The triple glazing question

Chris Alderson
Chris Alderson

Edgetech managing director, Chris Alderson, asks if triple glazing might finally become the norm for UK fenestration in the decade ahead.

Nine years ago, Edgetech hosted an event designed to answer one question: was triple glazing the future for the UK fenestration industry?

In 2014, after much debate and nuanced discussion, the general feeling in the room appeared to be that no, triple glazing was unlikely to supersede double glazing soon.

Triple glazing certainly had its place but mass manufacturing it would be hugely challenging, with the potential for much disruption during the transition.

Some also questioned how sustainable it would be, reasoning that the extra emissions produced by transporting heavier triple glazed units could cancel out any gains made.

The consensus in the room was clear – it was far more likely the sector would opt for ‘clever doubles’ instead.

This prediction was largely proven correct. Manufacturers mostly have focused on producing innovative, thermally efficient double-glazing rather than triple.

However, nearly a decade later, that same question is rising again, and this time the sector’s answer may be different.

Changing regulations

Why is the glass and glazing industry discussing the merits of triple glazing once more in 2023?

It’s a complex question, but ultimately, it’s in response to changing legislation.

Back in 2014, many in the industry were very concerned about climate change, arguing that energy efficiency was a key part of the solution.

However, in general, it was still considered a less significant issue by the public compared to how it is viewed presently.

In the years since, that’s dramatically changed. Countries around the world have made binding commitments to reach net zero by 2050.

People in the UK are now much more concerned and engaged with the environment as an issue, putting pressure on the government to address the escalating crisis.

Last year, this was demonstrated by the updated Part L of Building Regulations which tightened energy efficiency requirements for windows.

As a result, replacement windows in existing dwellings must now deliver U Values of no more than 1.4, while in new builds they are required to be under 1.6.

Whilst not an enormous leap from the standard required previously, this still meant manufacturers around the country had to rethink their products to accommodate for this change.

Furthermore, there’s a much bigger change on the horizon. In 2025, the government’s Future Home Standard is due to come into effect, designed to ensure new properties produce 75-80% less carbon than existing ones.

Whilst we do not currently know exactly what the new regulations will entail, it will inevitably demand window units offer even greater thermal efficiency than the new Part L. Some in the industry are speculating that it could even demand U Values as low as 0.8 – the same as Passivhaus.

Will triple become the norm?

‘Clever doubles’ have served the industry very well for the last 10 years.

If 0.8 does become the new industry standard, however, it’s unlikely they will be able to provide the level of performance required.

At that stage, the industry will have to start seriously exploring triple glazing again.

Whilst the challenges that manufacturers will face if triple becomes the norm are the same today as they were in 2014, I suspect many manufacturers may decide those challenges are now worth facing.

Automation could help to ease this transition. Edgetech has recently seen a surge in interest in it, as manufacturers seek to deal with continuing skills shortages combined with their aims to increase efficiency and improve productivity.

However, if more IGU manufacturers do decide to take this path, it’s important that they act now. The Future Homes Standard doesn’t come into force until 2025 but the lead time for automated spacer application lines installation can reach up to a year.

Order one in 2023 and it won’t be up and running until 2024, only allowing for a matter of months to prepare for what will be a major transition as the new regulations come into force.

Edgetech can help you every step of the way. If you’re interested in finding out more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.