The importance of the roof structure within the overall scheme of things has never been greater, and this has presented manufacturers with a tremendous opportunity. Roof design today centres on many things. Firstly, architects and designers are showing increased levels of innovation, where the aesthetics of roof designs can serve to elevate the profile and feel of a scheme. This is especially true in the social housing sector where schemes are used to raise the profile of the whole area. Compared with schemes of previous decades, today’s developments are based on leading edge design.

This is being made possible by the quantum leaps that have been made in design and engineering terms due to the increased sophistication of CAD packages.

And finally, as pressure to secure more accommodation from any specific plot of land increases, the roof void has become an architect’s ideal source from which to create additional living space. Such developments have resulted in the emergence of more complicated and, at the same time, functional roof structures. If we take the room-in-the-roof as just one example, then never before have we been called upon to produce them in such volume. This is a trend that we expect to see continue.

These changes have impacted positively on those roof truss manufacturers who, like Pace Timber Engineering, have proved themselves capable of producing total roof packages. It is total solutions such as these that our clients are now seeking. This is not just across the speculative housing sector; demand is also emanating from within social housing, key worker accommodation, hospital developments, schools and the commercial sector.

Increased complexity in design also brings with it the need for more flexible manufacturing methods. As higher volumes of bespoke roof trusses replace standard products, so too does the need for manufacturers to switch production more often.

Specification levels

Again we see a move to the roof truss manufacturer showing greater levels of specialisation in supply. It is not unusual for today’s key players to supply roofing packages that include loose rafters, upper and lower structural decking, laminated timber beams, Velux windows, plastic fascias and mouldings, and associated metalwork such as truss clips, hangers and straps.

The complexity in design is also leading to the increased requirement for correct installation of the roof construction. Specialists such as ourselves are called upon to erect the roof. This requires us to manage the installation process to ensure that all details and fixings achieved suit the design.

Aware of the need to stay ahead through innovation, Pace Timber Engineering recently became the first UK manufacturer to use the Alpine AiMS Central system. This enables remote users, such as external designers and contracts managers with laptops, to access a central live data hub where they can view, add or amend information.

Alpine’s management software is a system that controls every stage of the business through design, quotation, approval and production process, including links to manufacturing equipment. It can take care of invoicing, cost analysis and provide valuable management reports. The power and flexibility of the database and the seamless interactive link with the design software has vastly improved the workflow. In addition to this, the design software will enable virtual roofs to be viewed from completed designs.

Strategic partnerships

But this is only part of the story. Experience has shown that an increasing number of contractors, manufacturers and developers are focused on entering into strategic partnership agreements. One of the benefits of this is that the fabricator will develop a good understanding of the requirements of the client.

So as more and more roof truss manufacturers are called upon to create and supply more complex roof structures, they need to be geared to meet modern day demands. This brings with it the need for manufacturers to meet the all-important areas of health and safety, UK and European Codes of Practice and Building Regulations, and product quality conformity.

With greater demands being placed on the roof truss manufacturer than ever before, we are already seeing the market being served by a smaller number of predominantly larger and more able suppliers. Despite the fact that the future looks healthy, it does so only to those organisations capable of taking on increasing levels of specialisation. In essence, the most successful manufacturers will be those that continue to demonstrate their capabilities within the complete field of timber engineering rather than mere roof truss manufacture, and to an increasingly diverse client base.