Recently, we completed a hospitality build utilising cool room panels for the wall of the main food preparation area. Using these panels, we were able to provide an appropriate separation as required under the Food Act by ensuring solid wall construction and reducing the area for rodents or vermin to hide. The installation of the panels also allowed the program to be reduced by nearly a week and fewer trades were needed onsite. Conventional solid masonry walls require the services of bricklayers and renders, but this wall did not.
To clarify for those who aren’t familiar with commercial kitchens and coolers, a cool room panel is a pre-manufactured wall section consisting of rigid insulation sandwiched between two solid boards. The boards are usually made of metal or high-strength plastic. Cool room panels are often designed to snap or slide together, and they come in a variety of sizes and thicknesses.
Using the cool room panels was a good idea that worked out well for us and for our clients, but it did have a few drawbacks. One of the disadvantages of the system is that services cannot be “roughed in.” The hydraulics and electrical have to run on the outside of the wall in pipes and conduits, and they must be offset 25mm in accordance with the Food Code. This is very noticeable, visually. Even so, it’s a good system that has a lot to recommend it, especially if:
- you are looking to speed up a tight program
- you want to cut costs
- you have a difficult site where bricklaying is inconvenient and/or where there are access or support issues
You might want to look at a different solution if:
- you don’t want the look of exposed copper pipework or a 25mm offset for the services
- you require a type of finish that won’t work with cool room panels
- the building owner won’t allow it
In this particular job, the client opted to finish the wall with tiles. However, the finished exteriors of the panels we installed are considered ‘flat surfaces’ under the Food Act. That means that the wall could have been cleaned properly as installed, and therefore could have been left without a secondary finish.
Depending upon your specific project requirements, a cool room wall may or may not be the right choice for a food preparation area. However, it is definitely an option to consider. It’s quick and easy to erect, it’s much lighter than solid masonry and it meets the requirements of the Food Act 2003, Food Regulation 2004 and AS 4674-2004. Of course, when designing or building hospitality projects, all works must comply with the Food Act, and it’s important to seek all stakeholders’ approval before proceeding with this kind of alternative solution.