How To Secure Supply in a Growing EWI Market

Covid 19 and the Impact on the EWI Market

During the CESP and ECO driven peaks, External Wall Insulation (EWI) supply and price per M2 were mostly stable. The manufacturing capacity of the leading European producers coupled with a prolonged post recession stagnation in the larger German, Italian and Polish markets, meant fulfilling the UK spike from Europe was never really an issue.

However, Covid has changed the economic and logistical landscape and consequently since June 2021, the UK’s EWI supply chain has in some parts started to strain.

The European EWI market is booming. During 2020 the industry recorded a 9.8% increase vs 2019 surpassing the cross continent forecast of 6% CAGR. The reasons for this unexpected yet very welcome upswing are not absolutely defined. However, a focus on home improvement and an increase in disposable household income have been cited as the suspected drivers of growth. Unfortunately, we haven’t ever experienced such homeowner propelled increase in the UK, but across Europe as EWI is far more commoditised, homeowners regularly commission or even deliver domestic installs independently and without the motivation of subsidy.

So overall, good news for the European EWI industry.

Can UK EWI Supply meet The Growing Demand?

As in any industry, growing demand is always viewed positively. However demand can obviously only be realised as commercial gain if adequate supply exists. This is not only in regard to the supply of the traded end-user products and systems, but supply of the raw materials that contribute to the complex formulations of each component part.

EWI is often wrongly considered a low technology wet trade. Likened to the scratch renders of old and   regarded inferior to it’s panelised rainscreen competitors, EWI is often dismissed as a functional, yet uninspiring “entry-level” science.

This however is factually incorrect on all counts. The wet components of a fire-safe, non combustible EWI system are heavily engineered, very scientific and hugely innovative.

An array of polymers and binders are fused together in molecular harmony to provide optimum performance in terms of fire, weather and mechanical stress. Some premium systems such as Soltherm Endurance, are a formulaic blend of over 20 different raw materials, each equally as important as the next…

So what happens if one or some of these key raw materials are unavailable?

Substituting Unavailable Raw Materials

Substituting raw materials ranges from the very difficult to the impossible. The stability of the system depends on the strength of the molecular bond and even the most subtle of adjustments can dramatically weaken this bond and reduce the performance of a product or system. It is also worth noting that raw material components are declared in product data when tested by BBA, BDA or ETAG, so if a component is substituted for any reason, the test and approval is theoretically invalid. Desktop comparability data can be offered to validate a substitute, however in the sensitive world of fire, this is correctly considered inadequate and hence re-testing is necessary (which is laborious, costly and time consuming).

Covid and Raw Material Supply

Covid has negatively impacted some areas of EWI raw material supply. Dispersion polymers and Titanium Dioxide have been most adversely affected. Both these raw materials are not only used in EWI but more familiarly in paints and architectural coatings. This means, as the Western world picked up a paint brush during lockdown, the demand for these valuable raw materials spiked, peaking at levels > 40% higher than 2019. Coupled with restricted movement of goods from China to Europe and a global shortage of shipping containers (many EWI raw materials are sourced in the East), a supply storm swiftly ensued...

Both Dispersion Polymers and Titanium Dioxide are key component parts of the higher technology system top coats and substitution isn’t generally an option without compromising performance and / or colour stability and whiteness. Both Acrylic and Silicone-based top coats often adopt this technology in their formulations. Consequently, clients and contractors alike are being faced with either accepting extended lead times or re-specifying systems. Both are far from ideal when the EWI install often determines the critical path to weather tightness and / or fire safety. And with compliance, compatibility and regulatory monitoring now being far more robust, last minute specification changes can be a bureaucratic minefield.

SOLTHERM Guarantee Materials Are Delivered OTIF

Bucking the trend of an industry, Soltherm are pleased to announce we have secured the supply of surplus raw materials for 2021 / 2022. With an adequate stock holding to singularly supply the entire UK market with the highest performing A-1 fire safe systems, we can confidently assure our customers that product will arrive “on time and in full”  to the project site. Offering products and systems spanning the full value and performance spectrum, Soltherm can guarantee we will have a solution to fit the needs and budgetary demands of your project.

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Soltherm manufacture EWI systems for new, durable, rock-solid and crack-resistant façades with 75 years service life. With an ongoing commitment to innovation and improvement, Soltherm have produced a fully certified A1 fire rated system, using fire safe technology. Read more to view our full range of systems.