Innovation in 2017

Using the latest sales data, Callum Tasker examines the top eco trends from the past 12 months, and just what this means for the industry in 2017

The trend for eco building materials is continuing to gather momentum as 2017 gets underway, and changes in demand are fuelling increasing innovation in both products and construction methods.

The concept of green building is a familiar one within the construction industry, yet even so, it remains a key trend to watch. With ambitious government deadlines on energy efficiency fast approaching, and the introduction of various new sustainability standards, demand is stronger than ever for materials that can help make green building projects a reality. Even the consumer is driving this demand, as they become more and more educated on the benefits of eco and sustainable building methods.

Eco materials are now more accessible than ever before, but what issues can we expect to drive the demand for the eco sector, and which products are likely to dominate the industry agenda?

The external envelope
Voluntary standards are increasing in uptake, as everyone from the architect to the specifier seeks out new ways to differentiate their buildings from the masses. However, with a rigorous set of criteria to adhere to in order to gain the official recognition desired, only the finest eco products will suffice.

Passivhaus, for example, is one of the fastest growing energy efficiency standards in the world, and is simultaneously energy efficient, comfortable, affordable and ecological. It encompasses every aspect of a building, from design and location, to ventilation and air tightness – requiring a completely airtight external envelope if it is to comply.

In 2016, Roofing Superstore noted an increase in the need for clear information on ventilation products (windows, vents, etc.), and products which assist in preventing air leakage (gaps under doors, around plumbing etc.), with customers and specifiers looking to improve energy efficiency and meet new standards without compromising on design.

As a result, products such as sealing tapes have become popular choices, the range of breather membranes being sold has expanded, and advancements in the design of windows and vents have boosted sales in these products as a means of maximising ventilation systems and reducing energy loss (keeping homes warm in the winter and cool in the summer).

Insulation alternatives In the first half of 2016, Insulation Superstore saw a significant increase in sales of eco-friendly insulation products, up 12 per cent when compared with the same period in 2015 – and we can likely expect to see a similar pattern in the first half of this year. This is potentially the result of new industry thermal insulation requirements, with contractors now under more pressure to achieve the increasingly stringent U-Values demanded of them – plus an increase in demand from the end user for more sustainable, eco-friendly building materials. Many specifiers are turning to natural and recycled insulation alternatives as a means for hitting these energy efficiency targets, with qualifying products flying off the shelves.

Most new eco-friendly insulation materials meet building regulations with minimal thickness, making the process of laying, cutting and installing an easier one all round. They also provide excellent compressive strength, even when compared to their traditional counterparts. But this doesn’t just apply to floors and walls, with the same quality and ease of installation also possible in most new forms of roofing insulation.

Recycled plastic products are also becoming common building choices, and with thermal conductivity of 0.040 W/mk possible, are considered highly competitive with other, non-environmentally preferable insulations on the market. Sheep’s wool, however, remains one of the go-to options for eco insulation, and is a highly efficient thermal insulator with comparable performance to traditional glass fibre.

Improving infrastructure
The flooding of 2015 underlined crucial issues surrounding planning and building in varied climates. Throughout 2016, nations worldwide have had to scale up their strategies for developing infrastructures that are resilient to floods, droughts, rising sea levels and extreme weather. As a result, the industry has seen an increase in demand for drainage systems, which integrate and utilise the surrounding environment.

For instance, Drainage
Superstore saw a huge 190 per cent year-on-year increase in sales of land drainage pipe coils, used to direct surface water into ponds and wetlands as part of sustainable drainage systems. Also guttering sales were also up 138 per cent, with a wide variety of materials being requested other than standard plastic, including galvanised steel, iron and copper. This can potentially be attributed to the fact homeowners are also becoming more aware of the effectiveness of their rainwater management systems.

The trend for green building methods and the specification of eco products may have been under the spotlight for several years now, but in 2017, it is likely to show no signs of slowing down. Engineers, contractors, architects and even homeowners can be expected to collaborate more closely than ever before over the next 12 months, as they seek to satisfy compliance regulations, make time savings, and achieve long term cost effectiveness. Meanwhile, the latest green and eco products will continue to both surprise and impress, as manufacturers make strides in their bid to satisfy ongoing and evolving demand.

Callum Tasker is Operations Director for e-tailer, Construction Materials Online, which includes Roofing Superstore, Insulation Superstore and Drainage Superstore.

Construction Materials Online is a leading online supplier of construction materials in the UK. The company challenges traditional channels in the distribution of building materials, providing the convenience of online retail with comprehensive product knowledge.

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