Updated: RAL quality marks for thermal insulation and building material recycling

Food, services, external wall thermal insulation composite systems (ETICS): There are quality marks and seals of approval for almost every item we use nowadays. They look attractive on packaging and brochures and give customers one thing in particular: a good feeling. They provide a feeling of security that a product and its workmanship will reliably deliver what they promise in day-to-day use. That a specialist company is working in accordance with the latest technical standards. That cladding on the wall of a building will not have a damaging effect on anyone, that it will last a long time and that it will deliver the expected ecological and (energy) efficiency values.

But even the most attractive quality marks are only as good as the standards and processes for inspection and revision which are behind them. Credible evidence of quality is thin on the ground, particularly when it comes to construction materials and construction works. However this long-term, unconditional reliability is precisely what façade engineers and specialist construction workers require for their work and to secure their livelihood. One organisation is taking this need particularly seriously: in November 2016, RAL updated its quality marks for “external wall thermal insulation composite systems” and “recyclable construction materials –  on-site processing”  to the latest standards.

ETICS façades in accordance with RAL: the new elements can be found in the detail

Companies which operate with the RAL “external wall thermal insulation composite systems” quality mark stand for particularly high standards of insulation work – from the planning and calculation stage to the selection of irreproachable materials through to the continuous supervision of installation works according to the state of the art in technology. With increasing demand and renewed attention from the authorities and from industry, the possibilities and standards and the German Energy Saving Ordinance (EnEV) are changing more quickly than ever before. The updated RAL quality mark encompasses this development in many small changes. The modifications include notes on materials and processes but also target feasibility, economic efficiency and sensible business processes. It is therefore worth studying all the individual new elements and checking to see what is in fact relevant for your own business. The purpose of this is not only to retain the certification: the small print could also conceal elements which make things simpler.

RAL Recycling: Planning for new regulations and saving money

Recyclable construction materials which bear the RAL quality mark are considered to be equivalent to primary construction materials from a technical and ecological point of view. Thermal insulation panels can also circulate with no issues in recyclable material cycles which are created in this way if they are free from HBCD-based flame retardants.  

What is crucial is to ensure they are free from foreign bodies such as residues of adhesives or solvents, plaster or mortar.

Particularly at this point in time when many first generation insulation systems are due for renewal, it is worthwhile for the construction industry to keep the new regulations for building material recycling in accordance with RAL in mind. This can facilitate disposal and save money. The simplest way is to have a discussion with a recycling operation which carries the RAL quality mark. They will quickly be able to say what needs to change when working together. In addition, all parties will benefit if all newly installed thermal insulation is based on easy-to-dismantle technical innovations, as recycling becomes much simpler if potential recycling solutions for a system are considered in the selection process.

Who checks the quality of the quality marks?

RAL, the German Institute for Quality Assurance and Identification, is known as a body which awards quality marks which represent particularly high quality requirements for products and services. Around 160 RAL quality marks have been issued to date and they are continuously being monitored and further developed in technological terms. In particular: RAL is an umbrella organisation for over 130 quality associations, whose quality marks are borne by manufacturing companies and service providers. One example of such an association is the RAL quality association for external wall thermal insulation. The quality criteria are therefore created based on leading expert knowledge and best practice from the entire industry, meaning they are independent and transparent.

Remaining informed on a regular basis is not only a point of honour

Manufacturers and businesses which are members of a trade- and material specific RAL quality association have one advantage: they are generally aware at an early stage of upcoming changes to standards in their sectors and related sectors as they are involved in their development. In this way, they can adapt their products and processes to new quality requirements on a regular basis.

Anybody wishing to work to similar standards to those offered by RAL without actually being certified by RAL is on the right track if their suppliers or partners are members of a corresponding quality association. As a general principle, all construction businesses should keep themselves regularly informed of any changes to the instructions for use of their materials. New requirements for materials and processing standards are quickly created, particularly if the standards for reprocessing are raised. They have an influence both on the professional removal of existing building materials and for quality-assured new plans.

Infobox:

All tremco illbruck products and insulating materials are free from HBCD-based flame retardants and can therefore circulate in recycling material cycles with no issue. tremco illbruck is also active in one of the 130-plus quality associations. As a member of the Quality Association for Joint Sealing Components and Systems, illbruck products were the first certified products to bear a RAL quality mark ten years ago. Today, tremco illbruck has more than 15 certified products and systems in its range.

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