Providing a range of basic materials such as stone and aggregates and a range of concrete products, including readymix concrete, blocks and precast concrete elements, the construction materials and building products sector is a strategically crucial element of the construction supply chain.
The most recent analysis of the construction materials sector across the island of Ireland published in 2015 by InterTradeIreland, the Irish Concrete Federation and the Quarry Products Association of Northern Ireland, noted “some growth in construction output and market demand” across the island in the recent past, but in specific geographic areas.
Reasonably strong growth
Official data shows that construction industry output in volume terms has fallen in Northern Ireland but has grown by small amounts in the Republic. While economic indicators generally suggest that economic growth should be reasonably strong in the near future, housing output is far below what is needed across the island; infrastructure spending is very low and the EU supported Rural Development Programme is getting under way slowly, the study notes.
Construction materials and products suppliers are very largely dependent on local markets. However, a number of companies across the island have developed markets in Great Britain for stone and precast concrete products. The development of off-island markets has been important for a number of companies in the sector.
A key challenge facing the sector is competition from unauthorised, non-compliant operators.
This affects all parts of the island, though the issue seems more serious in the Republic. Product standards, planning compliance and quality assurance requirements exist in the industry and the cost of meeting the relevant standards – the cost of compliance – is estimated at being between 10% and 15% of the selling price of the various materials. Companies and organisations such as Tegral and the Irish Concrete Society are responding to the need for training to enhance standards.
Tegral Academy expands training reach
The Tegral Academy, Ireland’s dedicated training facility for roofing and slating, has now trained almost 900 roofing contractors. Part of Tegral’s “Raising the Standards of Roofing” initiative, the Academy launched in early 2015 and, Tegral reports, has been hugely successful to date. Tegral offer training two days a week in its factory in Athy, Co. Kildare, where roofers learn all about codes of practice, BC(A)R regulations, common mistakes and how to prevent them, ventilation and much more. Everyone that attends receives a certificate of attendance and is listed as a ‘recommended roofing contractor’ on the Tegral website.
Roofers can register to attend by visiting the website or by contacting their local Tegral representative.
Builders merchants can also get involved in the initiative by advising their roofing customers about the Tegral Academy. In 2016, after feedback from builders merchants, Tegral started offering training days dedicated to builders merchants who wish to send their roofing customers as a group. Tegral is also now offering separate training which provides product knowledge and coaching specific for the needs of builders merchants and their sales teams.
The Irish Concrete Society has announced the launch of the Concrete Ticket, a course which provides training for operatives working with concrete in Ireland. Achieving a high quality concrete building requires knowledge of the material from design through to construction on site. European and Irish standards demand that concrete construction is carried out by operatives with the necessary skill and training.
The Concrete Ticket is a half-day course which provides guidance on the correct ordering, handling, finishing and curing of concrete. Courses will be held across the country in classes not exceeding 20 and will include a formal assessment. Successful candidates will receive a photo card, the Concrete Ticket, which will be valid for five years.
The Concrete Ticket is suitable for anyone responsible for receiving, placing and finishing concrete after its arrival on site. The course will also be of benefit to those who manufacture, transport, receive orders and dispatch ready-mixed concrete. It will also be of interest to those involved in the sale of concrete and to building inspectors/clerks of works.
Course content is broken into four parts:
Part 1 – Materials, Properties and Reinforcement;
Part 2 – Ordering, Production, Delivery and Formwork;
Part 3 – Placing, Compacting and Finishing; and,
Part 4 – Curing, Protection and Joints.
This is followed by multiple choice question test. Courses are being held throughout the country in 2017.
CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY CHANGES HOW IT DOES BUSINESS
As the construction industry continues to evolve over the last several years, so has its way of doing business, according to a recent report by Ardmac Consulting. Construction companies are rapidly changing how they work and the tools being utilised.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) has been a growing trend for years. BIM delivers the ability to provide more consistent, more accurate and less time-consuming project document generation. Cloud based systems that allow the remote sharing of data on a construction site in real time, like Raken, Simply Workflow and BaseStone,will replace the traditional paper based review method. These reporting apps, available on a variety of devices like smartphones and tablets, are used for reporting on such items as time keeping, project planning, and snag lists. Asset mapping focuses on operational equipment, including heating and air conditioning, lighting and security systems, collecting data from serial numbers, firmware, engineering notes of when it was installed and by whom, and combines the data in one place.
2. GOING GREEN
Commercial construction has typically led the pack in green adoption. The growing trend is driven not just by a desire to produce environmentally friendly structures, but by consumer demand, higher-quality results and lifecycle cost savings. Companies will be aiming for certifications like the BRE Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
3. BATTLE FOR TALENT
A by-product of the recession was the emigration of qualified talent and the downturn in applicants into university programmes and apprenticeships in the construction industry. This has left a skills gap in the marketplace.
4. MODULAR CONSTRUCTION
Permanent modular construction will be a huge trend in the coming years. It offers the benefit of reduced construction time, less waste and possible cost savings.
5. DRONE AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY
The work carried out by the drones can now go towards creating 3D models, providing specific numeric data on the scheme of work’s progress, and even be used to create live interactive maps of projects for clients.