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Fit for Purpose

5th June 2007

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Ultraframe talks to Conservatory Magazine about installers designing `fit for purpose conservatories'

The latest British Standard on wind and snow loads applied to conservatories -BS6399 - is far more onerous than CP3 which it replaces. The Glass and Glazing Federation, the main trade body for our sector, states in its latest technical standard that all members must use from January 1st, that: `The roof components and wall frames shall be designed to withstand the recommended loads derived from BS 6399 parts 1,2,3 which covers the vertical and lateral loading for buildings.’
What does this mean for you?

Well lets rewind a little. Structurally proving that a conservatory is `fit for purpose` is, naturally, something that you would normally expect your conservatory manufacturer or system company to assist with. But how would, for example, a roof systems company help? In a company like Ultraframe this was always done by highly skilled individuals, usually structural engineers who created a framework for the technical specifiers –the team who process your roof orders- to work within . A major step forward for the conservatory industry came in 1998 when Ultraframe documented these rules for the first time when it published the paper based Structural Design Guide. For the first time ever, quality home improvement companies could prove for themselves that a conservatory was `fit for purpose.’

The paper based Structural Design Guide, used reliably for so long by our customers, was based on a code of practice called CP3. This code defined the need for a conservatory to withstand snow loads based on geographic factors, which, broadly, meant that most conservatories would be built to withstand 0.6 KN/m2. Some conservatories in parts of Scotland and the North might need to be built to 0.8 or even 1.0 KN/m2. Of course, as we rarely get very heavy snow falls in the UK these statistics seem a little meaningless and, unfortunately, are often ignored by the less scrupulous.

The good news is that the government withdrew CP3 in 2004, although it is still referenced in the current Buildings Regulations at least until the next revision, which we expect during 2007 and, we believe, will no longer reference CP3, but the new British Standard BS 6399. This is a much more complicated solution requiring a data search to be carried out based on the detailed postcode of each individual site. It analyses snow loading and also wind loading and, whichever is the greater, defines the loading necessary for the conservatory. This means that many areas that previously did use a `default` of 0.6 KN/m2 will now need to use higher loadings.

This more complicated scenario now needs a different solution – a flat 2D paper based guide is no longer satisfactory.

How is Ultraframe solving this problem for its system users?
It has developed an electronic version of the Structural Design Guide (eSDG), a module of which can sit in any number of front end software tools that are increasingly popular with retail sales teams (and the public, as they allow photo realistic modeling of a conservatory onto a digital image of the rear of their home). One such front-end design tool is RoofWright and Ultraframe have recently launched a version of this for use by its own direct and indirect roof buyers.

The eSDG asks retail sales people to enter the site postcode for that particular project. From this, their PC will look up the wind load for that location and interactively look at the topography and shelter factors (open countryside, coastal area, town centre for example) and specifically work out the roof specification for that location.

This will be very appealing to quality conscious installers on a number of levels.

GGF members, and members of the Ultraframe`s Guild Approved Ultra Installer Scheme, must specify conservatories to BS 6399 and this software package will make compliance easy.

As consumers are increasing knowledgeable about the products they buy, installers can demonstrate that they understand all the issues and are a cut above other local competitors who are still designing to a now defunct 0.6 snow load.

You can also rest assured that your reputation is safe in the hands of a company who understands all about conservatory performance and who has over ONE MILLION installations that feature a proven roof product.

Finally, Ultraframe's vision is to see installers` retail sales teams selling at night/weekends using the latest and most sophisticated visualisation software available, designing and structurally proving the conservatory and then sending the design electronically to be manufactured, be that direct or through a myriad of local trade fabricators.

Conservatory magazine catches up with Ian Maitland, a director of Maitlands Conservatory Roofs of Pershore, trade fabricators of the Ultraframe Classic conservatory roofing system for over 12 years who were pleased to see the introduction of BS6399 to ensure higher standards across the industry.

Ian Maitland, Director at Maitlands, commented: “Here at Maitlands, our overall view is that the general level of quality throughout the industry should be increased, and we need to see an end to the current inconsistent levels of specification and structural design. It is a worry to think of how many conservatories may be out there at present, which are under specified in terms of the wind and snow loads for that particular area. We believe that the introduction of BS6399 will help to create higher standards, which in turn will improve the industry’s reputation and increase sales, as consumers will be more confident in the products they are purchasing.
This is a fantastic opportunity for Ultraframe and its customers to demonstrate that their products are structurally superior as, to our knowledge; no other roofing systems manufacturer has an automated tool to facilitate compliance to BS6399. The fact that the calculations are done by a piece of high-tech software means that there is no room for human error so it really is a foolproof system, which is simple and fast for our staff to use. We simply design a roof and the software tells us if there is an error and specifies the changes needed to structurally prove the roof at the touch of a button.

Although this is a great tool for us as a fabricator, consumers are the ones who will ultimately benefit from an increase in the quality of product specification and suitability. BS6399 means that our installer customers can offer them additional peace of mind, safe in the knowledge that their conservatory has been calculated to perform safely, no matter what the weather. I believe that it should become mandatory for installers to have to demonstrate to consumers whether or not the products they are proposing to supply with conform to this most important of British Standards.”


CM editor, Davinia Gill, catches up with Alan Grimmett of Firmfix Doors and Windows of Tewkesbury, a quality installation company that buys the Ultraframe roofing from one of its BBA fabricators and is thrilled to be able to reassure its customers that they can provide them with a structurally proven conservatory roof.

Alan Grimmett, Director at Firmfix has found the new regulations to be a positive new selling tool for his salesmen. Alan commented: “A conservatory is a high ticket purchase which most consumers make only once in their lifetime. Stories of cowboy installers are rife within the industry and have quite rightly made many consumers nervous about the level of service and quality of product that they will receive. By adopting BS6399 this allows us to demonstrate to potential customers that we are a highly motivated reputable company, which is keen to provide the very best in terms of product quality and service to our customers.”

Salesmen from Firmfix demonstrate the BS6399 software to consumers during the sales presentation and allow them to see how they have had to increase the specification of their conservatory to ensure it is uniquely suitable for their property. By letting them see that potential problems have been ‘fixed’ this provides extra peace of mind for consumers, particularly when choosing a glass roof or a larger design. Furthermore, when in a tight pitch against a low priced local competitor, we can demonstrate to the consumer how a roof at 0.6 load `looks’ compared to one designed to BS 6399.

Alan Grimmett concluded: “We believe that the introduction of BS6399 is a great step forward for the industry. Giving consumers extra peace of mind that they are buying a safe, adequately designed conservatory will result in better conversion rates, increased sales volumes and better overall retail prices. It is also reassuring from an installers point of view to know that we are providing each and every customer with a conservatory that is well designed, and which can be safely be enjoyed for years to come."

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