All set for take-off as Hemsec helps to grow the UK SIPs market

06 Apr 2021


One of the UK’s largest – and the longest-standing – insulated panel manufacturers sets ambitious plans for growth with new team members.

A former airline pilot is one of the newest team members focused on getting the UK SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) market flying at North West-based insulated panels manufacturer Hemsec. Over the last few months, Hemsec has welcomed several fresh faces, one of which is former commercial pilot Steve Boardman, sales manager.

Here, we learn about the new team, why the construction of faster, better quality buildings is so important to the UK – and why SIPs are crucial to this objective.

Championing UK SIPs

Under the leadership of Hemsec’s head of sales Sarah Gazzola, the Merseyside-based family-run business has recruited a range of skilled professionals to help the company expand and achieve its planned growth.

Building on the legacy of the company established way back in 1928, Sarah and her colleagues are passionate about promoting the benefits of SIPs in UK construction, together with the company’s range of market-leading insulated panels for controlled environments.

Sarah joined Hemsec in early 2020 and now heads a team of people responsible for sales and business development.

Liverpool-born Sarah’s expertise and experience is in helping businesses to explore new markets and build customer relationships. Her role at Hemsec has a similar objective: to ensure that the company continues to meet the evolving needs of customers and prospective customers.

Sarah is supported by Steve Boardman and Juliette Mullineux. Steve joined Hemsec last December and is an experienced area sales manager with a background in the buildings material industry. He manages the sales and business development team, which includes Nathan Morris, National Business Development Manager. Juliette Mullineux is an experienced Product Manager with a background in manufacturing and sustainable products.

We recently discussed with Steve what most attracts him to working at Hemsec, together with the vital contribution that SIPs can play in delivering more sustainable forms of construction.

Flying high: From flight school in Canada to experienced sales professional

Born in Manchester, Steve’s family emigrated to New Brunswick on Canada’s east coast when he was young. Since he can remember, Steve wanted to be an airline pilot and fulfilled his dream by joining a Canadian flight school. While in training, Steve had the chance to fly a plane as well as getting inside flight simulators for Concorde, 747 and 737 aircraft.

In 2001, Steve moved back to the UK, changing career, and finding his niche in the building sector. Over the next two decades, he undertook several sales, business development and people management roles.

All these positions reflect Steve’s enthusiasm for working with people, and the challenge of not only meeting a sales target but exceeding it. A key part of his philosophy is a belief that if you get the right people in the team and engage with them, the results tend to take care of themselves.

Last year Steve was attracted to a new role created at Hemsec and met with Sarah to discuss the opportunities it would give him. Enthused by a desire to work for a family-run business, together with Hemsec’s bold plans for growth, Steve joined the company in December.

Understanding the client is key

The benefits of using SIPs and metal-faced insulated panels are becoming clear to a construction industry, which is now consistently committing more of its resources to Modern Methods of Construction (MMC). Hemsec SIPs in particular are among the highest quality available anywhere in Europe.

SIPs are extremely thermally efficient; they speed up the build process compared to traditional construction and are incredibly strong. Furthermore, a crucial advantage of Hemsec SIPs is that they are regularly tested almost to destruction and can be cut to specific lengths and thicknesses. This is particularly beneficial for clients requiring a bespoke element to their project.

In Steve’s view, this customised approach underlines the significance of understanding the client – and what is important to them. Hemsec listens to the client and their requirements then tailors a solution.

One of the concerns from architects, surveyors and project managers relates to the higher upfront build costs using SIPs compared with traditional forms of construction. An undue focus on price ignores the other comprehensive benefits offered by SIPs; indeed, the material is highly cost-effective, has long-term financial advantages and is suitable for varying types of projects.

Let us take one example.

SIPs are great insulators with high performing U-values and air leakage testing. In fact, there is little or no cold bridging and much thinner walls are possible when compared with traditional methods.

A wall made from SIPs with plasterboard lining and brick external skin is 312mm, whereas traditional is 475mm. This results in:

  • Reduced site waste – pre-cut in factory conditions to a specification.
  • There is no need for any additional insulation.
  • The site build time is dramatically reduced when building from SIPs.

Growing the SIPs market

With the Hemsec team fully assembled, Sarah and Steve are now putting the finishing touches to their sales strategy.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the views of many in the construction industry, encouraging the sector to move towards adopting MMC. In the future, the UK needs to build in a sustainable way – whether these are houses, office blocks or commercial buildings. MMC ticks all the boxes.

Hemsec are already working with specifiers and installers across the country. Existing partners and clients understand the quality products and solutions provided by the company – now the company seeks to widen its reach by building relationships with Tier 1 contractors.

Current estimates from the industry project annual growth rates of 9%. To achieve this forecast – and even exceed it – requires communication of these benefits to key influencers, including government, trade associations and Tier 1 contractors.

The Hemsec team is ready. The plans are in place. To give the last few words to Steve: “We face the twin challenge of a housing crisis combined with a need to build more sustainably. On both counts, SIPs perform well, for speed of build and thermal/energy efficiency. In the next few years, the market will grow from strength-to-strength.”

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