Glazing into the future

Phil Brown, European regulatory marketing manager at Pilkington UK, discusses how Covid-19 changed the way we use our homes and how households are investing lockdown savings into renovation projects.

Covid-19 brought much of the world to a standstill; as schools and offices closed their doors, people in the UK were urged to avoid all non-essential travel, which saw many working from home.

As a result, 82% of UK businesses are now considering embracing remote working, according to a survey by Whereby. Many global companies, like Twitter, have already made remote working a permanent option for employees.

It’s clear that experiences from lockdown have changed the way the workforce uses offices, and that is having a knock-on effect on our relationship with our homes.

But, not only are we using our homes more frequently as a place of work, we’re still spending significantly more time in them outside of our working hours. Together, these changing behaviours are encouraging more people to plan home improvements. According to research from Insight DIY, 55% of Brits are prioritising plans to update their homes with the money they’ve saved during lockdown.

This provides some encouragement for those that supply glass and glazing into the residential sector, as people look to noise-resistant windows for that perfect home office, bring the outside in with bifolding doors, or extend indoor space with a new conservatory.

This new culture of remote working, alongside spending more time at home generally, has changed what we want most from our homes.

For example, having glazing with noise control capabilities, such as Pilkington Optiphon, is creeping higher up people’s home improvement wish lists to create peaceful workspaces, particularly for those who live near main roads or in busy areas.

The development of noise control glass over the years now means that blocking out sound doesn’t have to result in customers compromising on light transmittance.

Maximising natural light in rooms will be a big factor in creating that perfect home working environment.

Natural light can help reduce eyestrain, headaches and blurred vision, which often result from prolonged computer and device use and can detract from productivity. In fact, research has found that workplaces with good natural light saw an increase of up to 40% in productivity.

Alongside this, natural light can also synchronise our sleep-wake cycle. A recent study by Philips found that there is a significant link between light and circadian rhythms, known as ‘built-in clocks’, and being well-rested improves attentiveness and concentration.

With four in ten admitting to experiencing sleep problems during lockdown, and as people look to maximise their home working experiences, the principles that apply in a productive office will become as important in the home. Fortunately, the glazing industry is in a good position to take learnings from both commercial and residential settings to provide solutions that benefit productivity and improve health and wellbeing for those working at home.

While there are already encouraging signs for home renovation activity, an active housing market is also set to catalyse demand for improvement projects.

In the first week of August, sales subject to contract almost doubled that of the same time last year, according to Savills. Pent-up demand and the stamp duty holiday are currently buoying the housing market. Lockdown has also has an impact on buying habits: property website Rightmove saw enquiries from city residents looking to escape to the country rise by 126% in June and July, compared to the same period last year.

Of course, buying a new home is often a trigger point for households to invest in home improvements both in their current property to increase value before selling, and their new pad to ensure it is perfect for years to come.

The 2020 Renovation Nation Report actually found that 27% of UK homeowners wanted to add value to their home, something glazing can help with. Valuation experts Portico suggests increasing living space with a fully glazed conservatory can add almost 10% to the value of a property, while extending a kitchen with a side-return extension featuring roof glazing can add an extra 15%.

Additionally, the government has gone some way to incentivise home renovation. The Green Homes Grant may result in a number of households opting to replace their single glazed windows with double or triple glazing, when installing at least one of the primary insulation and/or a low carbon heating measures recently outlined by the government. Upgrading to secondary glazing – suited to on-line low emissivity coated glass, such as Pilkington K Glass – also qualifies as a secondary measure under the scheme.

There are encouraging signs suggesting that home improvement volumes are growing, as households’ savings are invested in making homes fit for purpose in the post-Covid world.

And while this presents some opportunity for suppliers of glass and glazing to the residential sector, there is a big caveat to remember.

As one homeowner looks ahead to spending their lockdown nest-egg, another faces redundancy and an uncertain near-future, which could limit some supply opportunities as household finances become tighter.

Nevertheless, Pilkington UK will be working closely with its glass trade customers as they look to inform and educate their customers on the role glass can play in their upcoming home improvement projects, helping to create spaces that support both work and living requirements now and in the future.