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RCI December 2017

SECTOR VIEWS Stuart Hicks, Kemper System www.kemper-system.com It has been another busy 12 months in the liquid roofing and waterproofing industry – we’ve experienced positive growth and celebrated many successes in the market. However, the change in government and Brexit negotiations has had an impact on business confidence and the construction sector as a whole. Workloads in construction have slowed across the entire industry as Brexit delays financial commitments. Economic uncertainty driven by the decision to leave the European Union will continue to weigh on investment decisions in 2018. The impact of the skills shortage has also been heightened following Brexit, but we’ve noticed increased collaboration within our industry to try and tackle training head-on. Manufacturers like Kemper System offer free contractor training on all product systems, which is something that needs to be mirrored across all disciplines in the construction sector. Another key issue in 2017 was the shortage of PIR insulation which has had a knock-on effect on the liquid roofing market. Severe production delays have resulted in a market-wide shortage and extended lead times – not to mention price increases. Of course, the Grenfell Tower disaster earlier this year has resulted in a huge shift across the entire construction market that will undoubtedly impact liquid waterproofing and the system build-ups we supply. Next year, we predict changes in the fire testing and Building Regulations currently in place to help ensure history does not repeat itself. Looking ahead, as new liquid products continue to emerge onto the market, it’s important to communicate to contractors the importance of high quality, proven solutions, correct certification of products and professional system training – something which Kemper System will continue to champion in 2018. 042 DECEMBER 2017 RCIMAG.COM Ashley Chivers, IKO PLC, sales director, roofing specification www.ikogroup.co.uk 2017 has proved to be a mixed year. Sales of our flagship IKO UPXL system, which is installed by Access IKO Contractors, are up 43% year-on-year, and we have been short listed for a number of Awards in recognition of our work on high-profile projects such as Broadway Plaza. We were also the only UK manufacturer to be appointed to th e LHC framework. Meanwhile , construction of the new IKO enertherm PIR insulation plant at Alconbury Weald is goi ng well and on target to open in 2018. However, in the overal l market, concerns over Brexit, EU currency in flatio n and the skills shortage co ntinue to affect construction output, with small declines in Q2 and Q3. The roo fing market has just about held its own in terms of value rather than volume. We may feel the effects more in 2018 due to ongoing, underlying problems. These include raw material price increases and shortages of supply in PIR insulation, which have a knockon effec t for roofing specification. RMI has its own issues, as consumer confidence seems to be slowing, with car and retail sales down. These are all ch allenges but the industry is driving forward and address ing the issues where possible. The NFRC debate on the skills sho rtage at the RCI Show, for example, highlighted what individ ual companies can do to help recruit and retain staff. And the new Safe2Torch guidelines should significantly reduce the risk of fire when using gas torches to dry out roofs or to insta ll torch-on membranes. This initiative has taken on more importance since the tragic Grenfell fire. The re is like ly to be mu ch more emphasis in 2018 on pro ducts meeting regulations and being specified and installed correctly – and that can only be a good thing for the industry. The need for continued investment in skills, apprenticeships and training continues to be pressing. Roofing companies are among the hardest hit by skills shortages. It is estimated that the sector must recruit 700,000 more people to replace those retiring or moving on, plus an extra 120,000 if the government’s aim to build one million new homes by 2020 is to be achieved. And that’s before the effect of the referendum on the availability of EU workers is felt. Long heralded, we are seeing increased use of new, ‘disruptive’ technologies such as virtual and augmented realities which, combined with drone mapping and visualisation, are transforming the roofing design and specification process. Another example would be improvements in solar roofing technology, which is simultaneously improving while becoming less expensive. Heavy panels are no longer the default option – and the trialling of solar shingles and lightweight printed solar panels will deliver major growth opportunities for manufacturers and installers alike. These technologies are arriving in parallel with a significant uplift in modular and offsite construction. These are equally a threat and opportunity for both the manufacturer and contractor, both of whom will need to adapt their products and working practices respectively in order not to be rendered obsolete by this approach to volume housebuilding. An innovative response to offsite, and new design and survey techniques, will also help the more professional business withstand the driving down of quality by price. There never seems to be a shortage of companies looking to engage the market on a cheapened ‘me too’ basis; and inferior quality products and indifferent workmanship always prove to be false economies. Finally, green ‘eco’ building is mainstream: with an expectation that companies can provide clean, resource-efficient products and alternatives for all phases of development now being the norm – eventually, everyone will work this way! Andrew Cross, Klober UK & Ireland, marketing manager www.klober.co.uk The glowering factor overhanging 2017, and one that will still prove to be influential in 2018 is the Brexit negotiation. First, it is obviously causing some uncertainty in the markets, and this is proving something of a drag on the sector. That said, there is still enough activity regardless for one to remain (no pun intended) reasonably positive that opportunities bringing sales and profit can still be realised for now. Second, there is the ongoing effect of the referendum on the exchange rate, which has necessarily impacted upon the cost of raw materials and will continue to do so – the recent pound strengthening brought about by the apparently imminent ‘divorce’ cost agreement aside. Third, skill shortages continue to beset the construction industry and the longer-term effect of changes in migration patterns can only yet be imagined. Even then, the requirement for meaningful numbers of young people to enter training and apprenticeships is still paramount – not only to address current shortfalls, but also to plug those possibly to arise in the future. In the more specific roofing context, the shockwave of the G renfell Tower fire will continu e to be felt – not least in the out co mes of the Hackitt Review of B uilding Regulat ion s and fi re safety. This will also no doubt provide even more energy to the NFRC’s superb Safe2Torch campaign, which se eks to significantly re duce the risk of roof f ires when using gas torches, either to dry out roofs or when used to install torch-on membran es. We also expect 2018 – and it’s been an absolute a g e coming – to be the year when off-site technologies and manufacture, especially in response to the Government ’s social house buil ding drive, increasingly rise to prominen ce; combined with more auto mation on site. We’re stil l far from seeing ‘ Rob ot the Buil der’ on the to ols, y et he’s o n his way… John Curley, Icopal, marketing manager, www.icopal.co.uk


RCI December 2017
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