BMN Blog – Insulation in demand

In his latest blog, John Sinfield, Managing Director at Knauf Insulation and BMBI expert for mineral wool insulation says new opportunities are on the horizon for manufacturers and merchants alike.

Continuing the trend started in a particularly buoyant 2017, demand for glass and rock mineral wool remains strong. This is partly because housebuilding continues apace, but is also driven by a growing number of enquiries for non-combustible insulation material.

The uplift in sales over that period has resulted in some supply restrictions across the insulation market. In the past, manufacturers have been able to import product to match sales to demand – due to strong markets in Europe, that option is not available this time.

These restrictions should ease as manufacturers, and their supply chains, see the effects of adjustments made to their operations. For example, at our Glass Mineral Wool plant in Cwmbran, we’re rebuilding the furnace and making production line improvements that should increase our capacity from the end of this year.

On the demand side, the longer-term outlook for glass and rock mineral wool insulation solutions continues to be positive.

The sector will also benefit from the Government’s four ‘Grand Challenges’ that underpin the UK’s Industrial Strategy. The ‘Challenge’ to at least halve the energy use of new buildings by 2030 will drive improvements in thermal efficiency for products and buildings.

And we were encouraged to see the Government emphasise the need for innovative energy-saving measures in its response to the ECO3 scheme (Energy Company Obligations) consultation. This is something we have invested heavily in at Knauf Insulation, creating innovative solutions to drive value and reduce carbon emissions.

In June this year, the Government opened a separate consultation on the banning of combustible materials in the external walls of high-rise residential buildings. A number of influential voices have already spoken out on this issue. Among those calling for a ban on the use of combustible building materials are RIBA, the Association of British Insurers, the MCRMA, Chair of the Local Government Association Lord Porter, the APPG on Fire Safety and Rescue, and the General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union. Even before the Government decides on its course of action, we are seeing an increase in demand from specifiers who are making their own decisions about what products to use, irrespective of the pending outcome of the consultation.

All of these developments stand to provide opportunities for glass and rock mineral insulation manufacturers. But, to give our industry the confidence it needs to invest in innovation and capacity increases, we must see sustained commitment from Government to planned energy efficiency policies and initiatives.

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Launched in 2015, the award winning monthly Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI) report is the only reliable measure of repair, maintenance & improvement (RMI) activity in the UK. Filling an important gap, it can be widely used in construction, and by economists, Government, national media, commentators and influencers outside the industry.