The UK’s largest supplier of roof trusses, Pasquill, part of the Saint-Gobain group, is looking ahead with confidence despite the country’s housebuilding volumes continuing to bump along the bottom.

An appearance at Ecobuild, a reorganisation of its design teams and the imminent launch of a new roof system are the headline news at Pasquill, which has the annual capacity to manufacture 350,000 roof trusses, as well as I-joists, open-web joists and roof systems from its national network of production sites.

"It has been an exceptionally difficult start to 2013, with an element of this being weather-related," said managing director Stuart McKill.

"While we’ve seen strong results from national housebuilders, the speed with which roofs are going on new buildings in the first quarter has been fairly slow.

"We’re seeing a lot of traction now, and as we move into the middle of March it’s a bit better than expected."

Mr McKill said news from the likes of Persimmon, which is looking to be more aggressive in its build programme, was encouraging, while recently released Home Builders Federation figures show a 61% rise in planning approvals in the fourth quarter of 2012 (compared to a year earlier) and a 40% rise on the third quarter.

"The one big challenge we face is timber prices and how we speed them through into the market, with national housebuilders being such a large part of the market. That is something we have to work quite hard at, especially as currency is the [major part of] the cost of the increases we are looking at."

Mr McKill said timber shippers were taking a bullish approach on prices.

"We are talking about large increases from where we were in Q4 2012/Q1 2013 in terms of the forward market. In the long term it may help our revenue but in the short term we will certainly need to bridge the gap."

Pasquill has reorganised its design teams into market sectors.

Mr McKill said most suppliers of roof trusses and engineered timber solutions received a daily "plethora" of drawings and quote requests which are handled in a similar way. However, national housebuilders have markedly different requirements from those of merchants and SME builders. Creating design teams dedicated to each sector is the best approach, he said.

A dedicated national housebuilder design team provides improved pricing consistency, contact consistency and customer intimacy, thereby improving the understanding of each customer’s business.

"A design team dedicated to builders merchants and SME builders means improvements in speedy work turnaround: something that we are consistently told these markets sectors require in particular," said Mr McKill.

"Regional SMEs competitively tendering for business in their area are up against time constraints that can prove pretty onerous. And again, design teams only working with specific builders merchants and specific SMEs develop a far more effective understanding of how their customers operate than design teams covering all markets can ever hope to achieve."

New roof system
Pasquill’s new PasRoof prefabricated and preinsulated roof system is shortly to become Pasquill’s fourth roof system offering, adding to the licensed roof system products Smartroof, JJI-Intelliroof and X-rafter.

Pasquill has capability with all these products and will still supply them but Mr McKill said it was time that Pasquill leveraged the capabilities of the Saint-Gobain brand and range of products.

"We’ve been working on developing our own solution and looking to see how we take the best of everything that has gone before and deliver an enhanced product solution which replicates the range of our Saint-Gobain branding in terms of the overall condition of the product. We are pretty excited about what we have achieved.

"We see off-site roof systems as a developing part of the market and I genuinely believe that in the longer term we will see progress in that area because of health and safety, speed of erection, product control and performance.

"That part of the market will grow again and we feel confident we’ll have a very good product available on the market.

Attic trusses are still the preferred option for 1.5- and 2.5-storey houses and panellised systems tend to work for gable-to-gable constructions.

"It’s an opportunity to have a more complete room-in-the-roof solution and with Saint-Gobain we can provide the right insulation, plasterboard, finishes and flooring products. By putting that all together it gives a strong technical solution," said Mr McKill.

Pasroof has been trialled and is expected to be launched next month.