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PIR Crisis. Are you a builder? Has your job come a standstill?

September 04, 2017

PIR Crisis. Are you a builder? Has your job come a standstill? Here is what you can do to get your job going again

Currently the UK market is showing a worrying trend in the building & construction industry. There has been a rise in the demand for PIR insulation materials on a consistent basis and due to this increased demand, there has been an alarming shortage of this material. This shortage in the market has been caused due to inadequate supply of Methylene Di-phenyl Di-isocyanate (MDI) chemical which is one of the prime constituents of PIR.

This high demand for PIR in the UK market has caused the price of PIR boards to rise. The price of PIR boards has already risen by 12% in the last quarter of 2016. Again due to unsustainably high demand, price has been revised by a further 10% in the first quarter of 2017, with another price increase in Q2 of 12% and a further 12% in Q4 taking the overall rise to 46%. This hike of 46% has indeed been steep and has affected most of the UK building industry. With no further increases in Q4 or Q1 2018 forcasted this should give the industry time to balance itself out, however we could be looking at almost unsustainable levels of price increases that will surely hurt the small to medium sized builders the most, the backbone of our building industry in the UK.

The worst part is, most of the big affluent construction and building companies have been able to cope with the staggering rise in the price for these materials. This leaves the smaller companies out of the game, not only in terms of price, but also in terms of the supply. The smaller companies have not been able to get their PIR requirements fulfilled thus affecting their projects halting even the wages being paid to the workers working on the sites. This has led to the smaller builders stopping construction jobs and having to try and renegotiate prices with their clients which in most cases are unsuccessful, leaving only one answer shut down the job and lay off workers. This is not good any day of the week but certainly not now at a time of political uncertainty and the devaluation of the Sterling.

In order to cope up with the increased demand, the industry now needs to look at pir alternatives.  One of the alternatives to PIR is to buy either a fibran XPS or EPS. XPS also known as Extruded polystyrene insulation is a polystyrene which is manufactured using an extrusion process. In the manufacturing process, the plastic resin & other required ingredient are melted together to form a liquid which is then uninterruptedly extruded through a cast. This liquid is then allowed to cool in a cooling process which results in producing a closed rigid cell insulation. EPS stands for Expanded polystyrene insulation which is manufactured with the help of a cast which contains small beads. This cast is then subjected to steam or heat which causes the beads to expand & fuse together. This produces an insulation which does not contain a closed cell insulation. Thus, given the two products, XPS to a certain extent outperforms the EPS.

EPS and XPS have been quite popular products being used for insulation for a number of civil and construction engineering projects like-

  • Roof, floor & wall insulation
  • In Bridge, rail & road widening schemes
  • Sub-structures & void-fill blocks during civil engineering projects
  • Laying Foundation systems
  • For clay heave guarding

The advantages of EPS and XPS over PIR are-

  • Economical –The cost of XPS and EPS is less than PIR
  • Easy Supply – These products are readily available in the market at short lead times
  • Sustainable – These products provide maximum returns at minimal use of resources
  • Lightweight- These products are lightweight offering excellent thermal quality, impact resistance and water absorption property

Another option to this can even be the use of high performance glasswool or to go thicker. However, these options are not much explored by builders or architects / specifiers.

So what do the builders out there need to do?

If you find yourself in a difficult situation you need to be resourceful as there are many different types of insulation you can buy off the self to replace PIR and some of which we have outlined above in this post. XPS and high performance glasswool are there in the stores and ready to go today but builders are not used to using them as much hence they shy away. Don't shy away ask the questions and find out how these other products can keep your job going.

If you want to keep your job sites on the move ask about PIR alternatives like Fibran XPS or EPS or even high performance glasswools like Knauf and Isover. All of which will keep your job going, keep your business ticking over and most off all ease that crippling financial pressure you may be experiencing due to job cancellations or hold ups. 

As a further consequence to the PIR shortage, Rockwool, XPS, EPS and Kooltherm products are at an all time high in demand. This has lead to increase in delays on these products also. Due to builders not being able to procure PIR and due to Grenfell, builders have turned their attention to alternatives. This has increased the output from the manufacturers but now these other manufacturers are falling behind in supply as a knock on effect.

The worst hit out of all these alternative products is Kingspan Kooltherm and Rockwool with lead times of 6 weeks on Kooltherm and 2 - 3 weeks on Rockwool. For any builder out there it is important that you procure the insulation you need well in adavnce or you run the risk of not getting your insulation on site on time and holding up your job. All of course costs time and money.

For more information about insulation, you can log on to www.insulation4less.co.uk




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