CROSS Safety Report
Installation of PV panels
This report is over 2 years old
A reporter's firm believes an oversaturated market of engineers carrying out assessments has drove the prices for assessments on roof structures accommodating PV panels down.
They feel lower prices are being achieved by undertaking far less rigorous analysis and suggesting that far fewer fixings were adequate.
Key Learning Outcomes
For PV panel suppliers, installers and homeowners:
All roofs should be appraised for the suitability of accommodating PV panels
Evidence of structural competence should be provided prior to installation
Inspection by a competent person should be carried out to ensure the works are installed in accordance with the design intent
For civil and structural design engineers:
Load effects of snow and wind uplift acting on the roof structure due to PV panels should be carefully considered
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A reporter's firm used to carry out design work for installers of PV panels, many of which were on domestic roofs. Unfortunately, because the market was buoyant, many engineers entered the market and drove the prices for assessments down by undertaking far less rigorous analysis and suggesting that far fewer fixings were adequate.
Both the lower cost analysis and cheaper installation were just too attractive a proposition for the reporter’s client base and they switched suppliers. This occurred despite efforts to advise them that the short term gain could leave the installations in a dangerous condition. Because of this the reporter's firm could not do the job properly within the current rates and left the market.
The reporter agrees that the comments in report 519 and report 528 are entirely accurate and believes the issues stem from the use of design packages. These check that the rails will not be overstressed but, they say, may not properly account for the fixings and the roof structure itself. Even if the fixings are checked, most of the inspections that are carried out do not take account of the effect on the roof.
Expert Panel Comments
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This emphasises the need for improved regulation and control in relation to PV panels and CROSS is undertaking work to publish guidance. In the meantime, it would be expected that any member of a professional institution would resist requests to undertake an incomplete design.
There are many incidents of items falling off buildings or being blown off building and it is clear from this and other reports that there are uncertainties in the overall fixing capability both short and long term. Safety requires robust solutions rather than refined analysis based on spurious assumptions.
The Scottish Government published Low carbon equipment and building regulations – a guide to safe and sustainable construction – Photovoltaics in 2012 which contains advice on installation.
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