Manufacturer Permanite Engineered Roofing Systems has formed an innovative partnership with a local authority to provide roofing for schools across the borough.

Permanite Engineered Roofing Systems is a maker of flat roof waterproofing systems including bituminous roofing, mastic asphalt roofs and green roof products.

The firm, which is based in Wigan, Lancashire, has 120 staff, and celebrated its centenary this year. Since the 1960s it has been part of the Canada-based IKO Group, which has a turnover of about £40m. Its waterproofing membrane facility in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, is to expand to accommodate increased demand.

Since 2004, the manufacturer has been involved in an innovative partnership with a local authority. It has become the main roofing contractor for Oldham council’s education projects and has won a four-year contract, with a two-year extension clause, to deliver flat roofing renewals across the council’s schools. More than £2m of roofing work on schools and swimming pools has already been carried out. Craig Smith, who looks after roofing at the firm, explains how it works in the education sector.

Craig Smith, Divisional director of roofing, Permanite

Q In which sectors are you working?

A We work in the private sector on residential, retail and commercial schemes and we’ve also supplied roofing systems to the Ministry of Defence, but local authorities represent the largest part of our business.

Q Why is the education sector particularly busy?

A A lot of education buildings need re-roofing – especially schools with flat roofs built in the 1960s and 1970s. It’s a good for us that the government’s huge financial commitment to schools, through PFI and Building Schools for the Future programmes, is not all about new build, but examines existing schools.

Now it’s not just about creating education buildings but building community centres.

For these projects we supply the complete roofing system.

Q How did you get involved in the special partnership with Oldham council?

A The council decided that a more efficient method of procurement would be to partner with the material supplier instead of subcontractors, so we’ve been acting as principal contractor for the roofing renewal of education buildings. We work on about 12 schools a year and this has proved efficient because we were able to reduce costs. Our role has gone far beyond the roofing projects. We have created education-led programmes which benefit the community, like campaigns to raise awareness among local children on the dangers of playing near building sites. We have also set up bursaries to fund students taking GCSEs in construction.

Q Are you trying to set up similar partnerships elsewhere?

A I’m promoting this principle to local authorities to convince them of the efficiency of this method. It’s frustrating because a lot of them don’t look outside their bubble.

Q How do you work with specifiers?

A We organise a wide range of continuing professional development seminars that are tailored to the variety of our clients, which include architects and local authorities. We have a team of 20 technical services representatives who provide expertise to specifiers. We work as closely as possible with specifiers to ensure we choose the solution that is right for the roof. We can devise bespoke solutions to fit the specifier’s requirements. Our only problem is if we’re not involved early enough in the design, there can be issues with the interface of the roof.

Q What has been the impact of building regulations on your products?

A We have made our products more thermally efficient to be sure that carbon dioxide emissions are reduced and to improve energy conservation.

Q Is the sustainability agenda changing the nature of the demand?

A The sustainability issue means that we’re increasingly asked to supply green roofs for schools, especially in the education sector within the Greater London Authority. With Ken Livingstone’s commitment to green buildings, the trend is more visible there.

Q What technical developments is Permanite working on?

A We have a team of 12 working in our research and development department. We’re developing self-adhesive technology to produce cold self-adhesive ply roofing membranes, which will be quick to install and cost-effective. The new products will be launched in the first quarter of next year.

Specifier 01 December 2006