Bring on the Challenge


George Pickard FCIOB, member of the Precast Flooring Federation sales and marketing committee, reports on the how members are dealing with the increasing demand for beam and block floors.

Over the second half of 2013 we witnessed a dramatic increase in orders for beam and block floors in the domestic housing market. A survey of clients conducted by the writer has revealed predictions for 2014 of an increase in orders between 10% & 40% over and above 2013 levels.

This is against the back drop of the recession where we lost some huge players in the material supply chain, the beam manufactures and the block manufacturers suffered their share of these difficulties with some large factories closing and some names leaving the industry for good.

Emerging from this, it’s fair to say that the industry is leaner and fitter for the experience and whilst the market continues to grow we are in for a busy and challenging time.

Precast Flooring Federation members have not been idle over the last year or two, indeed far from it. Preparation for the upturn has been the subject of lengthy discussion at our committee meetings.

Currently we are experiencing some growing pains and it is interesting to see how the industry is adjusting to these.

Experiencing block shortages currently whilst the market adjusts is inevitable and is leading to some extended delivery periods. Members have recognized that builders would prefer to build up with their block consignments rather than infill horizontally between beams for flooring. As a consequence we have been actively promoting the use of expanded polystyrene EPS at ground floor.

EPS panels are readily available and hold a number of other advantages including speed of construction, reduced manual handling, reduced vehicle movements to and from site and again on the site it’s self. These panels have been growing in popularity over the last ten years and are generally no more expensive than traditional block infill and over sheeting insulation.

John Thornberry (MD of Moulded Foams) says:
"Working with beam manufacturers we have projected the growth in the elegant detailing of Tdeck EPS panels. We have invested in a state of the art factory at Blackwood with new Tdeck lines added each year. Plans for expansion in 2014 and 2015 are already in place and we are committed to double our production over the next two years to ensure demand is satisfied"

The infill block/EPS panel is only half the story, of course the beams are equally as important to maintain an excellent service level. Recent times have seen a hive of activity from beam manufacturers.

Existing machinery is being overhauled and greater utilization can be seen. New machinery is being installed and commissioned.

Kevin Hall (Production Director at Litecast) says:
"Back in early 2012 we took the decision to install a new batch plant in Nuneaton.  After extensive research and an investment of £1.7m we took delivery of the plant in November 2012. The plant supplies both our Highfield and Stratford factories in Nuneaton and is currently working at 40% of design capacity. As far as beam production is concerned we aim to increase production by a further 20% over the next twelve months"

Concerns regarding beam and block flooring are largely short term if at all, having recognized the healthy upturn in the housing market the manufacturers have restructured, reorganized, reinvested and leave us in an excellent position to deal with the challenges that the next few years hold for us.

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