Despite the prevalence of design and build contracts across many construction sectors, there is still a high proportion of architectural practices, along with developer clients, which seek to achieve excellence in the specification and delivery of projects: whether in relation to targeting greater energy efficiency, the upper levels of BREEAM, enhanced whole life cost, or perhaps to meet site specific challenges.

In any of these situations, it is likely to be the outer envelope, and in particular the cladding system, which plays a pivotal role; and presents an area where consultants will likely seek greater support from manufacturers to ensure aspirations are achieved.  Inevitably, there is a balance to be struck between aspiration and cost constraints, including pressures to switch specifications as the programme evolves.

As a highly experienced specialist in the design and development of rainscreen cladding support systems, as well as carbon and stainless-steel fastening solutions, SFS Group enjoys excellent working relationships with a number of leading architectural practices, leading to the manufacturer’s involvement with a long list of landmark projects.

Andy Stolworthy, the Director of Product and Market Development for SFS, observes: “Not only is it advantageous for us to be able to engage early in the design process, to offer a consultative approach and optimise the outcomes; but the later that contractors attempt to change the specification, the higher the cost implications are likely to be.  Ideally, adhering to the approved design parameters will enable goals to be achieved, whether that is on sustainability or particularly thermal performance, where sub-contractors are often tempted to try and switch specifications without rechecking the calculations. For example, switching away from our extruded aluminium brackets to folded ones will not only mean more of the cheaper ones are required to carry the load, but the increased points of contact with the main structure negatively impact the thermal performance.  Ultimately, the U-Value calculations are invalidated, while the labour element of the installation cost also rises.”

In contrast to most competitors which do not have staff fully dedicated to specifiers, SFS has two managers covering the North and South of the UK, who not only look to identify projects where they can directly add value, but who also liaise with the 12 Regional Technical Sales Managers, along with other members of the technical team.  This enables them to work directly with the design teams and material manufacturers, or OEMs, and key contractors.

Alluding to the crucial aspect of safety, Andy Stolworthy continues: “Some of the larger clients are keenly interested in their estates, and also the longevity of the properties they develop, but most prefer to deal with manufacturers solely through the design process.  And this distancing can result in inappropriate fall protection systems being installed. Ensuring safety for those involved with long term maintenance or later adaptations of a building is paramount; particularly with regard to specifying robust horizontal lifeline systems for fall protection.   Our lifeline systems are integral to the secure and efficient maintenance as well as installation of building envelopes.”

From its unrivalled ConnectSuite® on-line design tools, to the delivery of half a dozen RIBA certified CPD seminars and other types of support, strategically structured to provide add value.  SFS is committed to going above and beyond to help create stand-out structures.

He concludes: “In order that occupants can enjoy buildings which are safe and comfortable to live in – where the fire-stopping and the rest of the detailing is right – where condensation does not form around all of the window openings or other issues occur – we have to ensure we engineer them correctly.  Ultimately, we are here to help ensure the best outcome for any project we are involved on.”

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