A new growth area for the UK?
Sika’s sales manager David Fraser outlines why he feels the UK market is ready for bonded window technology.
We do things differently here – sometimes for no good reason. In the world of window design we definitely do things differently in the UK, but I believe that the window market is set to change dramatically, with bonded window technology poised for a major breakthrough into the UK.
Bonded windows differ from our traditional designs in that the insulated glazing units are fixed into sashes with an ultra-strong, quick-to-apply adhesive. At a stroke, this method of fixing removes post-installation performance issues related to traditional fixing methods and, looking at the wider picture, it also paves the way for a huge range of new window designs.
In the traditional UK window the sash needs to provide structural support for the glazing. Given the UK preference for PVCU systems, this inevitably involves the use of metal reinforcement – leading to wide profiles and the need for remedial action to avoid thermal bridging.
This compromise has been accepted in the UK for decades. PVCU has been regarded as a low-maintenance, aesthetically acceptable material that is used in the vast majority of replacement and new build housing projects. With a highly competitive market involving a large number of PVC systems houses, window products have become low-cost commodities and bulky designs accepted within this context.
It’s different in northern Europe. Thermal insulation requirements tend to be more demanding, and a focus on maximising daylight gain combined with a different approach to aesthetics has led to a greater degree of experimentation with window design. As a consequence, the European market has embraced bonded window technology as a way to achieve high performance windows and doors with design flexibility and slim profiles that accentuate the view rather than the frame.
Until recently the UK market has displayed little enthusiasm for this approach to window design. However, a quick look through any of the window publications now shows a new focus on achieving slimmer window frames, more contemporary design and an emphasis on lighter, less obtrusive sashes, while maintaining a focus on technical performance.
That’s why I believe bonded windows are set to take off in the UK market. PVCU windows are no longer regarded as the better-performing replacement for high maintenance softwood, and designers are on the lookout for different aesthetics and higher quality products.
Smaller independent fabricators and installers can start to benefit from this revolution immediately. There is no reason why insulated glass units cannot be bonded into existing sash designs – replacing glazing blocks and fixings. The result is an immediate improvement in the quality of the finished windows.
Not only are the problems associated with traditional fixings eliminated, but the performance is increased. Air tightness is improved as is security – there is simply no way to lever the IGU out of a window sash if it is a bonded component.
While this relatively low-key improvement is likely to appeal to smaller companies, it is with the large volume window manufacturers that I believe the real breakthrough will come. Differentiation is the name of the game and the ability to offer striking new window designs with a contemporary aesthetic provides a compelling commercial message that meets current customer demand.
Add to the mix the cost savings that can be achieved with a fully automated manufacturing process and bonded window technology starts to look like a change that is worth making. At Sika we have been watching the UK market closely for years and are confident that the expertise acquired while supporting the market for bonded windows across Europe will enable us to smooth the path for early adopted in the UK.
We are completely confident that there is a huge potential market here in the UK for bonded windows and the FIT Show sees us take the first practical steps to address that potential, launching our Sikasil AS66 and Sikasil WT 480 adhesives for bonded window systems.