Simon Fleet, Group Commercial Director at W.Howard Group, discusses why product safety standards are becoming increasingly important as the industry moves towards off-site manufacture and system solutions whilst also considering the impact for the merchant sector.
The UK construction industry is continuing to suffer the effects of the skills shortage — a problem that shows no sign of going away. Despite widespread acknowledgement that the UK needs to build many more houses, the government’s pledge to deliver 300,000 homes each year remains a pipe dream, in part because of a lack of skilled tradespeople.
Indeed, the construction labour market is predicted to shrink up to a further 25% over the next 10 years, as skilled tradespeople retire and fewer young people choose a career in construction.
In an attempt to tackle this problem, the industry is increasingly looking towards off-site manufacturing and the provision of ‘solutions’ rather than just products — where a whole system solution is designed and manufactured by a single company, before being delivered to site as a finished unit.
This leaves housebuilders safe in the knowledge that the entire system will work together seamlessly. It also saves tradespeople time on site, as the systems can be installed more quickly without the delays that can occur if they are built on site.
Furthermore, off-site homes can be built up to 30% more quickly than those built using traditional building methods, according to research by the Government, which has pledged to use part of the £3 billion Home Builders’ Fund to stimulate growth of this sector.
Merchants are not immune to this push towards off-site and system solution manufacturing. Many are looking to streamline the number of product suppliers they work with, both to simplify the administration and back office work involved in the buying and delivery process, and ensure the products they sell can be more easily combined into complete systems that will work together.
Accordingly, it is vital that the products merchants choose to stock are fit for purpose and specified correctly, so they can be sold safe in the knowledge they will do exactly what the tradesperson needs.
It is therefore the responsibility of every part of the supply chain — from manufacturer through to merchant and installer — to ensure they understand the regulations and standards relating to each product and type of installation, and that they only specify and install fully compliant products.
This is especially true when it comes to timber, which must adhere to a number of different standards and regulations depending on its intended use. Safety and compliance is an issue that must always come first, for example when it comes to fire doors.
Most people understand the importance of specifying and installing fire doors correctly, but the door itself is not the only part of that safety system that must adhere to strict fire regulations. Door linings and casings are also strictly regulated, to ensure occupants safety in the event of a fire. After all, an FD-60 rated fire door in a property won’t provide adequate protection if the door lining and casing that surrounds it is not also adequately tested against fire ingress.
According to the British Woodworking Federation, door frames and lining sets for 60 minute fire doors should be made of hardwood, with a density greater than 650 kg/m3. For 30-minute fire doors, the frames or linings can be made of softwood, with a minimum density of 450 kg/m3 (or to match the density and frame dimensions given in the manufacturers’ installation instructions).
W.Howard understands the importance of correct certification on all its products, which is why all its MDF door linings and casing sets are CERTIFIRE-approved for use with specified fire doors.
CERTIFIRE is an independent certification scheme that tests and assures the performance, quality, and traceability of products intended for use in fire safety situations. The CERTIFIREbrand is recognised as an international mark of fire safety across a wide range of products, including door casings and linings.
W.Howard Group obtains its CERTIFIRE rating from Warringtonfire, an inspection, certification and consulting service facility that thoroughly tests third-party products to ensure compliance with all the relevant fire regulations. The company’s primed FD30 casings and linings are half-hour fire rated, and comply with the requirements of BS476: part 22. A moisture-resistant MDF core ensures the linings are dimensionally stable, with no knots, warps or defects.
Don’t forget the finish
Once safety standards have been checked and adhered to, it’s important not to forget the final finishing touches — which can often be rushed in the final days of a project, when time on site is short and deadlines are approaching.
Creating recesses and hinge pockets in door frames once they have been fitted can be awkward and time consuming, and builders looking for those off-site solutions are, again, turning to manufacturers who can provide these products pre-drilled, with all the necessary recesses cut out and ready to be fitted with the chosen door hardware and ironmongery.
W.Howard has a self-contained CNC facility at its factory, with a reciprocal loading facility to maximise machining time efficiencies. This means it can machine hinge pockets and recesses to precise engineering tolerances, providing accuracy and consistency that saves the tradesperson considerable time on site. Door casings and lining sets can then be delivered to site with recesses, pilot-holed hinge pockets, or with the hinges, latches, and strike plates already installed, to save even more time.
As builders look for solutions that help them work smarter, reducing time on site and simplifying what can be a complex workload, merchants must also keep up with new technologies and ways of working, so they will always offer exactly what their customers want. Aligning themselves closely with manufacturers who have the flexibility to deliver complete, finished solutions is a sure-fire way to stay at the front of the industry.
For more information, visit www.whoward.eu.