Achieving Passivhaus standard

Aluplast’s new lift and slide door offers Passivhaus standard U-values. Yet this is just one of a number of features the systems giant is pushing, arguing that more is needed to persuade homeowners to part with their hard-earned cash, according to Ian Cocken, director of sales and marketing at Aluplast UK.

Aluplast unveiled its new lift and slide door at this year’s FIT Show. Accommodating glazing units of up to 51mm, it achieves ultra-low U-values of as little as 0.65W/m2K – a Passivhaus equivalent.

The U-values we can achieve with the new lift and slide, are in anyone’s book impressive. Was that the priority for those fabricators and installers who came to see us on our FIT Show stand? The answer is ‘no’.

The reason wasn’t that energy efficiency isn’t important, it’s simply that it isn’t immediately tangible. Consumers respond most positively to something that they can touch and engage with in exactly the same way as the visitors to our stand did at FIT.

It’s about a narrative. Energy efficiency makes up an important part of the story but to market it effectively we need to set the scene and give it context – aesthetics, security and operation – things that drive an emotional response from the end user before appealing to their sense of reason.

This was also apparent at the FIT Show. It was clear that the light touch lift-an-slide operating mechanism had immediate appeal with those fabricators and installers who visited the Aluplast stand.

This exploits proven technology. Sashes are mounted on an easy-lift mechanism that elevates when opened and lowers on to the track when closed. So, a fully closed door rests over lower weather seals improving the door’s weather tightness, and thermal and acoustic insulation.

Capable of spanning openings of 6.5m x 2.8m, the modular 85mm system also delivers impressive design flexibility and uninterrupted sightlines. This is enhanced further through aluskin, Aluplast’s clip-and-fix aluminium external fascia system.

Also launched at this year’s FIT Show, it allows fabricators to emulate the aesthetic of a solid aluminium system in a hybrid PVCU/aluminium crossover product.

Aluskin means that homeowners can specify an aluminium aesthetic but combine that with the thermal efficiency of PVCU – as a paired offering it’s a powerful retail proposition. This is really what we need to be looking at as an industry.

It’s unrealistic to expect the majority of homeowners to be driven by energy efficiency alone. It’s an important purchasing decision but it needs to be sold alongside lifestyle, security and aesthetics. This is what drives engagement.

Pay-back on their investment in saved heating costs is important but it’s not ‘fun’. We need to be selling energy efficiency but also selling lifestyle aspiration.

lift and slide doors are a very different product to inline sliding doors, yet very much the same – they maximise glass area and minimise the interruption of the connection between inside and outside spaces by mullions.

There are lots of benefits to them in terms of reliability and ease of operation but most homeowners would choose a bifolding door over them, because bifolding doors have been sold as a lifestyle choice.

The core message that the industry is now bringing to the market with lift and slide doors isn’t very different to that that came 20 or 30 years earlier with inline sliding doors.

Critically what is different is that lift and slide doors have an architectural quality, and they have also appeared on Grand Designs. And what Grand Designs has done for the bifold, it’s now doing for the lift and slide door.

This is because whatever the merits of energy efficiency, the majority of purchases that we make as consumers are driven by our hearts rather than our heads.