Keystone Lintels comment: Q3 2018

Derrick McFarland, Managing Director Keystone Lintels is BMBI’s Expert for Steel Lintels.

With good weather came good fortune. A long hot summer helped us recover from the relatively poor cold weather-disrupted Q1. The key challenge was to see how much growth the market could really deliver in Q3. I am delighted to report that Q3 has broadly continued the strong performance we enjoyed in Q2, albeit with a slight decline in September.

Enquiries continue to show modest growth, with the large house builder sector stronger than the small to medium sector. The lead times and allocation on various products are having an impact on project times, although I suspect labour availability is a bigger challenge.

NHBC reported that new homes registrations increased by 15% to 43,500 new homes for the July to September, and by 12% to 10,058 in affordable homes.

House builders can’t just design a house with a fairly basic specification: they have to calculate how the house will perform thermally. Before starting work, house builders calculate the SAP rating to produce a predicted energy assessment to meet changes to Part L of the Building Regulations which introduced a mandatory fabric energy efficiency standard (FEES).

As traditional steel lintels create a significant thermal bridge in a building, house builders now specify lintels, such as Hi-therm+, which are up to five times more thermally efficient. Social housing has more stringent thermal requirements, so we are seeing greater demand in that sector for these high-performance lintels.

Housing ministers have suggested that there needs to be more innovation in housebuilding. We’ve certainly seen modern methods of construction and off-site construction being adopted, although the pace of adoption is slow.

The government’s plans for Brexit pose many questions but it’s clear that the preparation of raw material, finished products and labour will be critical in the transition period. A robust supply chain with merchants maintaining good stocks on the ground and supply partners that support loyal stockists has never been more important. Speaking for Keystone, we are ready.

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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.