SMARTPLY Timber Panels provide solutions for offsite and fire safety

// the building envelope

The UK construction sector is being called upon to provide solutions to two acute issues faced at a national level. In the first instance, affordable, or social, housing continues to be the main pressing concern. But, combined with the drive towards more reliable fire and safety regulations, the construction industry is finding solutions to allow homes to be built in an affordable way while still meeting exacting safety standards.

Anticipating the rise in offsite construction, MEDITE SMARTPLY identified the need for a new format of product to add to its catalogue of long panel technologies. With SMARTPLY FR OSB 3, the innovative timber panel manufacturer has produced a construction material that is not only helping to drive efficiencies and cut costs within construction, but is also ensuring safety standards are met for finished builds.
A lightweight and structurally sound OSB 3 panel, SMARTPLY FR can now be manufactured in panels up to 7.5m long by 2.5m wide, making it ideal for offsite construction methods. Entire sides of buildings can now be sheathed in a controlled offsite environment before being delivered to site or craned into place with no additional post-treatment or coating required. Efficiencies like these offer an exciting opportunity for the social housing sector or affordable building projects such as modular builds.
SMARTPLY FR is made with an environmentally-friendly, water-based flame retardant added to the OSB strands during manufacture. Unlike many panels that are treated post-manufacture, which can have a destructive effect on the mechanical or physical properties of an OSB panel, SMARTPLY FR OSB 3 maintains its structural integrity and meets CE-marked certified structural performance and safety standards.
Its use as a flame retardant flooring solution for The Edge, a large student accommodation building in Liverpool, helps exemplify the standout qualities that make SMARPTLY FR such a formidable construction product. Featuring 231 en-suite rooms, two penthouse suites, an on-site gym, laundrette and private residence courtyard, The Edge utilises a concrete and timber frame structure clad in facing brickwork, metal cladding with UPVC windows and aluminium curtain walling.
1000 sheets of 18mm SMARTPLY FR/FR BUILD OSB 3 panels were specified for flooring throughout all seven storeys of the building. The panel was suggested for use by timber frame engineers and fabricators Datum, given the ease with which it can be cut and installed while retaining its structural performance and flame retardant properties.
Ross Archer, Technical Manager at Datum explains: “For the developer, fire safety and quality of build were of paramount importance as they really wanted The Edge to stand out as an exemplar of high quality student accommodation in the city. When building the timber frame part of the structure, we looked for a flame retardant flooring panel that wouldn’t be affected when the edges were cut to the specification of each storey.
SMARTPLY FR/FR BUILD OSB 3 enabled us to meet this requirement so we chose to use it throughout the building and we are delighted with the result.”
Manufactured to meet European reaction to fire class C-s2, d0 and BFL -s1 performance, SMARTPLY OSB 3 is designed to not only slow down the rate at which timber burns but to prevent ignition. These safety assurances are what made the panel such a perfect fit for The Edge. But, the sustainable and FSC certified timber panel meets suitable specification requirements for projects far beyond private student accommodation.
Combined with these safety assurances, the long format panel is well suited for more modern methods of construction such as offsite fabrication. Efficient building methods are helping to facilitate an increased supply of homes and, in turn, are driving affordability: a key criterion for social housing. The impact timber could have in this regard is promising, to say the least.

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