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What Does the INCA EWI Industry Report Show?

The Insulated Render and Cladding Association (INCA) recently unveiled the findings of its industry survey, offering a comprehensive overview of the external wall insulation (EWI) market in the UK. The INCA EWI Industry Report provides valuable insights into the size, scope, and dynamics of the EWI sector, underpinning EWI systems’ significance in refurbishment and new-build projects.

Survey Highlights

1. Market Size and Distribution

According to the report, a staggering 5.9 million square metres of EWI was installed across the UK in 2023. This substantial volume highlights the role of EWI in the construction and renovation industries. Notably, 73% of this installation was dedicated to refurbishing existing buildings, reflecting the growing focus on upgrading and retrofitting properties to enhance energy efficiency. The remaining 27% was utilised in newly built constructions, showcasing EWI’s role in modern architectural practices.

2. Insulation Types and Preferences

The survey revealed a preference for specific insulation materials in the EWI installations:

  • Mineral Fibre Insulation: Dominating the market with 56%, this material is mandated for use in high-rise buildings due to its fire-retardant properties.
  • Expanded Polystyrene (EPS): Used in 37% of installations, EPS is preferred for its cost-effectiveness and insulation properties, particularly in low-rise constructions.
  • Other Insulants: Comprising 7% of the market, these include materials like extruded polystyrene, polyisocyanurate (PIR), and wood fibre, each chosen based on specific project requirements.

3. Finishes

Specialist renders were the predominant choice for finishing, used in 79% of the systems. These renders vary significantly in material, thickness, colour, and texture, offering aesthetic versatility and enhanced protection. The remaining 21% of finishes comprised brick slips and similar decorative approaches, providing an alternative look mimicking traditional masonry.

Market Dynamics and Future Outlook

The INCA EWI Industry Report sheds light on significant market activities, emphasizing the sector’s substantial involvement in refurbishing existing buildings. This trend continues to benefit from governmental funding to increase energy efficiency. While the report predicts a promising growth trajectory for the refurbishment sector in 2024, expectations for the new build sector are less optimistic, with most participants forecasting static sales for the coming year.

John Sparrow, Executive Director at INCA, provided a detailed perspective on the importance of the survey, stating:

“This report is long overdue and something that the industry has been requesting for many years. As the recognised trade association for the external wall insulation industry in the UK, INCA was perfectly placed to commission, facilitate and fund this research. Being the first industry survey in recent years it was decided to keep things simple and to analyse at headline level only initially. Moving forward, it’s intended that we make this an annual survey which will allow year on year comparisons and a drill down from this benchmark into a more in-depth analysis. Coming at a time when we have a clear focus on competence, training and the development of a new industry apprenticeship scheme we regard the results to be of particular importance to better evidence the need to attract new blood into the EWI industry and support our efforts to facilitate this.”

The findings underscore the EWI sector’s robust delivery at existing levels while highlighting substantial growth opportunities, particularly as the government ramps its retrofit program to meet net-zero targets. Sean Stevenson, Chair of INCA, echoed this sentiment, noting the significant potential within the new-build sector and, more broadly, across the market. This potential is supported by the latest official numbers, which show that a majority of solid-wall homes still lack insulation, indicating vast untapped potential.

Stevenson’s insights reinforce the need for the industry to promote its benefits more widely and directly address any skills shortages through targeted training and upskilling initiatives. He highlighted ongoing efforts:

“We currently spearhead the steering group tasked with defining and mapping out a route to EWI competence, co-chair the IfATE employer group commissioned to deliver the EWI pathway of a new apprenticeship by the end of 2024 and collaborate with colleges and training facilities across the UK in support of multiple regional and national training initiatives.”

These developments suggest a proactive approach by INCA and its partners to react to market demands and actively shape the industry’s future through education, competency development, and innovation. Such strategies are essential for sustaining growth and ensuring the sector is well-equipped to meet the evolving demands of the construction industry, particularly in light of increasing environmental and efficiency standards.

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