Tuesday 6th March, 2007
Regulations for conservatories –a threat or an opportunity?
Mark Hanson, Chairman of the GGF`s Conservatory Association and Marketing Manager at Ultraframe here reviews the latest changes in regulations.
I am now in my 12th year at Ultraframe and naturally, within both the company and industry, I have seen a great deal change during that period. Six years ago the biggest change we could have contemplated was put forward by the government –namely that conservatories under 30m2 floor area would lose their exempt status within Building Regulations.
In the intervening period, The Glass and Glazing Federation along with other reputable trade associations has spent a great deal of time and effort negotiating with the relevant government department –now called the Department for Communities and Local Government –about how the industry can move forward. Gone, as far as we know for the time being, is the looming threat of mandatory compulsion for everyone in the conservatory sector and in its place is a superb piece of documentation, “A guide to good practice in the specification and installation of conservatories within the UK “. This document is called a `Guide to Good Practice` as it should be perceived as a beacon for all companies that care about their reputation and who care about long term customer satisfaction.
The document started life as a draft building regulation in its own right , a horizontal slice through the myriad of vertical specialist building regulations that already existed and applied to mainstream buildings. It is a 72 page masterpiece of detailed instructions, techniques, quick tips etc and is well populated with excellent technical illustrations. I commend everyone in the conservatory sector to buy a copy from the GGF publications department, telephone 0845 257 7968 , £25 well spent.
As stated earlier the Guide is just that for the majority of installers – a guide - but for its own member companies, among them the two biggest retail installation companies in the country, Anglian and Everest –it is mandatory that from January 2nd 2007 they comply with it.
There is far too much in the guide to give you more than a small insight here but one fascinating aspect is that which relates to British Standard 6399 –Wind and Snow loads. Page 43 deals with this and is highlighted below;
It states; `The roof components and wall frames shall be designed to withstand the recommended loads derived from BS 6399 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 expect from your conservatory manufacturer or system company. But how is this achieved? 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 our industry came when we documented these rules for the first time in 1998 when we 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 that, 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 could use 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 now not 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). On 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 users to enter the site postcode for that particular project. From this, the users 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, you can demonstrate to them that you understand all the issues and are a cut above your competitors who are still designing to a now defunct 0.6 snow load
· You can 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 .
Your nominated manufacturer, either Ultraframe or one of our TEAM ULTRAFRAME fabricators, can then open that file in Concad ( manufacturing software) and order the components for your roof on-line from us. The provision of this software is undoubtedly the way forward and it certainly is the way that Ultraframe and its loyal system users want to progress.
As Ultraframe approaches 25 years in conservatories ,it has gained a reputation for innovation. In the last few years alone we have introduced items like gable beam, Ultraselect, Conservaflash, Conservaglass, chambered top caps….some of these have been copied by competitors and some remain unique to this day. Once again we are trying to develop tools that help the quality installer meet the changing demands of the market, particularly those driven by changing regulations.