R9 but without the glass

An R9 fabricator since 2013, HWL became the first and one of only a handful of manufacturers to offer The Residence Collection unglazed last year. Director Mark Haley explains why and how it did it.

It’s hard to imagine that before 2011 flush PVCU casements didn’t exist. If a single system has revolutionised PVCU window manufacture in the last 10 years, it has to be R9 from The Residence Collection.

It was the first of a new generation of PVCU systems, which has since included flush casement systems from Deceuninck, Eurocell, Liniar, Epwin, Veka, WHS Halo, and Selecta.

The irony may be lost on fabricators of volume timber windows but at a time when wood saw a 10% fall in installed value, PVCU grew by 8% on the back of growing demand for traditional timber-effect jointing and flush casements, according to Palmer Market Research.

This is most clearly illustrated in the window market, where a 1.2% increase in the market overall to 6.82 million frames was outstripped by the increase in installed value of 5.5% to £2.38 billion. Something which, according to Palmer, was driven by no small part by demand for foils (up 45% since 2013) and timber-type jointing, which reached 131,000 frames – about 2% of the total in 2017.

We’ve been on board with R9 from more or less the beginning. What it’s given the retail industry is something different to sell and we’ve seen good growth. How far that growth will go now I’m not entirely sure but we certainly see potential to increase market share as a trade fabricator and in retail.

If there is a single obstacle to that growth, it’s been the fact that in common with almost every other fabricator we have offered it – because we have had to – as a glass-bonded window.

That increases the weight, it makes every installation more complicated, increasing costs and eating into margin. It also makes remedial work more challenging.

Glass bonding of sashes isn’t unique to R9; it was commonplace in the early fabrication of windows and remains so in many aluminium systems, exploiting the structural strength of glass units to contribute to wider structural integrity of the widow as a whole.

We’re familiar with the arguments for glass bonding sashes; we’ve been doing it and continue to do it where customers want it, today.

What we have done, however, is to identify an opportunity based on innovation in technology and manufacturing process, to manufacture and supply sashes unglazed.

That’s an immediate commercial advantage to any installer, making R9 easier to fit, stripping out cost by making handling easier, and allowing them to order in glass from their usual glass supplier.

We’ve done this through Timberweld, which allows HWL to butt weld window and door sashes inside and out. This replicates the aesthetic delivered in a 90° mechanical joint but also delivers a significant increase in the structural strength of the sash, which means the glass bonding of the sash is no longer needed.

Machinery is moving forward all the time and strategically we’ve committed to invest in our manufacturing process and machinery platforms where we see the opportunity to deliver commercial advantage to our customers. Timberweld is one of those.

We had customers who wanted to buy R9 but wouldn’t because of the complexity of installation and the resource needed to do it. The weight of glass-bonded windows can be prohibitive – even on occasion needing more than one team of fitters.

In supplying R9 frame-only, we’ve been able to remove all of those potential obstacles to market growth.

The process of getting there has included a developmental programme, which ran for several months as HWL’s technical team worked with machinery manufacturer Urban and supplier TWS to refine tolerances on the milling process.

It’s also included a significant and independent testing programme delivered in partnership with The Residence Collection’s technical team. Completing BS6375-1 in March, the HWL non-glass bonded window achieved an Exposure Category rating of 1,600, a 9A Class rating on watertightness, a Class 4 wind load rating, and Class 3 airtightness rating, giving it comfortable passes across the board.

It is also currently undergoing PAS24 cycle testing.

What that gives us is very strong commercial proposition, which is already delivering a distinct competitive advantage to our customers because it directly addresses each and every one of the installation issues that they have raised with us.

And if they want a glass bonded product, we still offer it.