By Justin Pitman, sales director for Proteus Waterproofing

Cold-applied roofing and waterproofing systems are taking a growing share of the market as building owners, specifiers and contractors become increasingly aware of the risk of fire and the nuisance and perceived health factors relating to “noxious odours and fumes.”

Such a statement assumes that torch on or molten systems are unsafe, which is totally untrue. In many ways, fears relating to traditional waterproofing systems, such as built up felt and hot melt, are unfair and unfounded and that needs to be made clear right at the start.

These systems have given and continue to provide excellent service and protection to the nation’s buildings and the risk of fire is minimal, particularly when such products are installed by qualified contractors.

But we are where we are and in the wake of disasters such as Grenfell, then we, as a roofing industry, must expect to be scrutinised and if there is a demand to come up with alternative systems which are seen to be safer and more acceptable – then so be it.

This is the reason why cold applied systems are now being increasingly specified and installed on balconies, walkways, car parks and, of course, roofs but while safety is an overriding factor, there is also the welfare of tenants and residents to be considered.

Modern cold applied systems are fast curing and, in most cases, exhibit little or no odour during the installation process compared to more traditional systems. This means that residents are not marooned in their homes for long periods and are not subject to unpleasant smells or fumes.

But while safety is a major factor, cold applied systems also offer significant cost savings in terms of faster application. Reducing downtime is critical for any project and in the past, new build programmes in particular have been impacted by the need to wait 28 days for green concrete to cure.

Advanced systems such as Cold Melt® can be installed over green concrete after just three days, instead of the usual 28, allowing other trades to get to work on the roof and inside the building knowing that the structure has been completely waterproofed.

Estimates suggest that up to 35% of site overheads are directly attributable to labour costs and with draconian penalties for contracts that overrun, such time savings allow project managers to plan with confidence and manage labour needs more efficiently.

Speed of application applies equally to balconies, flat roofs and service areas including walkways which have grown in importance. Superior cold applied systems can be installed and ready to be trafficked in just two hours.

This speed of application has become more important because such areas provide endless opportunities for apartment residents without gardens to create places for drying washing, growing plants and flowers or simply enjoying well-earned fresh air.

As already stated, this is why cold applied liquid solutions are rapidly becoming the waterproof membranes of choice – particularly for local authorities and housing associations that are frequently faced with the dilemma of delivering essential refurbishment without upsetting tenants and other residents.

But there is more to this story and another welcome bonus – some cold applied products offer high levels of sustainability and environmental credentials which tick all of the green boxes.

Cold Melt® for example is one of the greenest products of its kind. It incorporates recycled rubber crumb from old vehicle tyres as well as other organically grown products to create an elastomeric, seamless, cold applied membrane.

Unlike most other membranes, many of which have to be imported from Europe or North America, Cold Melt® is also made in Britain, helping to reduce the carbon footprint still further and cement the product’s green credentials.

So whether we accept it or not, cold applied systems are here to stay and I strongly suspect that they will continue to take market share from more traditional products as we see more and more apartment blocks and a greater density of population in urban areas.

Communal living is on the increase and our industry has responded with cold applied solutions and it’s too late to turn back.