The tragic Grenfell Tower fire in London has fuelled discussion on the use of foam building systems in Australia. Notwithstanding the fact that imported aluminium composite panels were used on the Grenfell Tower, the fire has created the fear that foam cladding and foam wall systems are not fire-safe.

With cladding systems being confused with insulating foam construction systems, ZEGO Building Systems explains the differences between the two building materials.

Foam cladding is a non-structural and lightweight building system used as a cost-effective alternative to brickwork. In addition to reducing building costs and increasing the speed of construction, foam cladding with its highly insulated properties is also very appealing to eco-friendly builders and homeowners.

The Australian market has several foam cladding products/ EIFS (External Insulated Façade Systems) manufactured locally and compliant with the Australian Building Codes and fire safety standards.

ZEGO Z-Board (EIFS) cladding, for instance, is a flame retardant Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) manufactured in Australia and tested by AWTA, a leading registered NATA testing authority.

Key advantages of ZEGO Z-Board cladding include large convection grooves allowing normal convection currents to evaporate any moisture or water, ensuring the timber frames don’t rot out or the steel frames don’t rust out from moisture; and final finishes of acrylic render with 4-6% acrylic content providing flexibility and a water resistant surface. The render is applied after the installation of the cladding, giving a monolithic render finish that can expand and contract.

Insulated concrete forms (ICF) are hollow flame retardant EPS products, a ‘stay-in-place’ formwork core filled with concrete. With its self-extinguishing characteristics, the ZEGO ICF formwork will not sustain a flame.

The ZEGO ICF building system is a structural reinforced concrete building system with stay-in-place foam for insulation. Used in construction around the world for more than 60 years, insulated concrete formwork (ICF) systems deliver high strength with reinforced concrete being 6-9 times stronger than traditional builds.

Since fire safety is highly regulated in Australia’s building industry, it’s advisable to select foam cladding and ICF construction systems that are continuously tested for their fire retardant and self-extinguishing properties.