Building Envelope Guarantees – Considerations (and risks) When Specifying

Jonathan Dore, Business Development Manager at CA Group discusses product and system guarantees.

The UK market has a fairly unique perspective on product guarantees, requiring guarantee periods of 25, 30 or 40 years, usually as a complete building envelope system. This should normally require a provider to specify all the components that make up a system, to test them, verify their performance, supply as a complete package, and police the installation to ensure compliance.

Guarantees should be meaningful and offer genuine benefits to the client. Checking the small print in any system guarantee and understanding the true intent behind the paperwork is always an important aspect when selecting a manufacturer to specify. Who is ultimately responsible? Is there a single point of liability? Are the components ‘off-the-shelf’ for convenience, or supplied to the system provider’s exacting specifications? If the guarantee is back-to-back with a component supplier does this mean that up-stream supplier’s terms and conditions take precedence? Are any products that make up the system excluded?

Major items that integrate with a roof system such as rooflights, gutters and flashings are an essential part of the overall system performance, and a ‘whole envelope’ approach should be taken. Amendments to building regulations have brought attention to the need to test products in conjunction with each other in the correct building application.

The recent material shortages have seen unprecedented pressure put on supply chains to keep building sites going. This has, in turn, led to increased opportunities for product substitution, and for components that might not have been tested as part of a complete system to be used on a ‘pick and mix’ basis. This may invalidate testing and certification for systems, especially where independent third-party accreditation would normally be provided. Taking short-cuts to overcome short-term issues might leave long-term legacy issues.

Even once the current material shortage concerns have passed, there is likely to remain a critical shortage of skilled labour across the construction industry. This brings further emphasis on the reliance on manufacturers to ensure that their solutions are correctly supplied, installed, inspected and maintained. Without a drive towards improving quality through the supply chain, the industry faces the risk of a general decline in standards and quality.

For the CA Group Guarantee, issuing the guarantee is just the start of the story. A thorough regime of inspection in-use throughout the life of the building is an essential part of the operations and maintenance of the building. The Guarantee is not just a vehicle to underwrite payment.

James Miller, Procurement Director for Newlands Developments, says “Quality is essential in differentiating our portfolio. Our reputation as a developer is hard won, relies upon our supply chain providing us with exactly what they say they can, and having a proven track record. Quality and reliability must be tangible. For us, a system guarantee is meaningful, adds to the value of the building, ensures that our buildings retain their value throughout their life, and is not just a piece of paper in the O&M file.”

The CA Group Guarantee does not permit any product substitution, requires installers to be trained, and projects inspected, both during the installation, on completion and periodically afterwards. For us, our guarantee is our reputation, and given that a large proportion of our business is from repeat clients this speaks volumes to the genuine nature of our guarantee and the reliability of our service.

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