Will Wigfield, Product Manager – Flat Roofing at ROCKWOOL UK, says whilst the challenges of 2020 will continue long into next year, the government’s investment in 10-year healthcare and education building programmes offer some promise, and the shift towards the use of non-combustible materials is set to continue…
In terms of headline threats and challenges, I think it’s safe to say that the impact of COVID-19 will continue long into 2021 and bring further uncertainty when it comes to opportunities in the construction industry.
That said, there is future promise with the government’s investment in a 10-year healthcare and a 10-year education building programme – both of which follow years of underinvestment and a large maintenance backlog in the sectors.
Aside from being large scale developments, the construction of schools and hospitals demands high levels of insulation. Most include a flat roof design, and commonly incorporate cladding solutions. As a potential pipeline of long-term work, this represents at least some positivity for the roofing, cladding and insulation industry as we move forward.
Looking ahead to future trends, we expect the increasing shift towards the use of non-combustible materials to continue. While there is an anticipated reduction of the existing 18m building height threshold down to 11m, we’re also seeing signs that non-combustibility is becoming more prominent in flat roofs. For example, insurers are starting to have an influence on material choice – not just with the building fabric, but in the context of contractor liability too.
Although BROOF (t4) did initially cause some confusion in the market regarding what constitutes non-combustible in a flat roof build-up, we expect a renewed focus on regulatory compliance in 2021. Greater clarity and support are needed to help designers and contractors navigate regulation complexities and better understand the role that insulation plays in delivering buildings that are safe as well as sound.
From a façade perspective, the market needs to be prepared for a shifting regulatory landscape and potential issues with compartmentation as modular construction takes off. This represents a challenge for the industry and will require insulation manufacturers to take a collaborative approach to designing products which enable contractors to deliver quality and regulation compliant installations.
The unpredictability of 2020 will undoubtedly see many businesses carry over commercial concerns into next year, which is why it is important for manufacturers to provide as much certainty and reliability as possible, particularly in relation to product supply and availability of technical support when it’s needed.