Interview with David Metcalfe, Director of the Centre for Window and Cladding Technology (CWCT)
Given the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry and the record number of tall towers planned in London, facades and cladding systems are under more scrutiny than ever before.
To gain an insight into what the future holds for the cladding industry we caught up with David Metcalfe, Director of the Centre for Window and Cladding Technology.
David Metcalfe, Director of the CWCT
What role do you see the CWCT fulfilling within the industry in the years to come?
The CWCT was set up as a centre of excellence for the cladding and façade industry. It has the overriding goal of improving standards across the industry, which we try and achieve through the publication of standards and guidance, training and research. In the years to come I hope to see the CWCT continue to fulfil this important role.
Why, in your view, are organisations like CWCT so important?
The façade of a building may account for 20% or 30% of the overall build cost. It is the filter between the outside and inside and so controls energy efficiency and comfort as well as having to keep the elements at bay.
The façade of a modern building may be incredibly complex and if not done properly may fail. Remedial action may be very expensive and disruptive so it is vital to get it right first time.
As such, it’s important that those working to deliver the building envelope are competent so that the final facade is compliant, functional and durable. Through its training and publications CWCT provides practitioners with the skills they need to do the job right.
In your view what do the next 5 years look like for window and cladding technology?
We are living in uncertain times what with Brexit on the horizon and changes to fire performance Approved Documents and associated guidance likely to be coming soon. In addition, consumers and clients have a growing desire for more energy efficient buildings. Building envelopes clearly play a large part in this and their performance is being ever more scrutinised. A changing climate makes this even more challenging requiring a balance between heat loss in the winter and overheating in the summer.
There is a huge focus on the construction industry at present. We must take the opportunities presented by this, try to make positive changes for the future, and to work hard to encourage more people into this dynamic and exciting industry.
Are there any concerns or thoughts you have in regards to some of the technologies entering the industry?
The construction industry is resistant to change, but this should not stifle innovation. Clients need assurances that new processes and innovations are going to provide long term benefits that they are seeking. We should embrace new ways of working but have to ensure that the technologies are researched and tested prior to use.
What needs to be done in the UK to ensure all cladding is compliant and safe?
Firstly, guidance and regulation need to be clear and unambiguous, with clearly defined responsibilities for all those involved in the design and construction of the façade.
Secondly, the industry in its entirety needs to respect those requirements and work to them. Whilst industry has to step up to this challenge, the Government also need to show leadership through this process.
The competency of all those involved in the design and construction` of the building envelope needs to improve, to ensure designs are compliant with regulations and installed to a high standard.
Finally, a robust compliance checking procedure must be put into place.
In my view those steps would help move the UK move on from the very difficult position that we find ourselves in.
If you would like to learn more about the LABC Warranty approach to cladding, you can download our technical memorandum detailing what we accept as evidence of compliance with current regulations.
The Centre for Window and Cladding Technology is a leading information provider and trainer in the field of building envelopes and glazing. It is an industry funded Centre based in the City of Bath.
CWCT sets industry Standards and publishes both standards and guidance.
A restricted area, The Cladding Forum, contains resources, documents and advice for the Centre's members.
CWCT, through its members, is able to provide a wide range of advice to the whole construction industry on a consultancy basis.