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RCI December 2017

Thoughts on this year and what’s to come... 2017 will long be remembered for the tragic events and loss of life in the fire at Grenfell Tower, and we await the findings from the Hackitt Review which will no doubt have huge implications for the construction sector with regards to how projects are managed, buildings are constructed and testing and regulations. Elsewhere in 2017, Brexit has reportedly delayed investment, materials shortages have impacted and the skills problem still dominates, whilst contractors and manufacturers have reported peaks and troughs in both work and demand. With this in mind, RCI has compiled a selection of views from the market looking back at 2017 and forward to 2018... “With an increased housing target to meet, there is a risk that housebuilders could face lengthy waits for popular building materials due to shortages” The pressures of 2018 are going to speed up and intensify the pace of innovation and the need to provide the end-customer with the comfort of a guarantee. The construction industry has suffered a skills shortage for the past decade at least and now we can no longer rely upon EU workers to make up the numbers, it will get worse. Skills will be at a premium, so those who are in the industry already will be in great demand. The laws of supply and demand mean that their wages will go up. To keep pace, productivity will have to improve so manufacturers will have to bring out new methods of fixing tiles, fittings and components so that roofs can be laid more quickly. In other parts of the construction industry manufacturers have developed products that need less skill. I don’t think that is possible in roofing, but I do think we will see an even greater emphasis on easeof use for new products combined John Lambert: Forticrete, “With an increased housing target to meet, there is a risk that housebuilders could face lengthy waits for popular building materials due to shortages” with improved training from manufacturers. The same factors – fewer skilled staff and rising wages – will also increase the attractiveness of off-site fabrication, particularly of modular units that can be fitted together in a scaleable manner to fit various sizes of roof. In a factory, close supervision can compensate for lack of skill and experience, so we will see manufacturers researching new methods of construction. In some cases, these innovatory products and production methods will be developed in partnership with end-users, such as major housebuilders, who will then be confident enough to share the risk of trusting these new methods. But most customers will require more reassurance to trust these innovations. And this last point will be reinforced by another factor – worsening weather, as shown by the recent crop of storms. So, I can see a greater need for warranties and technical support that ensures that both the roofing contractors and their customers are confident that the products are installed correctly and that they will last. SECTOR VIEWS John Lambert, Forticrete, MD www.forticrete.co.uk There are many reasons to be optimistic in 2018. In his Autumn statement, the Chancellor announced plans to increase financial support to housing with the aim of building 300,000 houses on average each year. As a majority of our products are sold to the new build market we expect there to be an increase in demand. However, with an increased housing target to meet, there is a risk that housebuilders could face lengthy waits for popular building materials due to shortages. Anticipating this, we have invested Ged Ferris, Cembrit, marketing manager www.cembrit.co.uk As to be expected, there is some uncertainty over Brexit, and construction companies have been hit by the decline in the value of sterling, particularly those sourcing from overseas. We anticipate prices of products and labour rates will rise as a result of this unpredictability, at least in the present situation. The good news is the underlying trends are strong and with the growing pent-up demand for housing, we can hopefully look forward to a positive future in this sector. The Chancellor’s pledge to pump £15.3bn into housing over the next five years is bound to help, as will the promise to push through planning reforms that ensure more land is available for housing and better use is made of the underused land in our urban areas. Of course, this demand will probably have an impact on construction costs and lead times. In the long-term, there is also the likely growth in off-site / consistently over the last decade and in more recent times (2016), we invested £8.5m bringing additional roof tile capacity to the market. Not only does this ensure housebuilders have the products they need, but so too do the architects looking to ensure their projects enhance the visual appeal of the built environment. Material specification will also be key in achieving housing targets. The combination of planning constraints which can slow the path of progress alongside a welldocumented modern methods of construction in the pipeline. Also, of key importance in this sector, will be the greater emphasis on fire safety and likely change to regulations – alongside more stricter and expensive testing in the post-Grenfell environment. At Cembrit, we have undergone a significant restructuring process to better deal with the growing market for our products, making the whole Cembrit range available from each of our regional depots. We have also ramped up our cladding output and are focussing on third party accreditations. These initiatives are driven by our increased focus on leading brands and ancillary products. Our efforts are going to be concentrated on top end brands, and this is signalled by our withdrawal from some of our natural slate activities. 034 DECEMBER 2017 RCIMAG.COM shortage of skills in the construction sector, means housebuilders will need products that offer sustainable and costeffective alternatives to natural stone and slate than can be deployed easily. When we design a new product, we do so with ease of use in mind so they are appropriate to the current climate. We wholeheartedly welcomed the Government’s commitment to providing additional funding to develop constructions skills as this is an essential investment in the future of the industry. The biggest area of uncertainty will come from Brexit. Nobody really knows how it is going to affect the economy and our own industry, and this could create a period of instability. The most important thing is to be prepared for any bumps in the road. Ged Ferris, Cembrit: “This demand will probably have an impact on construction costs and lead times” David Patrick, Redland, marketing director UK & Ireland www.redland.co.uk


RCI December 2017
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