A sustainable future

Nicola Harrison
Nicola Harrison

New building regulations go some way to cutting emissions – but fenestration firms could go further, argues Bereco MD Nicola Harrison.

By any standards, we’ve had a rotten summer in the UK, weather-wise. Unfortunately, for many people across the world 2023 has been a heat-related disaster. Wildfires and record temperatures have dominated the news, leading to the inescapable conclusion that climate change is real, and it’s happening right now.

We all bear responsibility for the state of the planet, and all of us must work hard to achieve the target of carbon neutrality by 2050. How does this apply to my own sector, the fenestration industry, and what are the implications for its future?

As we know, in 2022 the Government made changes to building regulations. These included new targets for carbon emissions and as a result, all new homes must now produce at least 31% less carbon, while non-domestic new builds are pegged to at least 27% less.

Part of the regulations focus on certain amendments to Approved Documents Part L (conservation of fuel and power) and Part F (ventilation). Part L focuses closely on specific U-value requirements which have been lowered once again to encourage more companies to invest in high-performance and energy-efficient materials.

The fenestration industry has already embraced this, with U-values far lower now than they were just five years ago. That said, we could all do better, and perhaps taking a more sustainable approach to everything we do is the solution.

At Bereco, we aim to make a real difference which is why we think about every aspect of our business, from obtaining the wood for our windows via sustainable forests to tackling issues around the use of plastic currently being used in packaging. Our commitment has created very positive results for us as a business.

For example, our timber windows have been designed with optimum energy efficiency in mind and so they can achieve the notional target U-value of 1.2 W/m²K using double glazing.

Yet there is still more we can do. In fact, it makes sense that companies start by looking at how they can make their operations as energy efficient as possible. It’s worth considering different ways to reduce the amount of waste produced and reviewing existing processes to check everything is running at the optimum level.

There remain issues with transportation and supply chains and while a switch to more fuel-efficient or electric vehicles is a great alternative, sourcing local materials still proves a challenge as the majority of products used within the glazing industry come from Europe. Instead, we could look closely at the supply chain to see how it can be made more sustainable by using recycled or biodegradable materials and committing to small wins such as taking back and reusing timber pallets – which is something we implemented ourselves at Bereco.

I understand that a more sustainable approach for the fenestration industry requires a certain amount of thought and a level of commitment that may take some getting used to. However, in the long run, the benefits are worthwhile, and not just for the environment.

Customers see the value of a greener approach to construction and, by all accounts, are happy to pay a little extra, even in tough times, to help us all keep our carbon footprint to a minimum.

Watching Hawaii and the Greek islands burn is not a pleasant experience – yet such images just might be the wake-up call we all need if we are to survive global warming.