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PVC Hygienic Cladding vs Composite Panel Systems for Clean Environments

PVC vs Composite Panels

A ‘clean’ environment carries different meanings for different types of applications, from the strictest ISO or GMP grade facilities required for vaccine production suites to less stringent ‘clean not classified’ spaces that must simply be kept free from dust and external pollutants.

Depending on the level of cleanliness required within an area, there are several material options that can be considered to achieve this. This includes PVC hygienic sheeting, such as Altro Whiterock, and composite panel systems, namely Kingspan and Puracore, both offering qualities that can be adapted to suit varying specifications and budgets but differ considerably in terms of build time and method.

To identify the key differences, let’s explore the core components of each system and how they compare to one another.

What is a PVC Cladding System?

PVC hygienic sheets, or wall cladding, are commonly used to fit out existing spaces and turn them into easily sanitised environments. Up to 10mm in thickness and available in a range of colours, this system can be installed as part of ongoing contractor works.

A major supplier within this market is Altro Whiterock, where ‘whiterock’ has now become an interchangeable term used to describe materials of this nature. It’s a cost-effective solution, commonly used to line commercial kitchens, doctors’ surgeries and facilities that are subject to moisture exposure (ie. bathrooms, spas).

This system must be applied to a standard-build wall, such as plasterboard, using a strong adhesive to bond the surfaces together, then moulded to suit the shape of the wall. Where wet trades are required, this leads to extensive drying time and must be factored in as part of any programme of works.

What is a Composite Panel System?

Panel systems of this nature are made up of an insulation foam core, which can be anything from polyisocyanurate (PIR) to the more sophisticated Aluminium Honeycomb, which is then sandwiched between two metal sheets. There are different panel types for a variety of applications, from the most stringent pharmaceutical production environments to food & drink manufacturing facilities. Its polyester painted or food-safe laminate coating allows for a high level of hygiene and cleanliness, while sealing of joints maintains watertightness and airtightness.

Panel systems provide a robust and thermally efficient independent partitioning solution, that can be efficiently installed thanks to their off-site manufacturing process and no dependence on any existing walls. They can therefore be utilised to construct and fit out cleanroom environments, laboratories and many other medical settings.

In today’s society where fire safety is a key concern, utilising a non-combustible Mineral Fibre cored panel can provide passive fire protection for up to 4 hours to protect equipment and staff within the space.

To Future-Proof & Save Time

It’s true that both systems can be considered to achieve a ‘clean’ finish to some degree, but as we consider changing budgets and time always being of the essence in today’s climate, there are some elements that require closer inspection in terms of their longevity in the medical industry.

While a PVC system is very inexpensive and provides an aesthetically pleasing finish, this solution isn’t necessarily set up for any spatial amendments that may crop up later down the line. Depending on the adhesive used, such systems don’t have the flexibility to be uplifted and reinstated elsewhere, so will ultimately end up in landfill, along with any remains of plasterboard, if no longer required.

Conversely, composite panel systems can be easily removed, reconfigured and appended to at a later date, where adding in further HVAC can transform areas into full cleanroom and laboratory facilities if required. Where panels don’t have an opportunity to be reused for another purpose, they can be fully recycled thanks to manufacturers’ ongoing commitments to environmental awareness and sustainability. The ability to future proof a space in this way is what sets them apart from the rest.

Build time is a large consideration for any construction project, where budgets and programmes are often squeezed as tight as possible. This is where panel systems are advantageous as the build is completed in just one stage and requires no wet trades so time spent on site is minimal, unlike PVC cladding which requires an initial plasterboard wall followed by the fixing through an adhesive. While panel-builds may take a number of weeks, the process of installing PVC sheets, from start to finish, could be a matter of months.

Stancold have been panel-build specialists for over 70 years and during this time have established a strong knowledge base of the requirements for the medical industry. Whether that be for new hospitals or pharmaceutical manufacturing plants, the panel systems that we install boast versatility and robustness, to cater for both the stringent hygienic measures required in the sector and opportunity to easily revise and update in the future.

For more information on our projects within the pharmaceutical & medical sector, our specialist, Mark Kendrick, is on hand to discuss the key components of our design & build solutions. Get in touch with him on 07585 301 425 or send an enquiry here.


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