Turning unloved and little-used flat roof spaces into beautifully finished paved areas or lush green roofs is a speciality that Wallbarn has built its reputation upon. The business, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, is a leader in both areas, but jokes that it is the really successful company that many people are unaware of. RCI spoke with Julian Thurbin, director at Wallbarn to find out more.
2020 marks Wallbarn’s 40th year in business, why do you feel many people are unaware of you?
Essentially, we operate in two fairly niche areas – pedestal support systems for paving and decking, and green roofs. Our ethos has always been to stick to what we know and do it brilliantly. We have a dedicated customer base throughout the UK and overseas and their loyalty has allowed us to somewhat fly under the radar. Our products are suitable for pretty much every type of flat roof on every type of building, plus balconies, podium decks and terraces. Given that many are installed at height, the Wallbarn team has the inside track on some of the best city views around!
How has the company evolved over its 40 years?
Wallbarn started out with two products – a 9mm rubber paving pad and a bituminous board for protecting waterproof membranes. At that time, it was a novel idea to mount paving slabs onto rigid insulation boards as part of an inverted roof system, pebbles were the norm for ballast. Since then we have designed and developed a large range of pedestals and support systems for paving and decking.
In 2006 we launched our roll-out green roof but thought there was potential for a pre-grown modular alternative so began developing our own. This product – the M-Tray – was launched three years ago to great success.
Wallbarn has two new products launching this year. What are they?
Metalpad – developed in response to amendments to British Standard BS 8579, which followed fires in blocks of flats. The guidance covers the combustibility of balcony construction materials, including pedestals installed beneath paved balconies, in order to limit the potential for fire spread on external walls.
Pedestals are the core of our business and it was imperative for us, as leaders, to respond. Our pedestals (self-levelling, adjustable, fixed height, mini and heavy duty) are manufactured from hardwearing polypropylene plastic, so it made sense to translate their success into a metal version to meet the revised BS 8579.
Metalpad is not the only metal pedestal on the market but it is the only one designed and developed in response to the new standards specifically for external paving and decking systems on balconies. Other metal pedestals are adaptations of products used in different applications.
Designed from scratch for the purpose intended, Metalpad is a Class A1 non-combustible, adjustable height solution suitable for paving and decking. All our pedestal products are certified by an independent laboratory to ensure they perform to stated weight and temperature tolerances.
Wildflower M-Tray – we’ve had huge success with our M-Tray modular green roof system, which is normally pre-planted with sedum. Launching a native, perennial wildflower option is a natural progression, allowing clients to enjoy a super easy to install green roof that is hardy, beautiful and a haven for pollinators, increasing biodiversity and answering the questions designers and environmental campaigners are asking about encouraging native wildlife into cities.
What challenges do you face?
Educating the market about the benefits of investing in quality. Wallbarn products are high quality, technically proven with manufacturing provenance and established sales records. We pride ourselves on quality, speed of delivery and customer support. What’s more, M-Tray’s installation time is a fraction of roll-out green roof systems so investment in the product is recouped from on-site time and labour savings.
Where are your products available?
Our routes to market have changed massively in recent years and we now sell large volumes through online partners, which complements our own direct sales. We’ve really prioritised quick delivery (next day is an option if ordered before 2pm) to support our customers and make their lives easier.
What does 2020 hold for Wallbarn?
I think, like many companies in the construction industry, greater optimism now that Brexit is progressing. I get a sense of increasing confidence in the market and a lot of projects, which had previously been put on hold or on slowdown will push forward. As a business we have two new products coming to market, so it is set to be an exciting year.