According to the latest figures, it appears that economic growth is slowing amid future uncertainty. Growth in the UK's key services sector has hit its lowest level since July 2016, prompting fears of stagnation. The purchasing managers' index (PMI) from IHS Markit/CIPS sank to 50.4 in November, down from 52.2 in October, where a figure above 50 indicates expansion. Since the services sector accounts for about 80% of the UK economy, this is significant.
At the time of writing, there is little certainty about what the year ahead will bring for the country. However, what we are seeing is a shift towards improving the home rather than moving, and that presents opportunities for merchants.
Research conducted by Hiscox earlier this year, shows a 400% increase in homeowners deciding to improve, not move, over the past five years. Hiscox interviewed 1,200 homeowners and found that a number of factors are persuading people to stay put. These included prohibitively high property prices (25%), a sluggish property market (15%), a stamp duty (13%), potential interest rate rises (8%) and uncertainty caused by Brexit (8%). Home renovation and extension projects are going to remain steady business for builders or even grow during the year.
At the same time, builders and consumers are becoming more aware of the different types and applications of insulation in the home and how a product performs, especially in the context of noise reduction, thermal performance and, importantly, fire safety. With these factors at the forefront of their customers minds, merchants also need to place a high value on these performance characteristics.
Firstly, let’s look at sound and noise transfer. Poor acoustics impact hugely on the overall environment of our homes, compromising our attention spans, raising stress levels and adversely affecting lifestyles and our well-being.
Without proper sound insulation, noise will travel easily, either directly through the separating wall or floor, or through an indirect or flanking route. Even in newer homes, people are much more aware than they used to be of louder TV, music levels, voices and footsteps on wooden floors from neighbours, or from rooms above. It’s this heightened sensitivity that will persuade them to take the steps to do something about it as a key component of any home improvement.
In our own report, Good Growth, Quiet Buildings, we highlighted why noise mitigation should be incorporated into the design process of any development to support good health and well-being. Factoring in noise from the outset of a project can be the most cost-effective route to ensuring a high standard of acoustic performance and can be as simple as selecting an insulation material that delivers on both thermal needs and sounds absorption.
Made from stone, with a dense, non-directional fibre structure, ROCKWOOL Sound Insulation is ideally suited to the challenge of cutting noise pollution in the home environment. Thanks to its properties, ROCKWOOL Sound Insulation, when fitted inside cavity walls or between floors, actually absorbs sound energy as it travels towards the occupant. It effectively traps sound waves and dampens vibration to provide an enhanced noise reducing solution for internal and separating walls as well as floors in applications including home offices, studies, bedrooms, bathrooms and TV, media and gaming rooms.
Beyond sound, fire safety is an especially important issue and is in focus more than ever before.
In terms of an insulation material, it is key to understand what is combustible and what is non-combustible. This is not as daunting as it sounds, it is a simple matter of understanding the Euroclass system applicable under CE Marking rules.
Understanding these Euroclass classifications is vitally important for both merchants and their customers. The Euroclass system states that insulation products achieving A1 classification are defined as non-combustible under these Regulations. Products achieving an A2 classification are recognised as products of limited combustibility (A2 remains Non-combustible in Scotland), and products achieving a rating of B-F are deemed to be combustible.
We see builders becoming more aware and better educated about what is and what is not combustible. This greater awareness will inevitably transfer across to the consumer space, resulting in homeowners driving demand for the use of non-combustible insulation on their homes in the future.
Insulation can be seen as technically complex, but ROCKWOOL has a range of tools and support on offer to help merchants to better understand product distinctions, benefits and application benefits. For instance, the #TheSoundExperience ROCKWOOL Demo Truck is visiting merchant branches across the country to provide a better understanding of the strength of stone wool’s acoustic, thermal and fire performance. The ROCKWOOL signature sound tunnel allows customers to experience sound reduction. The ROCKWOOL Training Academy is also a BMF Centre of Excellence and is used as a regional hub for BMF training courses and merchant events throughout the year.
Merchants stocking the right insulation products are going to be in a good place to benefit from the growth in renovation projects. The ROCKWOOL offer ensures merchants have the product solutions and technical knowledge their customers require.