Insights

The top 5 questions asked by engineers when specifying structural thermal breaks

The ability to transmit structural loads whilst addressing thermal performance through a building envelope has long been a difficult balance for building designers. The weight of decision has often fallen on the side of the structure, with the importance of structural integrity winning out against the impact of structural members piercing the thermal envelope.

However, as the energy demands of new and retrofit buildings have grown, so have the requirements to minimise that energy usage and the potential of issues such as thermal bridging.

This has resulted in greater levels of insulation in planar elements of a building envelope, leading to more noticeable and detrimental effects of those ‘hard to treat’ details such as structural penetrations. Add to this the need to achieve compliant critical internal temperature factors for the avoidance of unsightly or harmful mould growth and mitigating thermal bridges in a building envelope moves higher up the list of problems to solve.

Equally, the growing influence of fire design on structures has also led to the requirement for enhanced performance criteria of building materials in relation to fire that are incorporated into the building envelope. To address this imbalance, new building materials and methods of thermally breaking structural connections, such as steel beams and balcony connections, have been developed.

In the below guide, we address the most frequent questions asked by Structural Engineers when specifying Farrat Structural Thermal Breaks.

1. Which Farrat Structural Thermal Break material should I specify?

Farrat Structural Thermal Breaks take the form of flat plates of any dimensions, which provide Architects with complete design freedom and Structural Engineers the capability to design to standard codes, with a simple configuration.

Farrat offer three independently tested Structural Thermal Break materials, which are designed to balance high structural performance and low thermal conductivity:

  1. Farrat TBK (Yellow) is most specified across typical connection details, with high compressive strength (312MPa fck) and the best thermal performance in the range (0.187 W/mK).
  2. Farrat TBF (silver) is the optimum material when fire performance is a consideration, such as within high-rise buildings, due to its high compressive strength (355MPa fck) and low thermal conductivity (0.2 W/mK) performance characteristics, supported by an A2, s1,d0 Non-Combustible Classification.
  3. Farrat TBL (Black) is the favourable material when structural loadings and requirements for thermal performance are lower, and budgets are constrained, offering medium compressive strength (89MPa fck) and thermal conductivity (0.292 W/mK) performance characteristics.

2. How do I design connections incorporating Farrat Structural Thermal Breaks?

A breakdown of what to consider when designing structural steel connections is contained within the Farrat Structural Thermal Break Technical Guide and supporting SCI, Steel Construction Institute assessment document.

As an overview:

  1.  Structural Thermal Break plates should be considered as a “pack” in terms of connection design.
  2. All Shear forces need to be accommodated by the connection bolts. As a result of the multiple layers in the connection the grip length of the bolts may be significantly increased, it may also be necessary to reduce the anticipated shear resistance of the bolts in the connection.
  3. Reference should be made to BS EN 1993-3 1-8: 2005 Eurocode 3. Design of steel structures.

Example screenshots adjacent are taken from the Farrat extension for Tekla Structures that creates Farrat Structural Thermal Break connection plates. The component automatically takes the plate dimensions and holes of the plate it is fixing to.

3. Can Farrat Structural Thermal Breaks support the loads I am designing for?

The exact physical and mechanical properties for Farrat Structural Thermal Breaks are contained in the Farrat Structural Thermal Break Technical Guide.

As a quick guide:

  1. Farrat TBF and Farrat TBK materials offer compressive strength comparable with Steel.
  2. Farrat TBL has a compressive strength greater than Concrete.
  3. Structural Thermal Break plates in a connection should only be designed to resist compressive forces.
  4. Consideration should also be taken of compressive creep. Farrat materials are formulated to resist long term creep, but this element should be factored into any design.
  5. Many materials which exhibit good thermal properties have poor long term creep profiles.
  6. Reference should be made to BS EN 1993-3 1-8: 2005 Eurocode 3. Design of steel structures.

4. What is the friction coefficient for Farrat Structural Thermal Breaks?

The coefficient of friction of a thermal break plate is not a relevant property for the structural design of connections with non-pre-loaded bolts.

Whilst figures for frictional resistance of Farrat Structural Thermal Breaks can be obtained, it will differ depending on the material with which it is in contact and should be treated with caution when designing connections involving Preloaded or TCB bolts.

5. Will Farrat Structural Thermal Break plates achieve a 120-minute fire rating?

Structural steel connections that require a 120-minute fire rating will typically need to be protected with either an intumescent coating system or a fire protection board. In all situations, the Structural Thermal Breaks should receive the same level of protection as the steel.

However, Farrat TBF Structural Thermal Breaks have been tested unprotected in fire conditions, in structural steel connections, to temperatures more than 1000°C for 120 minutes and maintained structural integrity.

Different building types and legislators have differing technical and regulatory requirements for fire design, but if fire is a concern that requires addressing, then the use of non-combustible thermal breaks is one way to mitigate that risk.

Farrat TBF fire test
Farrat TBF fire test

In summary, when designing for Structural Thermal Breaks:

  1. Check that the chosen material is independently verified to resist the applied compression forces, with an appropriate safety factor applied to determine design loading.
  2. Check that any additional rotation due to compression of the thermal break plate is acceptable.
  3. Check the shear resistance of the bolts is acceptable given that there may be a reduction due to the use of packs and larger grip lengths.

If using Pre tensioned bolts:

  1. Check the slip resistance of the connection considering the coefficient of friction and the number of surfaces.
  2. Check the thermal break plate can resist the local compression forces around the bolts.

Where fire performance is concerned:

  1.  Consult with Farrat for the correct specification of fully tested and certified materials.

 


 

For more information on integrating thermal break solutions into typical, or bespoke, structural steel connections, visit our Structural Thermal Break hub or one of our dedicated portals:

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The top 5 questions asked by architects when specifying structural thermal breaks

The ability to transmit structural loads whilst addressing thermal performance through a building envelope has long been a difficult balance for building designers. The weight of decision has often fallen on the side of the structure, with the importance of structural integrity winning out against the impact of structural members piercing the thermal envelope.

However, as the energy demands of new and retrofit buildings have grown, so have the requirements to minimise that energy usage and the potential of issues such as thermal bridging.

This has resulted in greater levels of insulation in planar elements of a building envelope, leading to more noticeable and detrimental effects of those ‘hard to treat’ details such as structural penetrations. Add to this the need to achieve compliant critical internal temperature factors for the avoidance of unsightly or harmful mould growth and mitigating thermal bridges in a building envelope moves higher up the list of problems to solve.

Equally, the growing influence of fire design on structures has also led to the requirement for enhanced performance criteria of building materials in relation to fire that are incorporated into the building envelope. To address this imbalance, new building materials and methods of thermally breaking structural connections, such as steel beams and balcony connections, have been developed.

In the below guide, we address the most frequent questions asked by Architects and Building Envelope specialists when specifying Farrat Structural Thermal Breaks.

1. Which Farrat Structural Thermal Break material should I specify?

Farrat Structural Thermal Breaks take the form of flat plates of any dimensions, which provide Architects with complete design freedom and Structural Engineers the capability to design to standard codes, with a simple configuration.

Farrat offer three independently tested Structural Thermal Break materials, which are designed to balance high structural performance and low thermal conductivity:

  1. Farrat TBK is most specified across typical connection details, with high compressive strength (312MPa fck) and the best thermal performance in the range (0.187 W/mK).
  2. Farrat TBF is the optimum material when fire performance is a consideration, such as within high-rise buildings, due to its high compressive strength (355MPa fck) and low thermal conductivity (0.2 W/mK) performance characteristics, supported by an A2, s1,d0 Non-Combustible Classification.
  3. Farrat TBL is the favourable material when structural loadings and requirements for thermal performance are lower, and budgets are constrained, offering medium compressive strength (89MPa fck) and thermal conductivity (0.292 W/mK) performance characteristics.

 

 

2. What thickness of thermal break should I specify?

Farrat Structural Thermal Breaks come in a range of thicknesses from 5mm t0 25mm. The only way to accurately calculate the thickness of a structural thermal break is to carry out finite element analysis on the connection and its allied components. This is not common practice due to the relative rarity of details requiring Structural Thermal Breaks and the time and cost of carrying out the thermal modeling.

However, it is possible to understand from a typical example the effects of thickness of plates on example connection.

Farrat illustrates this for their products using BRE (Building Research Establishment) certified thermal models, which show that despite achieving a lower thermal performance than the surrounding building fabric, it is possible to remove the negative effects of a cold bridge with a minimal amount of insulating material (typically a 15mm -25mm thickness). Plates may be used in multiples, but 25mm will mitigate most thermal bridge issues for dwellings and commercial office building details.

3. Do Structural Thermal Breaks need to be as thick as the surrounding wall insulation?

The primary determinate for the thickness of a Structural Thermal Break is its effect in achieving a satisfactory critical internal temperature factor on the warm side of the structural connection. It is not necessary for the Structural Thermal Break thickness to match the surrounding wall insulation thickness to be a success.

Since the thermal break is required to be a structural element, it will always be a relative weak point as an insulant.

However, as illustrated in Farrat’s latest Passive House Certified Details, this still makes it possible to achieve the highest of building performance standards.

4. Will the Structural Thermal Break meet my U value requirements?

U value calculations are the simple method of understanding the thermal performance of a build-up of construction materials in a flat plane (planar). Structural Thermal Breaks are typically used to solve problems in ‘point’ structural connections or in some case linear connections. As such their performance cannot be calculated using the U value method of calculation and require a Psi or Chi value calculations to be undertaken.

These calculations can only be undertaken using 2D or 3D finite Element Analysis (FEA) modelling.

As this is currently not common practice, Farrat utilise their typical BRE Certified Thermal Models, to provide indicative Psi and Chi values for common structural connections to allow simplified specification of structural thermal breaks where calculation models have not been created.

 

 

5. Do Structural Thermal Breaks need to be Non-combustible?

The use of non-combustible materials, particularly in high-rise buildings has become more commonplace in recent years due, in part, to high-profile building fires and subsequent investigations.

Structural Thermal Breaks are extensively used as part of the structural support in façade systems or as the main structural connection in balconies. These elements are key to the performance of the building envelope in the case of fire and the avoidance of catastrophic failure and collapse.

Farrat TBF is an A2,s1,d0 non-combustible Structural Thermal Break material that is capable of withstanding 1000°C heat and maintains its structural integrity in the event of a fire.

Different building types and legislators have differing technical and regulatory requirements for fire design, but if fire is a concern that requires addressing, then the use of non-combustible thermal breaks is one way to mitigate that risk.

Farrat TBF

For more information on integrating thermal break solutions into typical, or bespoke, structural steel connections, visit our Structural Thermal Break hub or one of our dedicated portals:

 

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What lies ahead for façades: the future of cladding connections

Façades come in a range of striking designs incorporating varying shapes, sizes, and materials, and can often be the most difficult part of a building to design.

Façades utilise cladding components that act as the principal face of a building, which must strike a balance between visual design and physical functionality, whilst meeting the most stringent of regulatory building standards. In the below insight, we explore the role of facades and cladding components in building construction today and the trends we see emerging going into 2022.

Façade or Cladding?

The expression ‘façade’ refers to the external appearance of a building. Mostly, the term is used when referring to design, style or colour and reflects the overall appearance or intent of the exterior. The terms ‘cladding,’ ‘wall cladding’ or ‘cladding component’ however, refer to the external protective layer of the building envelope.

Cladding components are attached to the primary structure of a building to form non-structural, external surfaces. This is as opposed to buildings in which the external surfaces are formed by structural elements, such as masonry walls, or applied surfaces such as render. Cladding can be made from a wide range of materials including wood, metal, brick, vinyl, and composite materials that can include aluminium, wood, blends of cement and recycled polystyrene, as well as wheat/rice straw fibres.

The primary benefits of cladding are to:

  • Create a controlled internal environment
  • Protect the building from external conditions
  • Provide privacy and security
  • Prevent the transmission of sound
  • Provide thermal insulation
  • Prevent the spread of fire
  • Provide openings for access, daylight, and ventilation
skyscraper facade

Structural and Thermal Design Considerations in Façade Design

Whilst cladding is attached to the structure of the building, it typically does not contribute to its stability. However, cladding does play a structural role by transferring wind loads, impact loads, snow loads, and its own self-weight back to the structural framework. Wind causes significant pressure on the surface of buildings and cladding must have sufficient strength and stiffness to resist this load, both in terms of the type of cladding selected and its connections back to the structure.

High-quality, well-designed, and professionally installed cladding can help maximise thermal performance, minimise air leakage, and optimise natural daylighting into a building. This can in turn help to optimise energy efficiency and lower capital and running costs. Poor design detailing or installation, however, will compromise cladding performance and can result in safety problems such as cladding collapse or cladding panels pulling away from the structure.

It is important that designers incorporate suitable thermal isolators between cladding system connections and the structural frame, to avoid thermal bridges forming and compromising the thermal integrity of the building. Farrat Structural Thermal Breaks are increasingly worked into large area rain screen cladding systems during the design stage at specification, to isolate building interior structures from excessive heating and cooling caused by thermal loads.

Fig. 1.0 Cladding to masonry connection
Fig. 1.0 Cladding to masonry connection
Fig 1.1 Cladding to masonry connection detail incorporating a Farrat Structural Thermal Break
Fig 1.1 Cladding to masonry connection detail incorporating a Farrat Structural Thermal Break

Growing Trends in Façade Design

Fire Safety

Following a series of fire-based tragedies around the world, there is now greater emphasis on ensuring that all key aspects of a building design, particularly facades and cladding components, are fire-resistant. Whilst legislation is in place, architects and specifiers are now looking to go beyond the standard when it comes to fire to ensure the highest quality safety standards and optimal occupier comfort levels.

Farrat TBF was first introduced in 2020 as the UK’s first A2 fire-rated Structural Thermal Break material. Since its introduction to the market, Farrat TBF has gained BBA certification status and underwent further exploratory tests in conjunction with Sherwin Williams, a manufacturer of fire-resistant intumescent coatings, to evaluate thermal and structural performance when integrated within a protected steel to steel connection. Findings show that as well as performing as part of an intumescent coating protected connection, Farrat TBF can resist the 1000⁰C + temperatures for 2 hours whilst maintaining a compressive structural performance of 200MPa @ 550⁰C. (29,000psi @ 392⁰F).

This unparalleled level of structural performance from a thermal break at elevated temperature, alongside its resistance to fire and insulation performance, makes Farrat TBF the thermal break material of choice for designers and engineers looking to eradicate thermal bridges in structural components where fire performance is a high-ranking consideration.

Solar Power

In line with sustainable construction targets to achieve ‘net zero by 2050’, latest research has shown that the carbon footprint of solar power is significantly lower than coal or gas, and this remains true even when accounting for emissions during manufacture, construction, and fuel supply.

This is supported by the commercial playbook recently published by a green lobby group, which aims to fill the gap left by national policy, which is not delivering change at the pace they believe is needed to meet the environmental commitments made. Some of the key guidelines published in the playbook include reducing embodied carbon & energy use throughout the construction supply chain and ensuring that low-carbon energy sources are incorporated into building design.

We foresee that façade and cladding component design that makes use of solar power, as well as façades that go beyond the standard when it comes to insulation and conservation, will play a leading role in following the suggestions made. We expect to see increasing numbers of new buildings that include facades incorporating solar panels to generate power for the building, and even provide excess power for the local area.

A recent Farrat project where this concept is utilised, is Mohammed Tower IV. Set to be the tallest building in Africa, the 55-storey development incorporates 3350 m² of photovoltaic solar panels on the South façade, thermally isolated using fire-rated Farrat TBF Structural Thermal Breaks to prevent heat transfer through steel beams where the external building aspects meet the interior.

Mohammed Tower image
rainwater harvesting facade

Rainwater Harvesting

Rainwater harvesting is a growing trend in general, using a similar principle to the antiquated garden water butts on a building wide scale, which were used to conserve water.

Façade designers have evolved this concept with the introduction of water collecting façade panels, which are both functional and thin enough to be used as facades, but also attractive. With additional technology, the panels would even be able to harvest moisture from the atmosphere using thermodynamics to cooling moist air to condense and harvest it.

Living Walls

An increasing number of new urban centre developments are integrating greenery into schemes. Living walls, or ‘vertical gardens,’ are a unique form of façade design that reduce air pollutants and urban temperatures, as well as reducing noise and providing thermal benefits to buildings.

According to a new virtual reality study, vertical greenery ‘planted’ on the exterior of buildings may even help to buffer residents against stress, creating a building design with wellbeing equally in mind – a foresight we explored earlier this year in Farrat’s ‘post-pandemic construction insight.’

living wall

Summary

Architects and specifiers are responsible for addressing some of the biggest challenges facing the world, both now and in the future. Meeting these challenges head-on can only happen if construction professionals keep up with, create and implement the latest developments in technology and ideas.

Designers are finding new and innovative ways to combine sustainable materials for energy efficiency, with increasing numbers of buildings incorporating solar arrays on the rooftop as well as double-paned windows and high-quality insulated façade designs, alongside durable exterior elements like steel panel and siding. We expect to see widespread adoption of sustainable materials and structural thermal breaks within façade design details, with energy efficiency playing a leading role.

To learn how to integrate Farrat Structural Thermal Breaks into typical connections, watch our introductory on-demand CPD module here.

For more information on Farrat Structural Thermal Break materials or specification resources for Architects or Structural Engineers, visit our Thermal Breaks Hub here or talk to our team.

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Fire regulations in the UK and beyond

In our latest insight, we explore the fire regulation landscape across Europe to understand where fire currently sits on the construction agenda.

Where it began for the UK

Fire regulations in UK construction have evolved since their original introduction following the Great Fire of London in 1666. King Charles II decreed that roads must be widened to prevent the spread of fire and that buildings should be constructed with stone instead of highly flammable materials such as wood, revolutionising the scope and possibilities of building design.

Fast forward to the UK construction industry as we know it today, and building design shapes how our communities look, function, and thrive.

Whilst there has been a significant shift in focus towards new legislation for important topics such as sustainability and environment in construction, UK regulations around fire continue to play a vital role in ensuring that buildings are principally designed for the safety of occupants.

Fire regulations across Europe

Countries across Europe adopt different approaches to fire safety regulations. UK fire regulations are categorised as ‘performance-based’, whereby the specific characteristics of the building are assessed in accordance with engineering principles and mathematical models, under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 or ‘the Fire Safety Order’.

Sweden takes a similar approach to the UK, with the Swedish Building and Design Regulations (BBR 94 and BKR 94) following a performance-based approach. Swedish regulations also consider the proximity of surrounding buildings in the same way as in the UK – Document B stipulates material ratings in relation to boundary conditions/ proximity to other buildings.

Many countries within the European Union, however, follow a more prescriptive-based approach that allows a building to meet a pre-set standard when it comes to fire safety.

Germany operates under the National Model Building Code, which relies on prescriptive rules with additional regulations for specific types of buildings or buildings with specific uses, for example, high rise constructions or buildings used for industrial applications. Germany also has different rules on fire depending on the Federal State.

Some countries have adopted a flexible hybrid approach, such as Italy, who have an older approach of prescription and a newer approach that allows for a more ‘creative’ design, which is similar to the regulations in the UK.

In Denmark, building regulations retain performance-based requirements for complex buildings, but traditional buildings are assessed using prescriptive solutions (varies across different building types).

The building codes in Austria are specified by the governments of the 9 federal states. These building codes are referring to the OIB guidelines of the Austrian Institute of construction engineering. The OIB Guidelines are created as prescriptive fire safety design regulations, but it is also possible to use a performance-based approach if it is demonstrated by comprehensible and conclusive arguments that the required level of safety is achieved.

Beyond Europe in the US, the prescriptive approach is also favoured, with all 50 states following the ‘ICC model codes’. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches; a performance-based approach gives design teams increased freedom by emphasising engineering, calculation, and modelling, whereas a prescriptive-approach provides structure with fixed rules to follow and boxes to tick.

Source: RIBAJ 'How Europe regulates fire safety', 24th July 2017
Source: RIBAJ 'How Europe regulates fire safety', 24th July 2017

 

Attitudes towards fire regulations

In response to recent fire tragedies, such as the 2017 Grenfell fire in London and the 2010 Shanghai fire where a 28-storey residential building was engulfed in flames, global attitudes towards fire legislation are once again changing.

The Grenfell review, which was published by Dame Judith Hackitt following an investigation into the Grenfell fire in London, concluded that legislation regarding fire safety equipment in UK construction is not fit for purpose and needs to improve.

Several other EU countries have followed suit with a review of construction fire regulations, including Ireland, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Greece, Denmark, Finland, and Bulgaria, all committing to roll out new initiatives.

In France, high-rise buildings are currently defined as buildings with a height of over 50 meters for residential buildings and 28 meters for other building types. France are now looking to introduce a new ‘medium-height’ of 28-50 metres for residential buildings, which will have additional fire safety requirements not currently in place. Most other countries under review are also looking to ‘plug gaps’ in fire safety in new developments.

Governments are keen to encourage people to meet fire regulations. In Holland, the 2012 Dutch Building Decree (Bouwbesluit) states that fire precautions should be taken in building, and in some cases, you will just need an all-in-one permit for physical aspects (Omgevingsvergunning). This ensures it is simple yet comprehensive.

Consistently evolving

Building regulations are frequently updated with new amendments as technology advances and attitudes towards safety adapt.

In Ireland, the amendment to building regulations in 2017 impacted a range of standards including ensuring adequate means of escape, how to prevent the spread of fire both internally and externally, and access for the emergency services.

Switzerland also updates building regulations regularly (every 10 years), to ensure that legislations are state of the art, albeit in the same format.

Over the past decades, Europe has achieved substantial improvements in fire safety thanks to the continuous adjustment and implementation of fire safety strategies. As a result of comprehensive approaches, the Modern Building Alliance report that fire fatalities have fallen by 65% in Europe over the last 30 years. However, more needs to be done as fire safety in buildings remains a major societal issue. According to recent statistics, it is estimated that around 5,000 people a year are killed due to building fires in Europe.

 

Fire resistant materials at Farrat

Recognising the need for more accessible fire-rated construction materials, Farrat developed and released the markets first A2 fire-rated Structural Thermal Break – Farrat TBF – in 2019.

Extensively researched and tested by both BRE (Building Research Establishment) and Warrington Fire, Farrat TBF is specifically engineered for use in structural steel connections and can maintain structural performance at temperatures more than 1000°C. Providing both superior structural and thermal performance to solve structural thermal bridge issues, whilst exceeding all current fire regulatory requirements for buildings above and below 18m.

 

Exceeding expectations

Farrat are on a mission to encourage building designers around the world to exceed regulations when it comes to fire safety in construction.

Exceeding regulation expectations ensures that buildings are safe, robust and fit-for-purpose for the lifetime of the building.

There is less chance of needing to retrospectively change materials, as buildings will have been designed and constructed as future-proof, and the building will be capable of meeting evolving levels of safety in an ever-changing environmental climate.

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Cinema continues to accelerate across Saudi Arabia, with help from Farrat.

Cinema is an established part of social culture across many areas of the world, but in Saudi Arabia where the activity is only just legalised, cinema is an exciting new development and is rapidly growing into a popular social arena.

Since the lifting of the cinema ban in 2017, the Saudi cinema construction industry has accelerated not only in terms of new venue numbers. Venues are being built to ‘wow,’ catering for every audience need and as a result, the region is delivering some of the most exciting and innovative venues the global cinema market has seen.

Growth Locations

As specialists in the acoustic isolation of cinemas, Farrat have supplied high-performance cinema solutions to over 80% of the Saudi cinema markets’ new venues, working with the region’s leading operators including MUVI, VOX, AMC, Reel and Empire.

Cinema development has been largely targeted within the capital city of Riyadh and major population hub, Jeddah, where 28 new venues have been delivered in the last 3 years. Now however, development is starting in smaller cities such as Dammam, Taif and Tabuk as investment spreads across the region.

The first multiplex cinema to be built in Saudi Arabia was built at Riyadh Park Mall. Farrat worked with VOX to integrate our full suite of “PRO” Cinema acoustic isolation solutions which have now become standard in VOX’s multiplexes.

This was shortly followed by a host of sites by MUVI, Saudi Arabia’s home-grown operator. All of which also include Farrat Cine isolation.

saudi map

Following a bumper 2019, everyone took a step back to deal with the Pandemic in 2020. Things are now back at full-speed and Farrat have supplied to 12 new multiplex sites already in 2021. 

The largest cinema in Saudi Arabia is located at the Mall of Arabia in Jeddah – a 15-screen MUVI Cinema that accommodates 1,950 viewers and incorporates Farrat CineFLOOR PRO for the acoustic floating floors, Farrat CineSTEEL PRO for the raked seating isolation and Farrat CineWALL PRO to isolate auditorium partitions.

Future Investment

The Saudi government is currently working to meet its target of opening over 300 cinemas with more than 2,000 screens by 2030, building an industry that would contribute more then 90 billion riyals (over £17 billion) to the economy and create 30,000 new jobs in the process.

Farrat’s Business Development Director, Ryan Arbabi who is very active in the region says, “In the UK, almost every population concentration of at least 50,000 people has at least one multiplex cinema. In Saudi Arabia, there are 46 cities with populations above 50,000 that still do not have a cinema, so there is still lots more to do.

saudi cinema

Our market-leading solutions are clearly favoured in Saudi Arabia, but that is just as much to do with Farrat’s ability to cope with the logistical gymnastics required to operate in the region as it is to provide a quality product”.

For more information on Farrat’s cinema isolation solutions, the Farrat Cine range, and cinema projects we have worked on around the world, contact our team or visit our Cinema Hub here.

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INWED 2021

Let’s Talk: International Women In Engineering Day 2021 (IWED)  

This week, in celebration of International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) – a global awareness campaign launched by the Womens Engineering Society (WES), which aims to raise the profile of women in engineering – we spoke to our team to get their views on gender equality within engineering and to understand what this year’s theme, ‘Engineering Heroes’, means to them.   

Applications Engineer – Ailish Hepburn 

“I have three key engineering legends,” says Ailish Hepburn, Applications Engineer at Farrat.  “Ada Lovelace was a female mathematician and invented the first computer.  Alice Parker was an African American woman who created the first central heating system.  Emily Roebling led the design and construction of the Brooklyn Bridge.  

These engineers inspire me because they challenged social expectations and created inventions that changed the world for the better. All three women recognised a problem and then created the solution. Their contributions helped establish female roles within engineering.”  

 

Senior Applications Engineer – Dan Warren 

“Admittedly I have never really had any engineering heroes or role models, male or female.

But when considering gender balance, I’ve been fortunate enough to know, learn alongside and work with incredibly talented women in engineering roles across some fantastic technical projects.

I believe that the balance is slowly shifting, with STEM professions not being as male dominated as they perhaps used to be.” 

 

 

 

 

 

Project Delivery Manager – Adriana Leotta 

 “I’ve had several strong female role models in my life.  My mum – before retiring – was a maths teacher at a primary school. She noticed that I liked symbols and numbers from an early age and taught me how to count and understand basic math equations before I started school. In high school, my science teacher had a strong guiding influence on me.  She understood that I loved numbers and science and encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone.

I also had an incredible teacher at University, who is still teaching Structural Analysis. The vibes she spread around the room during lessons were incredible. Whilst at University she was my role model, and I knew that I want to be like her. My ultimate engineering legend is Amelia Earhart, who was technically an aviator not an ‘engineer’.  Her achievements piloting independently for so far as a trailblazer for women, makes her a legend to me”.   

 

CEO – Oliver Farrell 

“At Farrat we’re pleased to have a diverse workforce with all genders well represented. It’s also why we offer mentoring and work experience wherever possible to demonstrate that an engineering environment should no longer be considered a male environment. I have three daughters, and I’d like to think that every career is open to them.  That’s how the next generation of girls should feel, and I’d love to see the numbers even out in engineering.  Gender diversity – as with all diversity – makes for a more creative, productive and fun working environment.” 

IWED Background 

INWED began in the UK in 2014 as a national campaign from the Women’s Engineering Society (WES). Since then, INWED has grown enormously, receiving UNESCO patronage in 2016 and going truly global the following year.  

The Women’s Engineering Society (WES) is an English charity, founded in 1919 at the end of the First World War, when women who had been employed in technical fields found it difficult, if not impossible, to continue working as engineers. A change in the law to return women engineers to the home just as their sisters were admitted into the civil service and legal professions, led to the establishment of WES by pioneering and influential women. 

WES has worked tirelessly for over a hundred years to ensure equality for women in engineering. Today WES’ mission is to support women in engineering to fulfil their potential and support the engineering industry to be inclusive. 

The aim of INWED campaigns is to encourage all groups to think about organising their own activities in support of the day and link them together for maximum impact using the INWED logo/campaign, corresponding website, and supporting resources. 

 

Latest ‘Women in Engineering’ Stats 

The news in 2020 that the number of women applying for engineering courses has nearly doubled in the last 10 years demonstrated encouraging progress towards closing the gender gap in the field of engineering.  However, the number of women studying engineering compared to men is still very low.   

In 2020, there were 119,250 male applicants to engineering courses, and just 29,200 female applicants.  This is a challenge that we see across STEM professions in general.   

When surveying the number of women working in STEM professions in Europe, of the 36 countries examined – which include non-EU states such as Norway, Switzerland and Turkey – only six had 50% or over of female scientists or engineers.   

So, whilst there has been much development recently – an increase in applications, a growing level of interest and strong female role models – there is still a long way to go.  Farrat are looking to work hard at all levels to ensure that progress in equality continues within engineering. 

 

#onamission 

Passive design vs. Sustainable design – what’s the difference and can we help you achieve both?

Building design and construction professionals are increasingly looking to design & deliver buildings in a more environmentally friendly manner.  The UK government recently set an ambitious target to reduce emissions by at least 68% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels and the ultimate goal set out in the Paris agreement – endorsed by 197 countries around the world – is net zero by 2050.’ Construction needs to play a significant role in this if buildings of the future are to help realise this scenario. 

There are a number of approaches to this, and several types of design that could potentially assist in reducing emissions and reducing a building’s impact on the environment both locally and as a whole. 

Sustainable design

Design approaches that contribute to reducing emissions

Passive Design 

Passive design works to maximise the use of ‘natural’ sources of energy.  This includes harnessing environmental conditions such as solar radiation, cool night air and air pressure differences to drive a comfortable internal environment without the need for mechanical or electrical systems.  It also includes any other natural resources available. 

Examples of this might be larger windows placed strategically to make the most of natural light and heat on the building at times when it is most used, or the harvesting of rainwater to flush toilets.   

Other examples are the use of thermal mass and insulation.  

Thermal mass is the ability of a material to absorb and store heat energy. A lot of heat energy is needed to change the temperature of high-density materials such as concrete, bricks and tiles – materials said to have high thermal mass. Lightweight materials such as timber have low thermal mass, whereas insulation acts as a barrier to heat flow and is essential for keeping your home warm in winter and cool in summer. Different design decisions will be relevant if insulation is predominately needed to keep heat out, keep heat in, offer soundproofing, or help eliminate moisture problems. 

Thermal mass does not provide an alternative for insulation. Thermal mass stores and re-releases heat, while insulation stops heat flowing into or out of the building. Insulation must work alongside other passive design principles for it to achieve the desired results.  

Farrat – as Certified Passive House Component providers – have been working specifically with Passive House to advise structural engineers and designers on how to specify carefully to eliminate thermal bridges in buildings and structures, using experience gained through projects including The University of Salford.  Find out more on how to benefit from this specialist advice in Passive House+ Sustainable Building Magazine here.   

Sustainable buildings

Active Design 

Active design makes use of active building services systems to ensure comfortable conditions within a building, such as boilers, mechanical ventilation, electric lighting, and so on.  

However, active design features aren’t limited to those that rely on less ‘green’ sources of power and can actually be used as a way of making a building more environment friendly.  An active design element of this kind might be electric lighting powered by the harvesting of wind, wave or solar energy instead of by the main grid.    

Buildings will generally include both active and passive design measures. 

Active design approaches - solar energy

Sustainable design 

Sustainable design in construction – sometimes also called environmentally conscious design or eco design – is the philosophy of designing a built environment to comply with the principles of ecological sustainability.  In essence, it aims to eliminate the negative environmental impact that a building generates. 

The difference between passive design and sustainable design is that sustainable design can be made up of both active and passive design: It is not exclusive to the passive design methodology of using what is available naturally.  It can also include actively increasing sustainability by generating energy.  It caalso look at other aspects of design such as energy conservation and use of sustainably sourced materials. 

It is potentially a more holistic approach that meets more needs than passive alone. However, the more active design aspects mean you have a greater the need for materials and infrastructure, so you might argue that the more you rely on passive design, the greater sustainability you achieve.   

 

Commonly used areas of sustainable design: 

  • Energy efficiency.  Making sure that the energy a building uses isn’t wasted is the biggest no brainer and is one of the oldest forms of sustainable design – dating back to the 1940s and made popular in the 1970s-1980s.In 2021 and beyond, for more ambitious constructions this goes beyond loft insulation! Architects and engineers are looking at every aspect of a building to identify areas where they can minimise the loss of energy, and this includes external and internal materials. At Farratour structural thermal breaks are frequently used for this very reason, as the most efficient and responsible way to thermally separate structural connections and prevent heat loss in the building envelope. 
     
  • Using natural energy to generate of power.  Wind, solar and even wave power generation is on the rise and there are whole buildings or even cities powered in this way.  For example, Adelaide’s municipal operations have been powered entirely by renewable energy since July 2020At Farrat, we are working with responsible companies across the world to design and manufacture bespoke industrial vibration control solutions to isolate renewable energy power plants, such as hydro-electric power dams. Generating your own power comes with its engineering challenges. In addition to ensuring the optimal construction and placement of the equipment itself, ensuring there are not adverse side effects to energy generation is essential to the comfort and security of buildings in habitants.  An example of this might be ensuring that the impact of any vibrations caused by a window turbine is reduced with Building Vibration Isolation.

 

Sustainable design approaches - wind power

Farrat Insight   

Given the expected significant changes to the climate over the coming years, new homes need to be as climate responsive and energy efficient as possible. Construction professionals are actively acknowledging their responsibility to utilise and combine best practice principles from across passive, active and sustainable design to futureproof buildings, and the role of suppliers in this value chain is critical. We must ensure that the building materials we supply are fit for purpose and meet the highest of standards when it comes to sustainability, such as PassiveHaus, BREEAM and LEED. 

At Farrat, we’re committed to the delivery of sustainable communities and will continue to work with developers, contractors, architects, structural engineers and consultants to develop engineering solutions that help to reach environmental targets and ultimately make lives better. 

#onamission 

Why people are building above railway stations

In 2020, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick published proposals for more changes to the planning system, with the aim of encouraging more house building in city centres and above busy hubs such as railway stations. ‘Permissions in Principle’ and the brownfield land register, has been in existence since 2017. It was put in place to encourage the building of commercial and residential constructions on previously developed areas over greenfield sites. In the latest proposed changes, developers wanting to demolish vacant commercial, industrial, and residential buildings to replace them with housing will get fast-track planning.

There is high demand for housing in the UK and over 2500 railway stations.

Building above train stations is potentially an ideal way to work around existing infrastructure to create new homes. Funders are frequently interested in schemes such as these, as they not only encourage social mobility, but the clear access to public transport encourages tenants and owners to minimise their impact on the environment by reducing car usage in the future.

However, the potential for improving the amount of housing available by developing around existing transport systems is not without its challenges.

train station

Vibration isolation considerations when building above railway buildings

Apart from the obvious civil engineering challenges, a major challenge for developing sites above or near train stations (as well as underground travel networks such as the London Underground and roads) is the existence of ground-borne vibration, which can be transmitted through the structural system. These vibrations are not just a potential annoyance to occupants and a possible reason not to buy, but a potential risk to the inhabitant’s health.

In the interests of health and wellbeing, rest and sleep are crucial.

The World Health Organization Night Noise Guidelines for Europe 2009 report showed that at or above LAmax,fast =32 dB there is sufficient evidence for biological effects of noise on sleep. Changes to sleep structure long term can increase chances of high blood pressure, heart disease, weight gain, diabetes, cognitive ability, and mental health problems.

In order to support buildings and building structures, it is essential that vibration control solutions are used, as they provide protection from low-frequency ground-borne noise and vibration generated by trains and public transport networks. In addition, these vibration control solutions will assist with any other surrounding noise or vibrations associated with living in an urban area such as traffic and nearby social activity.

Overcoming buyer uncertainty

Uncertainty about living above something as lively as a railway station isn’t as high as you would think, as long as you can provide reassurance and demonstrate that vibration and acoustic isolation is in place.

Location is a key consideration when buying or renting a home – transport for work, travel for socialising, and what is in the surrounding area. A property developed above or near a railway station is going to provide excellent transport links as well as being close to other local amenities.

Real-world residential development above railway stations

Ashley Road East (ARE) is a new 183-unit mixed-use development located in Tottenham Hale, set to play an important role in defining the area’s regeneration with the construction of two residential blocks, retail and office space.

It was an underused area of older commercial properties, ideal for redevelopment because of its central location, the need for housing in the area as well as commercial properties and removing the need to use any greenfield land. However, the London Underground Victoria Line runs to the south and east of the site, and the Northumberland Park Spur runs beneath the site.

Recently built Anthology Tottenham Hale is made up of 279 homes and several commercial units and faced slightly different challenges. In addition to being based right next to Tottenham Hale train and tube station, it’s also placed directly above a main road into central London. At 30 stories high, height was an additional consideration in terms of managing vibrations and ensuring structural integrity.

In both incidences, building on top of these train lines, tube tunnels, and roads was made possible with vibration isolation, making better use of space already built on with fantastic public transport links.


Find out more

To visualise how Farrat building components are used to isolate multi-storey developments located above, adjacent or between railway lines, watch our latest construction sequence videos below:

Or Contact us for more information on how you might build over and around railway stations, moving forward using state-of-the-art building vibration isolation.

Farrat Ashley Road East

Construction component specifications: What’s in a Name?

Following the publication of Dame Judeth Hackitt’s Draft Building Safety Bill – provisionally due to be enacted in 2023 –  it is becoming increasingly clear that days are numbered for building product manufacturers who use marketing messages that masquerade as technical substance and certification. In our latest Insight Article below, we reinforce the importance of qualified material performance data in specifications and the responsibility of manufacturers in the delivery of safe buildings.

 

Validating performance data

The reassurance that comes from being able to see a third-party test certificate pertaining to the specific material required, with examples of use in the prescribed situation, cannot be underestimated.  

In this respect naming a specific manufacturer and their product in a specification seems logical, so a base line example of unambiguous performance data can be established. This also sets the parameters for truly being able to understand if an alternative has equivalence and can subsequently be approved for use without dilution of the originally intended performance levels.  

However, behind that named product it is imperative that the data on which any claims of performance are made, is true and trusted. 

Thankfully, the golden thread of information and certification is becoming ever present within the design process, leading to a more widespread and simpler methodology to verifying performance claims, choosing the optimum materials and critically ensuring the specifiers choice ends up in the final build. 

Investment into fire testing to validate and certify material performance in the event of a fire – both structurally and from a combustibility standpoint – were key to the development of Farrat’s TBF Structural Thermal Break material. Maintaining structural integrity in general use or in the event of a fire, without succumbing to catastrophic failure whilst not contributing to the fire load, is a difficult balancing act. Add achieving this whilst also being an effective barrier to thermal bridging and the balance act becomes all the more remarkable.

Impact of design elements

Developing this further, we are starting to see the UNICLASS 2015 classification system supersede CAWS – The Common Arrangement of Works Specifications, as the preferred format for delivering details in data. 

Environmental and energy performance come both from the products specified and their interaction/use with other materials. As the efficiency and availability of digital tools advances, the figures derived from the specific materials used to calculate and build digital models becomes crucial. Substitution of a specified product – based on isolated data sheet figures – becomes difficult.  Verification of whether a product will work in conjunction with all other design elements in the realms of Thermal, Structural and Safety becomes onerous. 

Entering an era where electronic building models are interwoven with information directly influencing performance in numerous disciplines, the impact on changing just one of a materials parameters can have wide ranging implications, unseen until it is too late. 

construction

Manufacturers responsibility to guide specification

Guidance on how best to specify materials and what pitfalls can be avoided, should be the stock-in-trade of all product manufacturers, but particularly those in construction where the use of a component can vary dependant on the nature of the building and the desire of the designer. 

Farrat’s depth of specialism and in-house design engineering resource means that at all stages of the process there is a full understanding of the implications of any changes in performance criteria imposed from other influences. Reassessment using finite element analysis and crucially, the experienced and unbiased interpretation of the results to identify any issues is a guiding value at the core of every project undertaken by Farrat.

This ensures not only a solution with best performance technically, but also a solution with the best economic value outcome.

To this end naming a product and company to supply that product becomes a matter of trust, and that at any stage of the design, procurement or construction of a building the specified company can be asked a question and respond with an expert assessment and advice as to the suitability of their product for a given set of circumstances. 

This ownership of responsibility for their products, their performance and their safety in use will come to define those manufacturers that prevail globally and those who do not. Understanding and naming those companies will ensure the ‘sweet smell’ and reassurance that comes with a correctly understood and delivered specification. 

The role of specifying: can structural thermal breaks become a doorway to design freedom?

Its long been recognised that thermal bridges in building envelopes can cause problems of heat loss and mould growth, leading to poor energy performance, interstitial condensation and unsightly/unhealthy mould growth. As such, best practice has always been to avoid the potential for thermal bridges in detailing them out wherever possible. 

Modern levels of insulation and building standards have worked well in removing these issues from walls and window openings, however, one unintended consequence of the ever tightening regulations has been the sanitisation of building facades and a constriction of expression in through the wall structures.

So, why aren’t structural thermal breaks in your problem solving tool box as standard? 

Farrat Commercial Manager and RIBA Associate Member, Chris Lister, explains how changing legislation and a drive towards sustainable design puts the responsibility of selecting high-performance building materials – in this case thermal breaks – onto specifiers, now more than ever before. And how clever thermal break material specification can actually open a new world of opportunity at detailing stage, in expressed structures and use-significant external structural elements.

Chris Lister, Commercial Manager at Farrat

Constrained design expression

The calculations in the balanced equation between energy performance and the expression of structures from internal to external space can be examined in ever finer detail with the use of finite element analysis, equally this is now also the case for the detailed understanding of the building physics involved.

The thermal detailing structural connections, to and through building envelopes, such as balconies require a complex level of understanding of the multiple pathways for transmission via the structure and is only truly able to be calculated by the application of 3D analysis to the specific connection.

As more and more building designers and engineers, aided by specialist modelers, carry out these analyses and understand how to utilise the new, advanced structural thermal break materials to solve detailing issues, the world of opportunity in expressed structures and use significant external structural elements start to re-emerge.

Typical details that often cause specifiers to alter design intent

As a building solutions provider, Farrat are typically approached by specifiers who seek informed and reliable technical guidance during the detailing of; balconies, canopies and external features on high-rise (18m+) developments in urban centres, junctions between masonry walls and supporting steelwork, and connections between reinforced concrete and steel elements, which can be difficult to thermally analyse if you are not a specialist.

These typical details often present designers with challenges when the building aims to achieve sustainability credentials throughout its whole lifecycle, such as BREAM ‘Outstanding’ or LEED certification, as any point where a connection to the main structure exists, it has potential to create a thermal bridge and drag energy performance down.

Identifying where, and to what extent, thermal bridges are impacting design details will present a specifier with an opportunity to either elaborate, or strip back, the building design – more often than not the latter. However, integrating a structural thermal break into the connection will often solve detailing issues eliminating the need to ‘reign in’ design intent.

For example, junctions between masonry walls and supporting steel can form a linear thermal bridge compromising building performance, and the same can be said for uninsulated structural foundations (such as connections between structural columns & exoskeleton structures).

In these scenarios, selecting a thermal break material with high structural integrity, low thermal conductivity, will support full column loads whilst insulating the steel structure.

The use of structural thermal breaks is not limited to great expressions of steel and concrete protruding through building envelopes. The majority are utilised in the finer structural details such as façade system supports or other unseen elements such cold store column bases, data centre substructures and roof top plant installations.

In the instance of large area rain screen cladding and façade systems, these details can impose a substantial thermal load on a main structure if unchecked. A high-grade structural thermal break will isolate building interior structures from excessive heating and cooling, remove the internal condensation risk and maintaining the connections structural performance.

Whatever the application, it is important for designers and specifiers to understand that the thermal performance of external structural elements should never have to be a barrier to freedom of expression.

Example of Farrat Structural Thermal Break 3D TEKLA object being inserted into a detail.

Steel to concrete connection detail intergrating a Farrat TBK Structural Thermal Break.

Masconry to Cladding connection detail intergrating a Farrat TBF Structural Thermal Break.

Moreover, designers can benefit from specifying, detailing, and using structural thermal breaks in this manner to improve the thermal performance of buildings and without being afraid of designing expressive external elements.