Get off the fence

In times of diminished margins and more stringent regulations, the pressure is on developers to build high-quality projects that still deliver profits. As such, there’s now an intense search for new solutions that can help. Here, John Abernethie, CEO at Birkdale highlights the rise of modern fence solutions that deliver both performance and installation benefits.

Whether it’s an entire cul-de-sac of new builds, or one small property there is always an imperative for developers to keep costs down and protect their profit margin. However, this cannot come at the expense of product quality – or best practice and ease of installation.

Tradespeople brought in to undertake the work on a particular project, need to have been a specification that includes high-quality solutions that meet the project requirements but also reduce time spent on site. This is where modern fencing solutions should be considered as they can have a positive impact in both respects.

Currently, the majority of fence post solutions are manufactured from timber or concrete, however both materials pose challenges. Timber is known to rot over time, which affects its longevity. Likewise, concrete is a very heavy material, which makes it difficult to transport and install. Additionally, on account of its weight, concrete fencing solutions often require additional labour to complete installations in accordance to current Health and Safety regulations.

For many years, there were few alternatives to timber or concrete available on the market. As a result, many developers stopped checking to see if there were any new products out there that could save them money. Therefore, it may come as a surprise to some that the market has evolved considerably and there is now an alternative fencing solution which is worthy of consideration.

Capable of having a significant positive impact on costs are fence post systems that are manufactured from cold rolled engineered steel. Galvanised steel is the best alternative fencing solution material to ever be brought to market. Unlike previous alternatives, such as plastic, which is light but nowhere near strong enough for use as an external solution, cold rolled engineered steel sections have excellent strength-to-weight ratio.

During the manufacturing process, pre-galvanised sheet material is cut and cold rolled through specially made dies to create a unique H-section profile. The result is a stronger product, which is able to achieve superior performance and when powder coated, can provide additional corrosion protection. This makes it an ideal material for use on external products, such as fence posts, which need to be able to stand up against harsh winds and wet weather.

Manufacturing fencing solutions from cold-rolled galvanised steel has a number of benefits over comparative timber or concrete solutions. Unlike timber fence posts, galvanised steel posts do not rot or warp over time. In comparison to concrete, these posts are up to 80 per cent lighter and lower volume, which makes them easier to transport, carry and make installation by a single, non-specialist tradesperson possible.

The ease of installation of cold-rolled galvanised steel systems also provides major benefits to developers, cutting down site labour and providing sustainable fencing in the long term. As mentioned, unlike standard fencing products, cold-rolled galvanised steel solutions can be installed by one person. This is a big advantage for developers, as concrete fence post installations have normally been considered a two-person job. On most projects, specifying a steel fence post product will help to cut installation time in half when compared with concrete fence posts. This helps developers to reduce site running costs and ensures installations are of a high standard.

Making improvements to the installation process will not only speed up build times but could lead to a reduction in workplace related injuries. According to Direct Line for Business, between 2012 and 2017, nearly 85,000 construction site injuries were as a result of handling, lifting or carrying equipment. A lightweight alternative like steel, can ensure that the risk of such injuries is reduced dramatically for installers, especially when extensive fencing is needed.