The Challenges of the ‘New Normal’

The pressure of operating Covid-secure construction sites combined with tough schedules, supply chain issues and difficult specification decisions are all taking a toll on housebuilders.

As we strive to recover and return to the ‘new normal’ with the challenges this presents – it is a given, at least in the short term – that social distancing measures are here to stay. There is now widespread agreement that in order to operate effectively and safely developers need to reduce their reliance on labour-intensive traditional construction methods and look to new advanced offsite approaches.

But it is clear there are more forces at play here – the Brexit-driven fear of a skills exodus, compounded by chaos in construction supply chains and materials shortages are also creating a climate for rapid change. Many are now realising that taking the construction process into well-managed factory environments where social distancing measures are easier to implement – is just one of a host of benefits.

Productivity or the lack of, has been an issue for the construction industry for decades. We have the skills and technology to overcome the pitfalls associated with traditional labour-intensive approaches, however some sectors have been slow on the uptake. The pandemic is changing this, and now offsite construction is becoming an increasingly dominant force.

It is not only construction methods that are going through a period of unprecedented transformation – working remotely has altered not only the way we use our homes but is also creating a change in consumer demand and maximising available space is now a priority.

Against this backdrop, in January 2021 Ultrapanel Building Technologies launched its next generation of ‘room in the roof’ systems that combine offsite techniques and advanced manufacturing technology. Tried and tested by one of the UK’s largest housebuilders, the system provides invaluable benefits for volume housebuilders not only looking to create space and increase revenue, but also to overcome supply chain concerns and eliminate complex performance and safety specification issues from the critical construction timeline.

The Ultrapanel ‘room in the roof’ system is both lightweight and easy to manoeuvre, reducing the cost and complexity of expensive lifting equipment and on-site cranage. The Ultrapanel system can be installed by a team of three with a telehandler in just one day to achieve a rapid weathertight building envelope. The adaptable system creates 50-60% more usable space than traditional attic trusses.

Importantly, windows and dormers can be placed anywhere in the roof with no ‘dead zones’. This means that the layout of the top floor room can be maximised as windows can be placed exactly where they are needed, even above staircases to bring natural light into the floors below. As Ultrapanel has no traditional roof trusses or purlins, the ceiling can be vaulted, allowing space for mezzanine floors in some roof designs.

“The complete Ultrapanel system is the only ‘room in the roof’ solution with BBA certification and NHBC Accepts,” says Andrew Thomson, Ultrapanel’s Design and Development Director. “This provides assurance to housebuilders that the structural, thermal, condensation and fire risk have all been independently verified. The design has a structural eaves section which distributes the load into the supporting walls, so the support traditionally required either side of a roof opening does not need aligning with the wall below. The absence of internal structure means maximum flexibility to utilise the space.”

Precision engineered in one ‘unitised hybrid panelised solution’ the Ultrapanel system maximises the material properties of the structural steel and timber elements, integrated with a high-performance insulated core. Mass customisation techniques at high capacity ensure simultaneous volume production of various roof types with vaulted ceilings, mezzanine floor options, and the ability to accommodate dormer or inline windows.

The Ultrapanel system is delivered to site as a complete ‘room in the roof’ kit of parts including all components and fixings at a pre-agreed assured price. Reducing the costs and risks surrounding on-site storage, means the system is more sustainable and eliminates onsite waste and associated disposal costs.

 “We have been developing the system over the past four years alongside major housebuilders to ensure we get off to a quick start, says Andrew. “We have developed a version of the panel utilising non-combustible materials which we use for the party wall structure and we will continue to extend applications of this new material.”

With factory production taking just two weeks, Ultrapanel’s short lead time provides flexibility to housebuilders managing challenging and demanding schedules, and like all offsite technologies, reduces onsite frustrations such as poor weather and labour shortages. The pandemic combined with the Brexit transition has the potential to create serious challenges. With a two-week flexible lead time and an established supply chain, the Ultrapanel system can help volume housebuilders overcome the challenges of the ‘new normal’ and deliver critical time and space gains.

Building Back

Chris Windle looks at the build options on offer and how each can help house builders meet the government’s targets towards the Future Home Standard, boosting the fabric.

‘Room in the roof’ technology has an important part to play in the charge to zero carbon, says Andrew Thomson, design and development director at Ultrapanel Technologies.

Its Ultrapanel product “is all about the building envelope”, he says. “The solution we offer uses the optimal performance of steel and timber with a core of slab insulant. Depending on the thermal requirement and whether the product is being used in roofs, gable spandrels or party walls, we specify expanded polystyrene (EPS), PIR or mineral wool – and we can vary the thickness to fine tune U-values.”

And it could be the start of an evolution in house design. “We are already working with one progressive housebuilder who is constructing a few thousand homes per year. Our joint thinking is to change standard two storey homes with a 40° pitched cold roof into a one-and-a-half storey home with room in the roof technology, saving build and scaffolding costs as well as providing natural light through roof windows and a vaulted ceiling.”

He says now is the time to be redefining how we build homes. “The thinking is that instead of waiting for a big bang as we approach 2025, housebuilders start to adapt this new design philosophy across all house types. So there is time to overcome any natural inertia within housebuilders before the Building
Regulations change.”

Originally featured in Housebuilder Magazine – click here to read full article on page 42.

Click here to find out more information about the ‘room in the roof’ system.

New Dimensions in Roofing

‘Room in the roof’ systems provide invaluable benefits to housebuilders looking to create space and energy efficient design – this is reflected in a new system from Ultrapanel that is set to combine offsite techniques and advanced manufacturing.

The Ultrapanel ‘room in the roof’ system has been developed by Ultraframe, a long-time leader in the UK’s home improvement sector and precision engineered at Ultraframe’s 500,000sq ft facility in Lancashire. Essentially the Ultrapanel system is a hybrid roofing system, geared towards meeting the demands of volume housing developers looking for a high-performance, flexible and quality assured roofing solution.

“At Ultraframe we’ve always designed products that are easy to handle, quick to assemble by relatively unskilled labor and products that can add light and space to a home” says Andrew Thomson, Design and Development Director, Ultraframe UK. “With Ultrapanel we’re bringing those benefits to the housebuilding sector, designing a flat packed room-in-roof system that can easily be incorporated into any house design.”

With factory production only taking two weeks, Ultrapanel’s short lead time provides flexibility to housebuilders managing complex and demanding schedules, and like all offsite technologies reduces on-site frustrations such as poor weather and labour shortages. The system is both lightweight and easy to manoeuvre with use of a telehandler, reducing the cost and complexity of expensive lifting equipment and on-site cranage. The Ultrapanel system can be installed by a team of three in just one day to achieve a rapid weathertight building envelope. The flexible system can see a roof installed in a single day and creates approx. 50-60% more usable space than traditional attic trusses.

Importantly, windows and dormers can be placed anywhere in the roof with no ‘dead zones’. This means that the layout of the top floor room can be maximised as windows can be placed exactly where they are needed – even above staircases to bring natural light into the floors below. As Ultrapanel has no traditional roof trusses or purlins, the ceiling can be vaulted allowing space for a mezzanine floor in some roof designs.

“The complete Ultrapanel system is the only room-in-roof system with BBA certification and NHBC Accepts,” says Andrew. “This provides assurance to housebuilders that the structural, thermal, condensation risk and fire risk have all been independently verified. The design has a structural eaves section which distributes the load into the supporting wall so the support traditionally required either side of a roof opening does not need aligning with the wall below. The absence of internal structure means maximum flexibility to utilise the space.”

The Ultrapanel system is precision engineered in one ‘unitised hybrid panelised solution’ to maximise the material properties of the structural steel and timber elements, integrated with a high-performance insulation core. The Ultrapanel system is delivered to site as a complete room-in-roof kit of parts including all components and fixings at a pre-agreed assured price. Reducing the costs and risks surrounding on-site storage, this means the system is more sustainable and eliminates much on-site waste and associated disposal costs.

“To make the system both lightweight and thermally efficient the structure is a composite I-beam with steel cords and a hardboard web using a patented joining method,” adds Andrew. “This utilises the best characteristics of each of these materials – the steel is both strong and formable, to create easy clip features, the hardboard creates the thermal break. Together they support the insulation to make a panel which is less than 6kg/sq m, so a 5m roof panel only weighs 18kg. There are also structural beams using both steel and OSB which are fully insulated so there are no cold spots in the system.”

A dedicated Ultrapanel team will be offering continuous support – from the first enquiry to the installation – through its dedicated customer care and site teams. With installer training for in-house operatives, the Ultrapanel team will also be offering guidance throughout the design, specification, manufacturing and installation process. “We have been developing the system over the past four years alongside major housebuilders to ensure we get off to a quick start, says Andrew. “We have developed a version of the panel using non-combustible materials which we use for the party wall structure and we will continue to extend applications of this new material.”

Originally featured in Offsite Magazine – click here to read full article.

Click here to find out more information about the Room in the Roof System.

New Roofing Concept Achieves Prestigious Verification

Ultrapanel Building Technologies has become the first ‘room in the roof’ specialist in the UK to secure both BBA Certification and the prestigious NHBC Accepts mark for its offsite manufactured Ultrapanel roofing system.

Ultrapanel is a totally new precision engineered patented concept in roofing technology that delivers verified fire, weathertight, thermal and structural performance. Tried and tested by one of the most prominent housebuilders – the UK manufactured Ultrapanel ‘room in the roof’ system can be installed by a team of three in just one day. The highly adaptable offsite manufactured roofing system has been designed to increase return on investment by reducing build times and rapidly optimising saleable residential space by up to 60%.

To achieve BBA Certification Ultrapanel was subjected to rigorous testing and auditing. This process looked at how individual elements performed as well as testing the complete unitised system to certify that it meets the stringent requirements of Building Regulations.

Design and Development Director Andrew Thomson said: “BBA Certification and NHBC Accepts verification demonstrate that Ultrapanel not only meets industry standards but has also undergone independent third-party testing and is covered by NHBC warranties.

“This revolutionary hybrid roofing system has been created to meet the demands of volume housing developers requiring a performance and programme assured roofing solution. With one seamless transaction, the precision engineered Ultrapanel system provides programme and supply chain certainty and is delivered to site as a complete ‘room in the roof’ kit of parts including all components and fixings at a pre-agreed price.”

NHBC Accepts is a comprehensive review service for innovative systems that builds confidence in the use of offsite construction techniques among developers, manufacturers and end users. Launched in 2020, it offers a fast-track route to acceptance, in recognition of the growing importance of modern methods of construction.

NHBC innovation manager, Richard Lankshear, said: “Following a thorough approval process we are delighted to welcome Ultrapanel Building Technologies to NHBC Accepts. An NHBC Accepts certificate is a way of demonstrating that innovative products or systems have already been reviewed thus reducing the risk of delays on site. NHBC Accepts will play a critical role in ensuring developers, manufacturers, lenders and consumers have faith and confidence in the quality of new homes built with innovative forms of construction.”

Click here to find out more information about the ‘room in the roof’ system.


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