poor-performing insulation reduces the effectiveness of heating and cooling systems, causing unnecessary energy wastage. 

Energy wastage is a drain on the wider society, requiring enhanced infrastructure to meet energy demands and creating higher carbon emissions, contrary to government policy. 

Occupants of buildings with poor-performing insulation face higher utility bills, which can Non-conforming insulation — three out of three Chinese products fail Australian tests reduce the appeal/value of real estate. 


Mr Gibson says all levels in the construction supply chain, including building professionals and regulators, have a duty of care to their clients and the community to make sure insulation products comply with mandatory performance benchmarks. 


“Apart from the above mentioned risks and hazards, the sale of non-conforming insulation products breaches consumer law,” he adds. 


“When customers pay for a product and receive an inferior item, they have been duped and misled — that is misleading and deceptive conduct, and it is immoral and illegal. “It is deeply concerning to realise that non-conforming insulation has been installed in high-density structures in Australia, including hospitals, retail shopping centres and apartment buildings. 


“Self-declared testing and performance claims simply cannot be trusted anymore.” Mr Gibson says the safest solution is to rely on third-party independent accreditation to ensure products are properly rated, and meet or exceed minimum quality standards. Insulation products with CodeMark certification, for instance, have been independently endorsed and tested in accordance with national standards and codes.