Ductwork parties discuss their interests

Ductwork specialists and M&E contractors were presented with a rare opportunity to air their differences at a symposium on ductwork contracting in the 21st century organised jointly by ADCAS (Association of Ductwork Contractors and Suppliers) and the HVCA (Heating & Ventilating Contractors’ Association). ADCAS president Paul Roxburgh had no doubt about the future: ‘Change is coming, change that will have a major impact on the ductwork industry. To cope with it, we must create new partnerships and new ways of working. This unique event is the first step in establishing a common understanding between the ductwork specialist and the mechanical contractor.’ Bob Towse, head of HVCA’s technical team, set the technical issues starkly. He highlighted the confusion that has arisen about provisions in Part L of the Building Regulations for leakage testing of ductwork and when it might be required for new and existing ductwork systems. He said, ‘This is a vital issue for the ductwork industry, but there’s a huge amount of confusion, even among building-control officers, some of whom are demanding the wrong kind of test.’ Putting the view of the contractor, Allan McDougall, managing director of Shepherd Engineering Services, referred to the complaints that ductwork companies often made about their poor relationship with M&E contractors. ‘Yet, I cannot remember the last time we had a dispute over a technical issue,’ he said. ‘More than 90% of gripes are commercial — and now is the time to sort these out.’ Mr McDougall said that the industry was guaranteed healthy workloads over the next three years, thanks to major Government investment in schools and hospitals — plus the 2012 London Olympics programme. He urged all sub-contractors to ensure that their first tender price was their best price, so they could be included earlier in the design process. Barry Pollard, chairman of the HVCA ductwork group, pointed out that the ductwork sector was working on margins of 0 to 3% and was therefore subsidising profits further up the supply chain. He argued, ‘Most industries have substantially increased their prices, but there is pressure on us to reduce ours still further because the construction industry is selling buildings at less than realistic rates. This financial squeeze from the top is the root cause of most of the aggravation we experience every day of our working lives.’ Both associations acknowledged the event as a significant step forward for the sector, with Paul Roxburgh commenting, ‘Even a year ago, such an open discussion of mutual problems could probably not have taken place.’

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