John Sinfield, Managing Director Knauf Insulation is BMBI’s Expert for Mineral Wool Insulation.
Despite adverse weather conditions in February and March, it’s not all gloomy news for the construction industry. There has been a strong demand from housing across both the New Build and RMI (Repair, Maintenance and Improvement) markets. This has resulted in a fairly strong first quarter for Knauf, in many regions of the UK, not only in the South East.
It is encouraging that the home energy performance is coming increasingly into focus – reflected in government policies and the financial sector. In April, Barclays bank announced a green mortgage. Discounted rates are available for buyers of new-build homes that achieve an A or B EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating. We also keenly await the outcome of the government consultation on ECO (Energy Company Obligations) currently taking place. This could enhance the support available for low income and vulnerable households to improve their homes’ energy efficiency.
The shift towards higher thermal performance products continues, even compared with 12-18 months ago. For example, our 0.032 Lambda DriTherm cavity wall product range is seeing a significant uplift in demand as customers look to give their buildings a more thermally efficient envelope.
Of course, fire safety performance of buildings remains a focus and a top priority for the industry. Non-combustible products are becoming more standard – they increase effectiveness, reliability and resilience in case of a fire. This is driving a strong demand for rock and glass mineral wool products.
Looking ahead, the newest CPA (Construction Products Association) forecasts show flat growth for the rest of 2018. Despite this, again, there are positive areas – particularly large infrastructure projects and private housing. Housing is also set to continue to grow strongly: the Help to Buy scheme is in place until 2020, which will help drive demand for new housing.
If the housing supply chain is to keep pace with this demand, addressing the labour market challenges that face the industry should be a major priority – for both government and the construction industry.