Laying concrete foundations for a sustainable future

Local planning requirements have always been an important consideration for housebuilders and developers but when faced with environmental obligations, it can be difficult to find the perfect roofing solution. Mark Parsons, Technical Director at Russell Roof Tiles highlights how concrete tiles could be the ideal fit.

There is a growing awareness of the need for energy-saving methods in both private and social housing. In April, the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards came into effect, prohibiting the letting of domestic and commercial properties with an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating of F or below. The government has also outlined plans which states that 25 million new homes must be insulated and energy efficient by 2050, as part of the 2008 Climate Change Act.

With 25 per cent of UK emissions resulting from energy used to heat and power homes and buildings, it was inevitable that this legislation would be implemented and that housebuilders and developers would be required to ensure their environmental responsibility is a large part of the decision process on any housing project.

However, when faced with local planning requirements, meeting energy legislation is easier said than done, especially in regards to roofing.

Local authority planning teams know that a pitched roof accounts for up to 40 per cent of a building’s façade and has a role in creating the right look for a property. It’s an essential element in the overall design.

Planners usually specify local materials, which have been used historically on roofs in the local area. For example, in areas of the Cotswolds and the Pennines, the local material is a heavy stone slate whilst in some regions such as the south west, natural red or orange clay tiles were traditionally made as there were local
deposits of clay.

Today though, some of these natural materials, have their own issues such, availability, sustainability and cost.

A good alternative is concrete roof tiles which have already been incorporated on hundreds of homes across the UK, as the materials provide a cost-effective, sustainable and long-lasting roofing solution. Today concrete tiles account for 60% of the market and more than 260 million concrete roof tiles were produced across the UK in 2017 alone. In contrast, natural slates only account for 20 per cent of the total and clay tiles around 10 per cent. The remaining 10 per cent is made up of various other materials.

Concrete tiles, which have a lifespan in excess of 60 years, have the ability to replicate the look of various pitched roof tiles and natural materials such as clay, slate and stone. The tiles can be adapted for many different purposes and provide a very visually-pleasing appearance once installed. However, it is not just the look of Russell Roof Tiles’ concrete tiles that is the real benefit.

Meeting the A+ rating in the BRE Green Guide to Specification, the concrete tiles once laid as part of a roof system, assist in controlling and retaining heat which keeps the home both stable and warm. As a result, concrete is pivotal in helping homes to be more energy efficient and comfortable to live in.

Also, when manufacturing concrete roof tiles, considerably less energy is required when compared to similar clay counterparts. This is largely because of the extensive power required for curing clay, in a 1000⁰ + kiln for up to 48 hours. Concrete tiles are cured at a much lower temperature and for a shorter period of time. This means that an energy saving of up to 30 per cent used in production can be achieved in comparison to clay tiles.

Concrete therefore has a much lower embodied carbon than those of clay counterparts and although cement does have a high carbon embodiment, it typically represents less than 20 per cent of the total weight of the tile composition. The remainder of the materials used in production being “natural” products.

As well as selecting the right products, it’s also important to consider the manufacturer’s commitment to sustainability. This will provide the added assurance that the product was produced with environmental obligations in mind and can be noted through accreditations and policies.

For example, the BES 6001: Issue 3 is the most recent version of the BRE Framework for the Responsible Sourcing of Construction Products. It highlights where a manufacturer is reducing both its environmental impact and its consumption of resources. The ISO14001 environmental management maps out a framework and certifies processes that companies can follow to meet sustainability standards, including the manufacturing, packaging of products, transportation and finally the disposal of products.

By working closely with the manufacturer, housebuilders and developers are in a stronger position to meet planning requirements whist ensuring their environmental responsibility is met through the right product and specification.