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RCI December 2017

SECTOR VIEWS Anthony Carlyle, SPRA, chairman www.spra.co.uk 2017 was another interesting year for the single ply sector, with a number of challenges from a variety of sources. Market uncertainty is still apparent following the tumultuous events of 2016. Single ply also faced fierce competition from well established – and occasionally new – roofing technologies with so many options apparently suitable on every project. We also faced broader construction industry issues such as the ever-worrying skills shortage, supply issues with raw material restrictions and significant price increases as a result, and poor site practice leading to avoidable and frustrating damage to waterproofing. As ever, single ply rose to the challenges and continues to thrive in even the most difficult market conditions. The well-regulated routes to market, the structured training and overall professionalism of the sector – principles at the very core of SPRA – resulted in another year of overall growth amid a lot of doom and gloom. It is easy to become downbeat when listening to the various industry bodies talking about the cautious, arguably pessimistic outlook for 2018 and beyond. There is little doubt we will all face equally challenging times ahead; the uncertainty is not going anywhere in the near future, and we are only just waking up to the seriousness of the skills shortage. Yet there are positives; housing and infrastructure look strong and there is major investment in other areas, including distribution and education. So with cautious optimism, we look ahead to 2018 confident that by adhering to SPRA’s ethos and continuing to work to our industry leading standards, single ply will continue to flourish. Sarah Spink, LRWA, CEO www.lrwa.org.uk Liquid roofing and waterproofing has gone from strength to strength in 2017, and we expect this to continue into the New Year. During the last four years, a rise in LRWA membership also reflects sector growth, with an increase from 16 manufacturer members in 2013, to 25 in 2016 – this has seen the association’s collective turnover grow by 98%. As with any market sector, the successes of rapid growth does present its own issues. We have seen an influx of new manufacturers and roofing contractors emerging into the market – and we expect to see this continue into 2018. Yet, whilst manufacturers and contractors must relish the new business opportunity, it’s important to ensure high standards are still being met. In 2018, one of our key targets is to help make contractors more aware when choosing ‘off the shelf products’ sold through distribution networks, which in some cases are imports from overseas. Whilst there are some good liquid products available through distribution networks or builders’ merchants, there has increasingly been issues with many being sold without any testing or certification. We predict this to get worse after Brexit as the UK market opens up. Contractors using unproven products bought through a distributor could result in them having more liability than they realise. This not only creates a headache for contractors, but poor product performance also devalues the industry. It’s important for contractors to remember there is plenty of advice available to help protect them from a potentially very costly refurbishment project – which is something we’re keen to campaign in 2018. In addition, we expect to see the pressures on raw material shortages and increased prices continuing in 2018, due to currency fluctuations and uncertainty. Despite these challenges, 2018 looks set to be another positive year for the liquid market. 038 DECEMBER 2017 RCIMAG.COM James Talman, NFRC, CEO www.nfrc.co.uk A year ago, industry forecasts for the roofing sector looked bleak. We were staring into the face of Brexit uncertainty, there was a drastic skills shortage and there was a potential technology uprising on the cards. The challenges for 2018 remain largely unchanged. But foundations we laid in 2017 mean this might not be the doom and gloom that was predicted. In fact, here at the NFRC we have been facing challenges head-on. And more importantly we are working together to prove that we can – and will – embrace change in 2018 and beyond. Significantly we have concentrated on upskilling the industry – something outlined in our manifesto. This was bolstered by the Basic Competency Programme and supported by the creation of industry guidelines for both green and blue roofs, providing information for specifiers, designers and installers to help with upskilling across the sector. We have also sought to find a way to promote an accredited roofing sector and create a foundation for supporting the development of existing workers while making the industry attractive to new recruits. We are now on the brink of implementing an accreditation scheme in partnership with the CITB and next year this will help us to address the skills shortage as well as ride the Brexit wave. On top of this we are seeking to modernise the sector – and with it embrace, rather than reject, the concept of artificial intelligence. Over the past year we’ve begun to see the use of smart technologies becoming more widely adopted and it will be interesting to see the role they play by this time next year. It’s possible that such changes will also help us to attract millennials – helping us solve the skills gap problem faster. In short, 2018 promises to be an exciting year. The year 2017 will sadly be remembered for all the wrong reasons. The Grenfell Tower fire in June provided a much needed wake-up call with regard to some of the more questionable practices and procedures that have occurred in our industry. In particular, the interpretation of Building Regulations, approvals routes, the ‘or similar approved’ clause, the lack of a systems approach and alignment of as-built to agreed design specification. Some of the above have been a common problem for many years in an effort to achieve a low cost option or to comply with budgetary restraints. The practice of sourcing materials and associated components from a range of different manufacturers and suppliers and then assembling them as a system when it is nothing of the sort is also fraught with problems. This can raise serious issues for the structural integrity, thermal performance, fire performance and lifespan of the materials. Looking ahead to 2018, MCRMA expects to see much more attention paid to the impact of procurement decisions, more robust independent on-site inspections or the reintroduction of ‘Clerk of Works’ to ensure that buildings are constructed in accordance with the approved plans, relevant Building Regulations and Codes of Practice. Furthermore, there should be a restriction on companies which act as approval routes as well as offering engineering or fire design advice as there is clear scope for conflict of interest. It is clear that the best assurance of compliance with the appropriate standards and performance expectation is to source systems and products from reputable manufacturers who can demonstrate the pedigree of the materials used and support design requirements with project specific data. It is to be hoped that amongst the legacies of Grenfell will be a thorough review of Building Regulations to ensure that they are fit for purpose and that switching specifications without good reason will become a thing of the past. Carlton Jones, MCRMA, director www.mcrma.co.uk


RCI December 2017
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