Reinforcement response

Martin Thurley, group managing director of Liniar, hits back at what he claims is fake news.

An article was recently published with Anglo European making claims its reinforcement is a match for those supplied by three named systems companies, one of which is Liniar.

Liniar is fully expecting systems companies, testing houses, suppliers and the industry’s governing bodies to work together quickly to separate fact from fiction, in order to ensure that product performance and safety is not compromised. Ultimately it will be the industry’s governing bodies that rule on the outcome, but in the meantime we feel it is time for Liniar to speak out.

Whenever a product becomes successful, in any industry, there is often a wave of copycat products trying to undercut the original and claim a share of the market. We’re used to seeing this, even within our own industry, but when these products are components that are hidden away inside others, and which potentially threaten the safety, quality, stability and brand reputation of the whole system, it is imperative that the full implications of using substitutes are considered.

Steel and aluminium reinforcements for windows and doors are an integral part of any system, for good reason. Systems companies invest literally millions of pounds in design, development and testing in order to make sure products are fully accredited before they’re launched onto the market.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen an increase in suppliers claiming that Liniar, along with other systems companies, makes ‘most of its profit’ from steel and aluminium. As a PVCU extrusion company with sales exceeding £90 million, Liniar’s core business is the supply of PVCU profiles. Be assured that our purchase, stockholding and distribution of steel and aluminium products is marginal at best; we do this to give customers the peace of mind that the Liniar products they manufacture and supply are fully compliant.

As other systems companies have communicated, Liniar has no hesitation in confirming that in cases where components used within the fabrication process do not meet or exceed the specification defined by Liniar, it will not honour product warranties or guarantees.

Liniar has been publicly vocal on this exact subject since early 2018.

There are many reasons for the exact specification of the Liniar system, and it doesn’t just stop with third party testing of a single window or door. Every window system is subject to a mass of requirements from specifiers, fabricators, installers and consumers, from wind loading and thermal performance calculations to test results at maximum sizes for security and overall performance.

When we see a company claiming that “the reinforcement we supply is equal to that supplied by systems companies, meeting and exceeding, all of the criteria performance that they’ve laid down”, we feel it’s time to lift the lid on the inaccuracy of this bold statement – which we regard as fake news.

The material specification and coatings are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reinforcement. The shape and thickness of the reinforcement is critically important for its strength characteristics (EI Value). Liniar provides support on a daily basis to customers fabricating large structural facades to ensure they are safe and able to withstand the calculated wind pressures. Liniar cannot offer structural advice for products using reinforcement with unproven strength values.

The British Standard (BS6375) referred to in the article consists of three parts. The full Liniar system is tested to all three parts of this standard, resulting in the maximum size of windows and doors currently specified in our fabrication manual. The Anglo product in this case has only been tested to the first part of the standard, weather tightness, and we would question whether the maximum sizes laid out by Liniar’s fabrication manual have been adhered to. If not, are fabricators aware of their new maximum product sizes?

Security testing, covered by PAS24 and Secured By Design, is critical for windows used in commercial buildings and new-build developments, and we don’t see any evidence of this being achieved with the Liniar system using an alternative steel reinforcement. In fact, PAS24 can only be achieved once all three parts of the BS6375 standard above have been met.

Of course, fabricators are free to offer non-PAS24 accredited windows, but if the test certification is used with non-approved steel components, the product itself will not be guaranteed by the systems company, nor covered by the British Standard.

The BSI Group offers fabricators the opportunity to incorporate the test data already undertaken by the systems company in achieving their BSI Kitemark, under the System Supplier Support Programme (SSSP); and a critical condition of this is that they must use the exact same hardware, reinforcement and fixing components as specified and tested by the systems company.

Liniar is audited by the BSI twice each year to ensure it remains fully compliant, and invests a significant sum to test every single product, at its maximum size, so we can stand by our guarantees.

Every systems company makes substantial investments in providing thermal calculations for its product range; Liniar has thousands available online. All calculations are based on the products including reinforcement supplied by Liniar, so any alternative components would render all these invalid.

If any component used by the fabricator, including reinforcement, is not written into the system company’s fabrication manual, then the BSI Kitemark will not be valid. The fabricator must carry out a stand-alone full type test and produce its own controlled fabrication manual for all product types within the system. If there are any industry standard changes that require additional testing, it becomes the fabricator’s responsibility to comply with these also, along with the substantial costs incurred.

The fabricator would also become responsible for establishing and updating its own thermal calculations using alternative components, as Liniar’s calculations would not apply.

Steel suppliers may promise significant cost savings on the face of it.

We totally understand that a potential boost to your bottom line may appear attractive. But it’s not just about the financial cost. The Grenfell developers may have saved a heap of money at the time but was it really worth it when the products failed and lives were lost?

As our customers will attest, Liniar doesn’t aim to penalise them. We’ve spent the last 12 years building an enviable brand reputation, based on high quality, safe products.

We take a balanced approach to the commercial reality our customers face; our motivation is simply to ensure Liniar products are produced to the correct specification. It’s about doing the right thing: making sure the products that bear our name are fit for the purpose intended.

Fabricators of the Liniar system can submit alternative components, and we will make an assessment. Where they meet or exceed specification, we will potentially write them into our fabrication manuals and approve their use. As a company we work with customers to help maximise both their sales and their profits.

As a leading brand, Liniar has several duties of care. Not only do we need to protect our brand reputation, we have an even bigger duty of care to our fabricators and ultimately the end user, in doing the right thing and making sure Liniar fabricated products are safe. With about three million Liniar fenestration products manufactured and sent out into the marketplace each year, the risks are high, and that’s why we invest so much time, effort and resources in making sure our customers don’t have to face these significant risks on their own.

It’s definitely time to speak out. As a company and an industry we will be working swiftly to ensure that product performance, safety and the reputation of our industry are not compromised.

Don’t be fooled, and potentially put yourself, your business and your customers at risk.