Steve Reading's letter (9 December, Insurance Times) highlights the confusion that exists in the insurance world about composite panels and non-combustibility. The confusion is understandable in the light of the way composite panels are currently being promoted.

Composite panels were originally produced with either EPS or PUR foam cores, which have recently been superseded by PIR foam cores to provide minimal fire performance. However, this improved performance still only provides as little as 15 minutes insulation fire resistance even with additional flashings and fixing. Many PIR-cored panels have still not been approved to the LPS 1181 standard.

By contrast, rockfibre-cored composite panels can achieve Factory Mutual Approval, Standard 4880 (1994) - "Class 1 fire classification of metal-faced insulated wall panels with non-combustible core for installation with no height restriction".

This standard is aimed at assuring all concerned that these products will perform as required in the event of a fire and not contribute to the fire load of the building. In effect, they provide for up to two hours integrity and insulation for fire attack from both sides.

Only rockfibre-cored panels achieve this standard and it is compliance with it that insurers and their agents should verify when examining cladding specifications.

Due to the non-combustibility of rockfibre-cored panels it is not necessary for them to be tested to the LPS 1181 standard, however, to avoid confusion within the insurance and construction industries many manufacturers, such as ourselves, have tested their panels and can provide this certification also.

The insurance industry bases its premiums on risk, and it is therefore to be expected that combustible foam-cored panels, even those with LPS 1181 certification, will attract far higher premiums and excess' than non-combustible rockfibre-cored panels.

If the subject still gives rise to confusion, we are frequently asked to provide explanatory presentations to insurers and will be happy to make the necessary arrangements.

P A Cook
Managing director