In a material world

Dave Jackson
Dave Jackson

The solid, tiled roofing market is growing strongly, and the long-term prospects look great for all those involved. But material choice and sustainability will be crucial as Dave Jackson, managing director of Icotherm points out.

While the conservatory market of the noughties was born from a number of systems that all shared material similarities in the form of aluminium capped PVC-U, the solid, tiled roof market has evolved with market players each taking a slightly different avenue when it comes to product specification and design.

But unlike the halcyon days of the conservatory market, the solid roof sector comes under building regulations in a similar vein to that of the extension market, traditionally the domain of the jobbing builder. While a conservatory has been deemed a temporary building in the past, once the room becomes solid it is indeed a habitable room all year round and there are an estimated two million in need of an upgrade.

Material performance

There are several reasons why we decided to go down the timber route as a structural building material, including the fact that it has been proven to be 1,000 times better from an energy efficiency and insulation aspect than aluminium.

This decision has been further vindicated given recent changes to building regulations and the anticipated ones for the years to come. Clearly the pressure is on our emerging sector for lower U-values in all roof configurations.

Indeed, the standard Icotherm offering provides a U-value of 0.15 W/(m2K) in England and is fully ventilated. We also have the Pro variant which performs better still at 0.12 W/(m2K) in Scotland and Wales and we’ve even carried out testing to perform to a better standard than this. These changes in building regulations are adding increased costs for some, while we can stay very price competitive for a roof that’s been designed, engineered and material specified akin to a typical house roof and with valued input from a structural engineer too.


Our timber is fully traceable and sourced from partners that operate a proactive re-plantation programme. From a sustainability aspect, timber acts as a carbon sink because it preserves the carbon that is stored in the wood, preventing its release back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

In 2016, EU forests provided a net sink of 424 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, around 10% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions, demonstrating the potential of timber to mitigate carbon emissions. These forests are almost 100% certified sustainable, and with good forest management and governance should grow rather than shrink over the next decade, with Finland leading the way.

Wood is the only naturally renewable mainstream building material. Over 90% of the wood we use in the UK comes from Europe’s forests, which are growing by 661,000 hectares every year. To put that into perspective, that’s an area the size of three football pitches every hour of the day and night.

A future material

The sustainability message to consumers is loud and clear as timber provides us with the best possible material to use and process within the factory.

We combine the use of CNC machinery with time-served joinery skills to build roofs that consistently perform well and in using the latest off-site construction techniques, we have a solution that speeds up the installation process considerably.

Building regulations will change in the years to come, challenging all aspects of the home improvement market. We’re already planning for this change with timber the preferred material of choice.

It will also help us achieve ever tighter standards with a slimmer profile roof as our on-site experience has shown that if roofs become too deep, then there are implications on box gutters and other design elements.

With eight successful years behind us now and as a founding business in the solid, tiled roofing sector we believe our future and that of our installer partners looks very bright indeed with timber at the very core of our proposition.