Neil Hargreaves, Managing Director Knauf Insulation is BMBI’s Expert for Mineral Wool Insulation.
Robust demand for mineral wool insulation continues in 2019. Housebuilding remains buoyant in the Midlands and the North, offsetting a softening of demand in the South East. This has a positive impact on mineral wool insulation sales because houses built in these regions tend to be larger and so need more insulation.
In some ways it’s difficult to assess the true underlying demand for glass mineral wool, as supply constraints remain a factor. Since mid-2018, the major manufacturers have had to restrict sales using allocation programmes. At Knauf Insulation, we were pleased to be able to increase our allocation to customers in March, raising it to 115% of prior year sales.
We’re keeping the situation under constant review, exploring ways to further maximise output and increase availability, and will relax the allocation further as soon as we are able to. There continues to be no restrictions at all on our rock mineral wool products.
The Brexit elephant in the room continues to affect confidence across the whole industry, and has undoubtedly depressed construction activity. More directly, uncertainty is impacting manufacturers’ and merchants’ operations. As the March deadline approached, prudent businesses stockpiled raw materials and imported goods in case of ‘No Deal’ disruption. The decision now is whether to maintain those stockpiles through to the new deadline of October 31st.
Despite its prominence, Brexit isn’t the only thing on the political agenda affecting the industry. This year we expect the government to consult on further changes to the building regulations, with a particular focus on Part B (fire safety) and Part L (energy efficiency).
Last month’s widespread Extinction Rebellion protests have brought new urgency to the climate change discussion. Another significant event was March’s announcement of the planned Future Homes Standard. This is underpinned by two commitments: to ban fossil fuel heating in new homes by 2025, and to deliver world-leading levels of energy efficiency.
I’ll update you when its potential impact becomes clear, but at this stage we can say that merchants should ultimately expect increased demand for high-performance materials that deliver resilient buildings.