Whenever a property is transferred from one owner to another, an architect is required to conduct an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). Ever since this has become mandatory, new insulation products started being imported to Malta.
These are typically internal or external cladding panels applied to the common building fabric, namely 230mm HCB (hollow concrete block) walls.
External cladding normally raises land ownership issues and planning permission anomalies, while internally, it takes up much precious floor space and yet not fully performing in accordance with local building regulations.
In order to avert such problems, panel thickness is compromised.
Another issue being encountered is that thick globigerina limestone walls used to perform better in terms of acoustic performance, while thinner walls in hollow concrete blocks currently being used have now have raised awareness about more audible neighbours’ noise levels.
A project by the Faculty for Built Environment is proposing a new building element, namely the Double C-Block, which is an innovative idea of combining both hygro- thermal and acoustic properties en suite, condensed into a 200mm building block, yet without compromising the desired consistent structural compressive strength.
The University of Malta has already been supporting this idea, spurring from a Master Dissertation in 2014, into a few prototype blocks and wall, tested to destruction for their compressive strength, after conducting thermal and acoustic tests of sample walls in a hot box and acoustic chamber.
Development of this block will now be researched further in collaboration between the University of Malta and Cementstone Manufacturing Co. Ltd., a local established leading manufacturer of the standard HCB units, as part of Attard Bros. Group of Companies.
Following promising results from laboratory tests, the building technology will be taken to the next level by building comparative test cells, simulating a full-scale habitable room; one built in standard 230mm HCB and another using the 200mm Double C-Block.
The test cells will be monitored over a 12-month period, testing for seasonal hygro- thermal performance and the overall acoustic performance. Data will eventually be used to validate and calibrate established software modelling, for further refined simulations and testing.
Prof. Vincent Buhagiar, who is leading the project, said that once this project reaches fruition, it will lead to a huge change in the way construction is undertaken in Malta. He also said the data generated from this project will be used to develop the research into a full product launch on the local and possibly attract attention in the international market.
Perit Luca Caruso, RSO II, will be directly involved in both simulation and site monitoring: he is sure that studying the hygro-thermal process and finding alternative design mixes will lead to cutting-edge research aligned to the ones currently conducted at international level.
Dr. Ing. Simon P. Borg, Senior Lecturer, will be responsible for procurement of all data logging equipment and on-site monitoring, which will be used in the testing phase of the project.
Project R&I 2019 010T Double C Block is financed by the Malta Council for Science & Technology, for and on behalf of the Foundation for Science and Technology, through the FUSION: R&I Technology Development Programme’. More info at this link.