The UK market for wall cladding has grown modestly over the last 2-3 years, reflecting an overall residential construction market which has increased modestly, therefore driving growth in facing bricks, alongside minor growth in the non-residential sector across the same period. The key driver here has been the growth in demand for facing bricks on housing, particularly on higher value detached houses. Since 2013, housebuilding output has risen sharply. To a lesser extent there has also been steady growth in demand for other materials used to clad houses such as rendered blockwork and cast stone. However, in the residential retrofit sub-sector, there has been a decline in the installation of external wall insulation due to the ending of the CERT programme, which was the main source of grant support for EWI installation. Although the subsequent ECO programme provided funding it has been much more limited in scope and take-up.
In the commercial and industrial sector, new work and RMI output has increased a significant amount from 2013-2017. With regards to cladding, the largest product category used is steel and aluminium profiled and composite panels, the main applications being warehousing /distribution centres, data centres, sports & leisure facilities and manufacturing /R & D facilities. Over the review period, all sectors have experienced steady growth in construction output. While demand for profiled and composite panels has been steady, rainscreen cladding systems have arguably been the fastest growing product sector since 2013, estimated to have almost quadrupled in terms of area installed. To date the main area of application has been offices, although more recently there has been strong demand for use on residential towers.
Other than the state of the general economy and issues emanating from the ‘Brexit’ negotiations, it is the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 that could have the greatest impact on the cladding market. A possible ban on the use of combustible materials on buildings over 18 metres tall may well depress demand for cladding systems comprising rigid polymer insulation while benefitting those classified as A1 under Euroclass definitions e.g. stone and glass wool, concrete and fibre cement. Forecasts for lower economic growth from 2018 are mainly driven by uncertainty following the ‘Brexit’ referendum. Although modest annual growth levels are currently forecast to 2020, the medium-term outlook will be dependent upon the path taken to exit the EU and the type of trade and legislative deals formulated.