Overheating in Building Services Applications

7 November 2018 Kingspan Insulation Middle East
Kooltherm Pipes

The Heat is On

Climate change is redefining how we design, specify, construct and maintain our built environment and, as we look to the future, its influence is only likely to increase. Global surface temperature data from the Met Office showed that 2015, 2016 and 2017 were the warmest years since records began[1]; and summer temperatures in the Middle East and North Africa will rise over twice as fast as the global average, with extreme temperatures of 46°C or more will be about five times more likely by 2050 than they were at the beginning of the century[2]. Naturally, these changes raise significant concerns about overheating.

In extreme temperatures, we naturally want to increase the amount of air conditioning we use in buildings. However, this will lead to a high energy demand and can substantially increase the carbon footprint of a building. For this reason, future regulations in the GCC and globally are likely to prioritize passive solutions. For example, The Al Sa’fat and Dubai Green Building Regulations & Specifications calls for all pipes supplying conditioned air “must be insulated to minimize heat loss and prevent condensation”[3] [4].

Current Practice for Pipe Insulation

In new build and refurbishment buildings, mild steel, stainless steel, carbon steel, copper and plastic pipework is typically used for HVAC and building services pipework, which is then insulated. The insulating material is often not considered until late in a projects design process and those who are not intimate with project constraints may be responsible for selecting the pipe insulation material. For this reason, there is a risk that little or no attention is paid to the operating and running cost of the pipework system, and therefore may lead to little attention paid to insulation choice.

What can we do to help with overheating?

Reasons to mitigate the risk of overheating in buildings extend beyond comfort and wasted energy. A comfortable indoor temperature is vital to ensuring our general well-being and exposure to prolonged or excessively high temperatures poses a real risk to occupant health. There are several actions that we can take to help combat both building overheating and a global rise in temperatures, including introducing passive solutions for building services applications. A building that can passively reduce the risk of overheating is less likely to require additional operation, maintenance and associated costs of active systems to keep them cool.

One passive solution to overheating is the use of an enhanced specification of pipe insulation and insulated pipe supports on hot water and heating pipework. High specification pipe insulation is an effective solution for the insulation of pipework where there is a risk of overheating. An example is phenolic insulation — the thermally efficient insulation limits heat transfer and thus reduces heat gain to surrounding areas. This can drastically reduce overheating in some buildings.

Phenolic Pipe Insulation

Kingspan Insulation recommends using a phenolic closed cell insulation material with extremely low thermal conductivity, such as Kingspan Kooltherm Pipe Insulation system. A building that reduces its risk of overheating by the application of an enhanced level of Kingspan Kooltherm® Pipe Insulation, rather than just insulating to BS 5422: 2009 (Method for specifying thermal insulating materials for pipes, tanks, vessels, ductwork and equipment operating within the temperature range -40°C to +700°C) will cost less to run, require less maintenance and be more comfortable and attractive to occupiers and purchasers.

Using phenolic pipe insulation, compared to other insulation material such as mineral fibre, can provide benefits such as:

  • Capital cost savings of up to 26%;
  • Up to 32% reduction in overheating hours;
  • 10 year energy cost saving of up to 33%; and
  • No additional extractor fan capital cost.

Pipe insulation products offer a simple, low maintenance solution for limiting heat transfer from pipework.  Minimum insulation requirements for hot water and heating systems are laid out in the Domestic and Non-domestic Building Service Compliance Guides, building on the specifications within BS 5422: 2009 (Method for specifying thermal insulating materials for pipes, tanks, vessels, ductwork and equipment operating within the temperature range -40°C to +700°C). To effectively reduce heat transference and ensure optimal system efficiency, it is worth looking beyond these requirements.

The drive towards a carbon neutral future has placed greater emphasis than ever before on the energy performance of building services. By utilizing passive solutions such as phenolic pipe insulation and insulated pipe supports, specifiers can maintain thermal comfort, limit service energy usage and potentially unlock new funding to further minimize long-term running costs.


[1] Met Office – An Overview of global surface temperatures in 2017 (https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/news/2018/global-surface-temperatures-in-2017)
[2] Max Planck Institute for Chemistry (https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2018/05/31/climate-change-is-making-the-arab-world-more-miserable)
[3] The Al Sa’fat (https://www.dm.gov.ae/Documents/AdsBanner%20Documents/english%2Balsafat%2Bbook.pdf)
[4] Dubai Green Building Regulations & Specifications (https://www.dewa.gov.ae/~/media/Files/Consultants%20and%20Contractors/Green%20Building/Greenbuilding_Eng.ashx)