Functional and versatile
Construction Systems Marketing offers flexible solutions to architects and designers, enabling the latter to create visually attractive concrete buildings, while ensuring maximum thermal efficiency
The numerous specific advantages of sandwich panels have, in recent times, become widely recognised by the concrete and construction industries, leading to the considerable growth the sandwich panels market is currently enjoying. Staying at the forefront of this niche sector is Construction Systems Marketing (CSM) – the undisputed number one provider of thermally broken connector systems, which is now making the most of the market’s buoyancy. “We have been selling our Thermomass product line since 1999 when the items we were offering were still a little bit ahead of their time,” Managing Director, Scott Green recalls. “Today, it is a completely different story. Architects and builders find the benefits of Thermomass particularly attractive and it is precisely its versatile properties that make it such a popular solution.”
Being manufactured off-site represents a key advantage of the Thermomass system, as it provides a certainty of programme and a certainty of cost. Scott points out several technical aspects that make the difference with other traditional systems. “It is a thermally broken system, which means that no energy can escape through the inside to the outside. This allows you to achieve nearly 100 per cent thermal efficiency, aligned with the purpose of your building, as the connectors can be used with any type of insulation. Therefore, even if you want to keep a freezer building cold, you can do so, because there are no thermal short circuits in the wall to waste energy. In fact, the connectors’ strongest point lies exactly in their significant contribution to making concrete walls look more attractive thermally.”
One of the key drivers of the Thermomass success has been the company’s understanding that it needs to invest in R&D, in order to enrich its proposition and develop a variety of connectors for different purposes. “A latest innovation of ours is the X-connector, which we introduced about three years ago,” Scott states. “It is an extremely helpful tool, especially for architects, because of its ability to take on a phenomenal weight, over extreme thicknesses of insulation. Keeping that in mind, the architects can then design more aesthetically pleasing buildings and not just boring blocks of flats, as was the case in the 1960s. Nowadays, the style of the concrete being used, as well as the relief on its surface, are completely different, and we are offering the alternative the architects want to see,” he explains.
Elaborating on his previous point, Scott introduces to us another trademark CSM product, called Versaliner Brick Placement. “It is a form liner, which enables the easy placement of bricks onto the surface of the concrete. Again, it expands the opportunities before the architects, who can now use a different palette of materials, or a brick complete with different colours of concrete, and this multiplies the options they have to make a building more attractive to look at.
“The benefit of using the X-connectors with the Versaliner is that the combination ensures the lowest possible U-values on the wall. A lot of buildings are exceeding regulation expectations, partly because the architects want a relief in the panel. At the same time, we have to increase the thermal insulation to between 250mm and 450mm thickness, and this is where the real strength of our system comes into play, as it holds a concrete face back to the structure,” he discusses.
Fire safety is the overriding issue of the day across the construction industry, and due to concrete’s non-combustibility, CSM now offers standard fire-tested products to serve the changing needs of the sector. “Right now, there is a huge caution of what materials to use in building constructions. People are starting to realise that concrete does not burn and all that needs to be done is have a correctly insulated panel. We have now released a range of thermal insulation solutions, which are non-combustible, and there are a number of projects in this area, which we are looking to launch in the near future.
“It is evident that the regulations are becoming tighter, as safety is being looked at even more closely across the construction industry. To us, it seems that each building regulation officer has a different approach, but the general trend is that fire stops are wanted to be put around the windows, because this is the weak point and they are taking extra protection measures,” Scott analyses some of the trends and challenges CSM has to deal with in its operations.
He goes on: “The biggest issue for architects and designers is hitting a specified average U-value, in order to meet energy requirements. This is the exact moment we step in and play a crucial role in a project, as we look at a typical panel, appraise the window configuration and the reduction in thermal value there is around the windows, and then give our clients the thickness of foam they need, so they can meet their U-value targets.
“Most of the panels have the windows already installed when they go to a construction site, so construction tends to be very simple and extraordinarily fast on our part, once the panels have been done in the factory. We are convinced that we have the easiest and simplest to use system for our customers,” Scott maintains, comparing a concrete sandwich panel to a normal sandwich in an attempt to further emphasise the flexibility of the product. “You get two pieces of concrete on each side, but the filling could be completely different every time, which gives us the exceptional versatility to produce exactly what a designer wants. For example, if the client wants to ensure maximum fire safety, we can deliver such a core that addresses this requirement. Similarly, if cost-effectiveness prevails in their considerations, we can again change the inside to meet that demand. It is also possible for us to manufacture the panels on-site, should that be what a customer wants.”
Speaking of the future, Scott is optimistic that the concrete industry in the UK is making a return, some half a century after its rise and subsequent decline in the 1960s. “Concrete has so many advantages. Acoustically, it is vastly superior to both timber and steel. It does not burn and it has excellent thermal capabilities, outperforming other materials. When you think about it, the Romans were building in concrete and some of their buildings are still around, proving concrete’s permanence and cost-effectiveness over a long period of time. All of these factors lead me to believe that concrete will regain its supremacy and we are currently helping it do that, as we are offering all the answers that the construction industry demands, at the moment.”
Construction Systems Marketing (CSM)
Products: Thermally broken connector systems and form liners