Changing world, changing rooms

At the most basic level, all rooms are the same – structurally, they have a floor, walls and a ceiling. However, that is not how people perceive the spaces in which they live, work and play. To us, all rooms are different

Demands and designs vary enormously from one environment to another, changing not just between tastes and functions, but over time and with technology. From home to work, from the local supermarket to the local hospital, expectations are constantly moving forward and the construction sector is being asked to innovate and create multi-use spaces in response.

British Gypsum has more than 100 years’ experience in plaster, plasterboard and ceiling solutions, helping create spaces that provide comfort, protect against fire and insulate against sound. More recently, innovations from British Gypsum mean that walls can be more interactive, customisable and even improve the air we breathe.

AESTHETICS PLUS PERFORMANCE

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 Examples of the trend for increasing the functionality of a space can already be found in the new “Rooms Made For You” range from British Gypsum: Thistle Magnetic Plaster transforms the entire wall into an interactive surface that attracts magnets; whereas Lifestyle Wall accommodates exceptionally high loads, such as flat-screen TVs, with standard screws, eliminating the need for specialist mechanical fixings. The range of Sound Solutions provide enhanced levels of sound insulation to protect against noise, enabling different members of the family to turn it up loud or enjoy a quiet night’s sleep without any compromise. All of these products are highly versatile, plus they crucially combine aesthetics and performance.

“The win-win for homeowners and building designers alike is when they no longer have to choose design or performance. Enabling them to have both, together, drives the agenda for manufacturers,” says Paul Howard, innovation manager at British Gypsum. “The focus is on making the internal walls and ceilings do more for the building user, increasing the functionality of the space. A good example is our ceilings offer, where we provide a high-quality design aesthetic and, at the same time, optimise the acoustic environment and enhance the indoor air quality.”

HOW GOOD IS THE AIR INDOORS?

 As we spend up to 90 per cent of our time indoors, we take it for granted that the air we breathe is clean and pollutant-free, as fresh as the air from the great outdoors. Yet impurities found in both our homes and workplaces can cause health problems and a reduction in our general wellbeing.

Allergies and asthma are on the rise, especially among children and young adults, with the US Environmental Protection Agency even going so far as to rank indoor air pollutants in the top five environmental risks to public health.

Pollutants, called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), get introduced indoors by people, pets and cleaning products, as well as finishes, fabrics, furnishings and floor coverings. With new buildings becoming more air-tight, these indoor pollutants become more of a problem in internal spaces.

People often complain about health problems after extended periods of time spent indoors and many of these symptoms can be attributed to VOCs, including formaldehyde. VOCs are easily evaporated at normal room temperature, releasing airborne toxins – “off-gassing” – which can give rise to headaches, lack of concentration and breathing problems.

HOW TO CAPTURE AND CONVERT FORMALDEHYDE

Helping tackle the problem of VOCs, ACTIVair from British Gypsum is a new technology added to a number of its products, including its Thistle PureFinish plaster which can easily be retrofitted. Specifically designed to transform emissions of formaldehyde, a common VOC, into non-harmful inert compounds, it eliminates the risk of re-emission. ACTIVair technology:

  • Removes up to 70 per cent of formaldehyde concentrations in a controlled test environment
  • Will produce cleaner, fresher air for at least 50 years
  • Poses no risk of re-emission even if the product is damaged.

Improving the indoor environment is a major consideration, especially in your own home, and healthcare, education and workplace sectors, where good health, focus and concentration are key.  Within a hospital environment, where young or vulnerable people spend long periods indoors, the removal of formaldehyde can help speed patient recovery.

HOW SUSTAINABLE ARE THE PRODUCTS IN MY HOME?

Innovation is not limited to products, either. Developing relevant accompanying information, plus providing it in a user-friendly and readily accessible format can help save time and money.

Sometimes, the answers to complex concerns are actually quite simple. For example, the independently verified Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) do exactly what their name suggests, they tell you what you need to know about a product and the environment.

Sustainability leader at British Gypsum, Heidi Barnard, explains: “There are many claims made by product manufacturers regarding environmental performance, and it can be difficult for professional specifiers and architects, never mind DIY enthusiasts and homeowners, to see how sustainable a solution really is. The answer is EPD. Based on clearly defined rules, they give an indicator of performance that is reliable and transparent. In short, you know what you are getting.”

For a manufacturer, as in life, the learning never stops; the aspiration need not diminish

Recognising the value of such convenience, credibility and clarity, British Gypsum now has a range of EPD covering much of its plasterboard and Thistle plaster products.

Customers across all markets are also now beginning to question not just what a product does, but where it came from, originally. Again, it is independently verified certification that provides assurance. Understanding the importance of such traceability, British Gypsum focused efforts to become the first manufacturer of interior lining systems to achieve a BES 6001 “excellent” rating for responsible sourcing.

CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT

For a manufacturer, as in life, the learning never stops; the aspiration need not diminish, as Heidi Ms Barnard concludes: “While it is important for us to share successes, we must also strive for continuous improvement, understand current and future customer needs, learn from doing, and set ambitious objectives for the future.”

CASE STUDY: ST MARY’S HOSPITAL

British Gypsum ceiling tiles and plasterboard products have been used to help create a healthy indoor environment for patients, visitors and employees at a new unit of St Mary’s Hospital, Kettering.

The Gyptone ceiling range with ACTIVair was installed in four key areas of the existing hospital as a retrofit test measure. With sufficient performance data successfully gathered, the system was then specified throughout the new build.

Tests showed an average reduction of 42 per cent in levels of formaldehyde, a common volatile organic compound or VOC linked to health issues in high concentrations. All results were well below the maximum recommended by the World Health Organization.

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