Sarah Spink, CEO of the Liquid Roofing and Waterproofing Association (LRWA), reflects on an extraordinary year, and looks at what lies ahead for the liquid roofing and waterproofing sector in 2021.
It was just over a year ago at the LRWA Awards & Gala when I remarked in my speech that 2019 had been an unpredictable year. Little did we know what lay in store for 2020 and just how unpredictable work and life could really be. But despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, the construction sector – and roofing in particular – has proved its resilience and progress has been made across a number of areas.
In June 2020, the Construction Leadership Council’s (CLC) Covid-19 Task Force published its ‘Roadmap to Recovery’ – a plan made up of three phases (restart, reset, reinvent) – which will be delivered over the next two years. This underlines the Government’s commitment to investing in the sector and stimulating growth.
In the same month, the Government announced the outcome of the 2020/2021 Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) applications, providing extensive funding for refurbishment projects in the education sector. This followed pressure from the UK roofing industry, which collectively signed a letter to Gavin Williamson MP.
Another important step forward for the industry was the launch of the Construction Talent Retention Scheme in July. This will secure the vital skills needed to build the UK’s recovery from Covid-19, protecting employment for thousands of people working in the construction sector.
We are incredibly proud of our members’ work and the fact that many continued to supply and install liquid products for essential works throughout lockdown.
At the LRWA, our work didn’t stop either. To support and advise the growing number of specifiers turning to liquids, the LRWA’s technical committee produced a new Design Guide for Specifiers. This is the first publication of its kind to be published by the LRWA offering best practice advice on a wide range of specification factors.
Following the launch in 2019 of the Specialist Technical Group (STG), a new insulation subcommittee, we have continued to hold regular meetings to help shape best practice and address our members’ specific needs. We also launched a new Hot Melt subcommittee this year which is currently responsible for reviewing and updating the Hot Melt Code of Practice.
In addition, a move to virtual working has enabled the LRWA to host a much higher number of technical meetings in 2020 as well as webinars providing expert insights from organisations such as the BBA. Topics have included updates on Approved Document B, R&D tax credits and UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) marking; a new UK product marking which will apply to most products that previously required the CE marking.
Some of these webinars have been jointly hosted with the Single Ply Roofing Association (SPRA), and we aim to continue this collaboration in 2021 and extend our webinar programme.
Clarifying new regulations
Following the Grenfell tragedy in 2017, the Government launched its review of the ban on the use of combustible materials in and on the external walls of buildings in 2020. The LRWA, in collaboration with SPRA, responded to the consultation on behalf of the flat roofing industry to help address issues raised, including confusion relating to what is deemed as an attachment.
In addition, representatives from both associations have been involved in a number of the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) roundtable meetings to discuss areas that required clarification and impact flat roofing and waterproofing.
Working with SPRA, we also developed a joint response this year to the consultation on BS 8579 – a British Standard offering guidance on the design of balconies and terraces as well as their component parts. Our input has helped to alter the guidance and clarify the definition of a balcony with specific references to terraces (being an occupied roof).
Following this work, the LRWA and SPRA is working with the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC) to help develop new industry guidance for designers of flat roofs and balconies. This should be published in early 2021 and will cover changes in legislation relating to fire safety on relevant buildings.
Navigating Brexit outcomes
It is only a matter of weeks before the Brexit transition period ends and we discover whether a trade deal will be in place or not. There are still many unanswered questions, specifically in relation to Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), CE & UKCA marking after the end of the transition period.
Depending on what is agreed by the British Government and the EU, there is the potential for raw material shortages, higher testing costs and price fluctuations which could all have a huge impact on our members as well as the wider roofing industry.
We have been working with our members to help them navigate these issues through a series of webinars and workshops and will continue to offer this support in 2021.
Preparing for change
As the last 12 months have proven, it is becoming increasingly difficult to predict what may happen to the construction sector and the wider economy in the future. There are still many challenges ahead, but we remain positive about the strength of the liquids industry and the ability of the whole roofing sector to withstand market challenges.
In today’s uncertain environment, it is also more important than ever for contractors and manufacturers to be part of a community that has access to high level information. With more change coming down the line, trade associations have a vital role to play in ensuring businesses are prepared and that members have a collective voice to help deliver positive change and best practice.