A sustainable choice for all

Gareth Jones, Rehau’s windows division marketing and technical director, discusses how the market for energy efficient products could develop over the next five year.

When customers consider their next window purchase, there are normally four key factors that influence their product selection: cost, energy efficiency, appearance and security.

While cost is often the deciding factor, energy efficiency has a greater influence now than ever before, and much of this change in buying behaviours has been driven by rising fuel costs and a growing awareness of the environmental impact of energy use.

At the moment, we see demand for energy efficient products from the construction industry, where the Passivhaus concept continues to gather pace – particularly from consumers. Everything we buy nowadays that uses energy – from our TV to our fridge to our house – has an energy label, and customers are becoming conditioned to look for better-rated, more efficient products.

With this in mind, we believe that energy efficient windows will still continue to dominate the market, with a shift towards these products becoming the standard, rather than something special or out of the ordinary. Efficiency is likely to be almost a presumed element for windows; in the same way that when you buy a new car, you presume it has been designed with fuel efficiency features as standard.

Our Geneo 86mm profile windows have a Uf value of up to 0.78 W/m2K. In five years’ time, this may be the standard for all windows, and what we are celebrating now as an achievement in product design will cease to be acknowledged in the same way in 2022.

In terms of product innovation, I think there will be new things to come but these are unlikely to be features that further improve the efficiency of windows. The industry is very much plateauing as it searches for, and struggles to find, the next big thing that’s going to change the market in the same way as double glazing and multi chambers did a few years ago.

There is always the potential for the government to throw in a curve ball over the next five years and we could see the tightening of legislation surrounding the sale and installation of windows. This would trigger more product development to improve efficiencies, and private landlords would need to ensure rental properties were energy efficient to meet these new standards. But we will have to wait and see on that one.

I think aesthetics will probably be the area where we will see more changes to product design over the coming years, for example slimmer sight lines and a greater range of colour options and finishes, rather than any big advances in efficiency.

If there is further growth in the ‘green’ credentials of windows, it will be more to do with sustainability. As a manufacturer, we have to be mindful of the energy we use in manufacturing our products and transporting them to customers, as well as being conscious of the raw materials and resources we use to make them.