I write as we enter another national lockdown, but with the industry specifically instructed by the PM to keep building. Covid will clearly continue to be a source for uncertainty well into 2021, and unknowns remain over Brexit. Nevertheless, there are reasons to be optimistic about the health of the construction industry, and in particular the level of demand for Mineral Wool insulation.
After the initial Covid shock in spring, Mineral Wool sales rebounded strongly. This was partly due to pent-up demand post-lockdown, but we’ve also seen a healthy flow of new sites opening up around the country as the property market remains buoyant – even if a slowdown is anticipated if and when the stamp duty holiday ends.
In the short term, it appears as though the Green Homes Grant may lift the insulation market further. And it now appears likely that the scheme will be extended, giving more time to iron out issues in its execution. But there are other policy changes poised to exert a more dramatic influence in 2021 and beyond.
At their root is a fundamental shift away from notional energy performance standards to measurement of the actual performance of buildings in the real world.
The government’s EPC Action Plan mandates that future Energy Performance Certificates will be based on measured ‘in-use’ building performance. And that same requirement for real performance also features in the criteria for the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund Demonstrator – the precursor to an anticipated £3.8Bn of funding.
With the result of the Part L 2020 consultation to come, there’s a clear direction of travel, and it will have an impact on insulation buying habits. We’ll see much greater emphasis placed on products that are easy to install correctly; high performance products that aren’t compromised by common installation issues on site. That’s likely to translate into increased demand for Mineral Wool insulation because it’s inherently more forgiving of substrate inconsistencies in cavity walls, for example.
Put simply we can add ‘ease of correct installation’ to the long list of factors customers will now consider when choosing insulation, alongside thermal conductivity, fire safety, acoustic performance and environmental credentials.