The Future of Roofing and Construction

The Future of Roofing and Construction

09th March 2016

We’ve said it before and we’re saying it again, falls from height continue to be one of the major causes of death and serious injury in the workplace here in the UK.  The UK government’s relaunch of Working at Height guidance in 2014 served to highlight this while recent campaigns have aimed to tackle this issue.  However, no amount of regulations and assessments can avoid the simple fact that working at height involves gravity and weight and is, by its very nature, a dangerous undertaking.  Let’s look at ways in which the needs for working at height can be reduced, or even eliminated in the future.

We’ve already covered the increasing use of drones for building/roof inspections and maintenance surveys.  The use of drones is set to increase over the coming years as they represent a safer and most cost-effective method of carrying out tasks that would otherwise require work at height with all the risks involved.

The roofing sector is one of the most dangerous within the construction industry.  Tiles, slates or other roofing materials are heavy – they all need to be lifted in stacks, then assembled at height.  However, there are innovative new materials being used for roofing tiles which make it possible for them to be assembled at ground level and lifted into position using a crane. 

There are also new housebuilding techniques which are helping to remove the need to work at height to a large degree.  Factory built houses (modular buildings) are assembled in the factory then transported whole to the construction site.  Of course, this does put a strain on our transport network – a large lorry carrying a whole house can be an intimidating vehicle to encounter for other road users.  The wide load can often make it difficult and dangerous, especially when they’re on one of the smaller roads.

Another forward thinking idea is the use of pop-up factories that could fabricate and assemble a modular building on site, cutting out the need to transport these wide, heavy loads via our road systems.

Adopting these new technologies and techniques will impact the roofing industry here in the UK and many will lack the necessary training and skills required to work in this way.  We’re likely to see some opposition from traditional roofing companies but the ones who will win are those who adopt the new methods and are willing to undergo the installation training necessary to do this type of work.  Although we’re unlikely to see these new methods and technologies taking over immediately, they are an attractive and safer option, so roofing companies that want to stay ahead of the game (and stay in business) would do well to research these methods and initiative some training for their staff so that they face a safer future in the roofing industry.

With the current shortage in housing, the government has launched a programme to build 400, 000 new homes with 200,000 of these being affordable starter homes.  Many of these new homes could be of the modular building variety, negating the need for much of the work at height that this house building programme would require.