Brexit Conference

Mitch Gee – INCA Chairman

I recently attended a Brexit Conference organised by the Construction Leadership Council. I was invited by Build UK, who, along with the Construction Products Association are assisting the Government in trying to assess the negative impact of Brexit on the construction industry. Further they are working to establish the actions which are required to try and mitigate this impact.

The event was informative, though there was an air of impending doom. This not an unreasonable, as the construction industry along with the rest of the UK should be expecting the best but preparing for the worst.

The impact of Brexit on the construction industry is anticipate broadly as:

  • Tariffs
  • Labour
  • Logistics
  • Accreditation of products

Tariffs:

Fortunately for the construction industry, should there be a no deal Brexit, the tariffs on most construction products are relatively small, and variations in the currency exchange will have a greater impact on prices.

Labour:

Labour is well protected, and any EU national who has lived in the UK for more than 5 years will receive settled status. The scheme will open fully by 30 March 2019. The test phase of the scheme is open now, but you must meet all the requirements to apply. The deadline for applying will be 30 June 2021, or 31 December 2020 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. Those who have lived in the UK for less than 3 years will receive pre-settled status and will be able to apply for settled status once they have been a resident for 5 years. There was initially going to be a cost for this application but this fee has now been waived.

After June 2021, only EU national with qualifications equivalent of NVQ level 3 or better will be allowed to work in the UK. These restrictions for entry already mean that we are seeing a reduction in immigration or EU national returning home due to uncertainty in the future. This is likely to accelerate due to a weakening of the pound which would accompany a no deal Brexit. It is important that employers make clear the rights of their EU national employees: they are still welcome and legally entitled to be here. The Governments’ position on this is clearly stated, and employees should be directed to the website below for clarification and the position as it stands currently:

www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families/applying-for-settled-status

Logistics:

The biggest worry is how UK ports will cope and what delays might ensue.  Nobody knows. Docks like Tilbury have large land areas in which they can store containers and create warehousing. It will be much more challenging at the Eurotunnel where there is virtually no infrastructure for this except backing lorries up the M2. No one knows what will happen, but the BEIS representative indicated that there is a potential for some products to be delayed for months. I think most EWI system suppliers will be able to manage delays of days or even a few weeks, but longer than this will severely impact on the supply chain. I recommend sub-contractors start to enter dialogue with the main contractors, in order that they cannot be held liable for delays resulting from Brexit.

Accreditation of products:

Initially this sector should see no impact as far as accreditation is concerned, but there may be issues further down the line as standards begin to diverge. This is likely to be more of a problem for exporters and may not have any great impact on the UK construction industry, particularly in the short to medium term.

We must hope that sense prevails over bureaucracy and a pragmatic approach is taken from both sides to ensure as little disruption as possible whatever happens. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that our industry makes massive investments to mitigate the risk, but by reassuring work force, increasing stocks where feasible, considering other sources of supply, placing orders in good time and keeping the supply chain informed of developments or possible delays will help us to get through.

Whether you are a Remainer a Brexiteer, whether you came by your views through rational thought or intuition, we must work together to overcome the challenges that lay before us.


External Wall Insulation System Designers meet with the BBA to discuss Dry Fix Systems

Mitch Gee – INCA Chairman

The BBA called certificate holding system designers to a meeting on the 7 August to discuss dry fix systems. The majority of UK external wall system designers were represented at the meeting.  Paul Valentine, the BBA’s Director of Technical Excellence presented to the group.

Paul explained that for the BBA to become aligned with European Technical Approvals there was a requirement for system designers to provide evidence that dry fix systems did not suffer from settlement. Such settlement is potentially a result of the flexing of fixings caused by the bending moment as a result of the weight of the render system. The majority of the audience believed this was not necessary, as dry fix EWI systems had been used installed in the UK for over 30 years without any evidence of failure caused by this phenomenon.

European Systems

Dry fix systems are not approved in continental Europe. This is because there is no market for dry fix systems in continental Europe. In Germany, the use of heavy dash systems is very rare and the market is predominantly thin coat render systems.

It is critical with thin coat render systems that the insulation is applied perfectly flat. To achieve this a bedding mortar is required.  In the early days of the UK market when EWI systems were predominantly thicker dash systems, there wasn’t the same need to ensure the insulation was fitted perfectly flat. Therefore in Germany there has always been need for a bedding mortar and no demand to develop dry fix systems.  Some may argue that with a heavy dash system the risk of settlement of would be greater due to the heavier render finish, although there is little evidence to support this.

I believe that the consensus of opinion that on high rise buildings, the additional resistance to wind load that an adhesive mortar might provide and its use in thin  coat render systems it may be considered as best practice, but this is certainly not the case for low rise buildings with thicker render systems.

Calculating the performance of a system

Notwithstanding this, Paul demonstrated three theoretical methods by which the performance of the system could be demonstrated, each one making an allowance for the insulation to assist in limiting the bending moment of the fixing. He described the three method as:

  1. Strut and Tie
  2. Cantilever
  3. Finite modelling.

Paul recommended the use of the cantilever model as it was the easiest to calculate. The strut and tie is more complicated, but would provide a more accurate result that is more favourable to the system designer. The most accurate method would be the finite modelling but its complexity would probably make it impractical for this purpose.

It will be possible for the BBA to arrange testing but this practical method of assessment would be costly and expensive and therefore unlikely to be adopted by any of the system designers.

Paul was open to other methods of calculation, and offered the option of the BBA undertaking the calculation or to receive the calculations submitted by system holders. Either way he did not expect the cost to be greater than a few hundred pounds.

View from INCA

I believe the industry would prefer not to have to undertake this exercise at all as they believe that there is no evidence that there is a problem. If it has to be done in the interests of European harmonisation then we expect the BBA to provide us with the most efficient and cost effective solution and provide the service for a reasonable cost.

The industry is pleased that the BBA is operating a more open policy of engagement and consultation before imposing their will. INCA understands that the BBA has a difficult job, consulting with the industry as a whole but having to retain client confidentiality, ensure all certificates are treated equally and to ensure continual updating. This is a challenging task, and as an industry we need to assist them in this endeavour.


Did you know that EWI will save the world?

Last week at the INCA AGM we were delighted to welcome Andrew Warren from the British Energy Efficiency Federation. A man who has been working across sectors in energy efficiency for his whole career, Andrew entertained us with his take on the value EWI brings to the world. He told the meeting that energy use in the UK is reducing substantially, which has an obvious impact on the health of the planet. He described how measures such as EWI are key to this reduction, and those who work in this sector must feel proud of the contribution we make.

Aside from Andrew Warren’s fascinating talk, the meeting heard about the work that INCA is doing for its members. This includes engaging with Government stakeholders such as BEIS and MHCLG both formally – consultation responses, and informally to ensure that our industry is represented. Mitch Gee, Executive Chairman also described the work of the Technical Committee in engaging with the BBA and BRE. There is clearly a lot going on at the moment!

A highlight of the meeting was the announcement of the INCA Awards shortlist. Anna Wesson, INCA Manager, reported a high number of entries – over 70, and the challenges facing the judges when they shortlisted. A quick reminder that tickets are now on sale for the event on 1 November in Manchester.

A key topic of discussion at the meeting was the Government Consultation on the use of combustible cladding on residential buildings above 18 metres. This closes on Tuesday 14 August, and in order to ensure the INCA response is as representative as possible, we value your input. Please get in touch if you have any comments you would like to make.

The AGM elected Mitch Gee to continue as Chairman at INCA for another year. This will allow him to continue much of the work he has started in terms of raising the profile of the Association and recruiting new members. The Board of Management also remains the same.