John Sinfield, Managing Director Knauf Insulation is BMBI’s Expert for Mineral Wool Insulation.
Across the mineral wool insulation sector, demand still exceeds supply with the major manufacturers having to restrict sales through allocation programmes. Knauf Insulation’s own product restrictions are now relaxing as we move into 2019 – in part due to the recent upgrade of our manufacturing plant in Cwmbran, South Wales.
With overall demand remaining strong, some interesting regional bias is emerging. Sales from housing and commercial projects in London and the South East appear to be cooling from a very high level. On the other hand, the West Midlands and the North West are really flying at the moment.
In September, we saw the outcome of the ECO3 (Energy Company Obligation) consultation. After much discussion and lots of promise, ECO3 has become only a ‘nice to have’ for the insulation sector. In the end, it didn’t signal the ambition we were hoping to see from government in terms of addressing the energy efficiency of the nation’s housing stock.
Perhaps more noteworthy this quarter has been the government’s announcement of its intention to ban the use of combustible materials in the external walls of high-rise buildings. Once implemented, only materials with an A1 or A2 European Reaction to Fire classification will be used on residential blocks, hospitals, schools, care homes and student accommodations over 18m. This is significant in itself, and we look forward to seeing the detail, but I think there’s a broader point here about regulation. All indications suggest an increasing tightening of regulation around the in-use performance of building products. This has started with combustibility (and it seems logical that buildings under 18m should soon follow), but we should expect to see other quality and performance factors scrutinised too.
Service is becoming as important as product within manufacturers’ propositions. We’ve all seen the problems when projects are compromised through incorrect specification or poor installation. Indeed, improving competency across the construction industry is highlighted as a priority by the Hackitt Review. Manufacturers should be taking a much more active role in supporting the correct specification and installation of their products, through technical service offerings and the provision of useful guidance materials.