history

The Panablok story begins with the vision of architectural designer Michael Balla-Goddard and
a very personal obsession with the enhanced design potential of the humble universal construction panel


Inception 1986 - 1993
Structural Insulating Panels, or SIPs, were originally developed in the 1930’s by the US Forest Products Research Laboratory. Our involvement started in 1986 when a cement particle board facing was applied as an external skin to a panel as part of a project to build remote mineworker accommodation in the 50 degree Celsius heat of the Saudi desert. Traditional timbered sections were gradually superseded by metal framing and fixing components, and the new product started to find wider uses, due to its excellent insulation properties, in the fabrication of refrigeration panels.

The panels were then tested for multi-storey and roofing applications, and for fire and strength resistance, which led to further technical improvements. Test results from the Makowski Heavy Engineering Laboratory at Surrey University confirmed that enormous loads could be carried down the outside face materials, and with the addition of internal studs, the first Synergetic Structural Insulating Panel was born combining enormous load bearing capabilities with high levels of fire resistance. By 1992, patents were applied for and secured, along with BBA certification, although it became apparent that a partner was required to develop a widely marketable product.

The Marshall Years 1993 - 2002
Marshalls was that partner, and following rigorous internal engineering and testing, they signed a licence. Their promotional and sales teams pushed the product into many different market sectors and recorded high levels of customer satisfaction. The Panel was used in all sorts of buildings, and of all shapes and sizes, including hospitals, hotels, schools, public and private housing, airport buildings, community centres, offices, police stations, surgeries, and laboratories. In addition, a US Patent was obtained, together with design rights, copyrights, engineering certification, insurance approvals, and wider BBA accreditation.

It is fair to say that the product was probably too good, and over time, competitors using traditional building methods started to undercut Panablok on a number of large building projects in order to retain market share, even at a loss. Coupled with this, the original enlightened team at Marshalls gradually retired and the new management decided that, strategically, it wanted to go back to basics and concentrate on their traditional range of brick and concrete-based building materials. The site and equipment was sold, and the product went into temporary hibernation.

The In-fill Years 2002 - 2013
Further research was instigated, and with the assistance of engineers and the Welsh Development Agency, Panablok received a 1 million Euro Craft Grant from the European Union. Working with assistance from Germany and Finland, along with the Engineering Team at the University of Surrey, new and exciting discoveries were made in terms of improved panel facings (magnesium oxide rather than cement particle board) leading to better fire resistance, and better internal foams similar to those used in aircraft and high tech railway engineering. Engineering studies were also carried out into bespoke roofing panels.

On the marketing side, these major structural advances in the panel’s design were compromised as the new Licensees decided to overlook the Panablok panel’s unique stand-alone structural characteristics, and focused instead on its use purely as a secondary walling panel (“in-fill”) within traditional concrete and steel frames. Nevertheless, several successful large-scale projects (Wembley stadium) were soon using Panablok as in-fill panels, and the system flourished during the UK building boom of the early to mid-2000’s, with a myriad of schemes in high-rise concrete frame construction. Panablok became the quick fit universal structural/thermal/party wall structure, and soon developed a strong niche reputation, built on repeated success as a sub-contractor. However, the financial crisis in 2008 meant those opportunities in the UK construction sector, like in most of the developed world, collapsed, and the level of business tailed off significantly, leading to cancelled contracts and rescinded licenses. Other potential Licensees tried to introduce the structural panel to a number of African markets, but were unable to convert this into contracts. However, the panel continues to be used as in-fill in many “landmark” projects such as the 2012 London Olympics athletes village.

The Re-birth 2013 Onwards
Frustrated with the lack of progress and extremely mindful that the Panablok panel’s inherent stand-alone structural advantages were being overlooked, a new management team with an international business focus was assembled, and Panablok International Limited was born, with Michael Balla Goddard, the original inventor of the Panablok panel still at the helm, in conjunction with long time associates Alex Panko and Andre Morrall. Panablok International has taken a major step forward in developing and marketing Panablok as a Complete Watertight Envelope Solution, for walls, floor and roof. This 21st century solution can be delivered with incomparable speed anywhere in the world, and the new focus is to establish manufacturing operations around the world, to bring our simple, tried and tested modern building technology to the global market. The Directors are driven by a strong ethical and environmental ethos that looks beyond Panablok’s historic operations in the UK, and we firmly believe our partnership approach with local entrepreneurs and developers, centered on a panel factory in each country of operation, will provide significant long-term sustainable social and economic benefits to each new country:

  • Investment is not simply based on foreign access to local natural resources
  • Stimulates employment and long term economic growth – ‘jobs not aid’
  • Involves major local participation at all levels
  • Technology transfer
  • Export and hard currency earnings potential
  • Building stable communities through:
    • High quality, affordable housing (improves living standards and the overall housing stock, from slum/squatter camp regeneration to student, key worker and traditional family developments)
    • Schools and training centers (stimulates education)
    • Hospitals and clinics (improves health)