The working component

Windows and doors are often bought for their aesthetics. But, says Graham Price of TuffX Processed Glass, exciting developments mean that high performance glass will increasingly drive sales for windows and doors.

Today, our company bears little resemblance to the firm founded by my grandfather in 1947. In fact, the only thing in common is that we continue to sell a transparent, resilient building material that allows light into a building while keeping the weather out.

My grandfather would never believe how far glass has come, what it is used for, and the technology involved in producing it; pretty much the only processing technology that he would recognise in our factory, would be the occasional manual glass cutter laying around. And we don’t have many of those.

It is in the performance of the glass that the greatest advances and benefits manifest themselves. And while the specialist magazines are understandably full of news about the latest flush windows and bifolding doors, continuous developments in glass performance outstrip anything achieved with the frames themselves. And increasingly, windows, doors and glass roofs will be specified for what the glass can do.

But while we can appreciate that the glass in a window may be significantly reducing heat loss, we can’t see it or touch it. In fact, so-called self-cleaning glass is one of those rare flat glass products in which the performance of the glass can actually be seen.

Demanding glass-based projects are as often specified by homeowners; we frequently receive enquiries for roof lights, extra high or wide glass panels, floors, balustrading, canopies, and stair treads that have been driven by homeowners.

Many enquiries are inspired by the numerous architecture and home design programmes, with homeowners unencumbered by technical issues – they just see it and decide they want it in their home. It is our challenge to consider the technical issues and overcome them.

For homes, further advances in glass will be seen in the improvement of thermal efficiency, and as larger expanses of glass are installed in ever larger sliding doors and facades for example, solar gain must be considered if the benefits of such installations are not to become impractical.

Increasingly, technological advances in glass extend windows and doors from offering passive performance benefits, to products that offer significant active performance benefits.

We have already developed heated glass for use in bifolding and sliding doors, and there is no reason why it cannot be used in floors, ceilings and shower screens for example. These can effectively replace conventional heat sources, which in itself presents exciting design opportunities. Imagine how a room may be transformed simply by removing radiators.

The heat derived from such windows, doors, ceilings and floors should prove popular, especially in conservatories and garden rooms.

Transparent coatings are also finally allowing the manufacture of conventional windows that produce electricity to become a commercial reality. Conventional solar roof panels are unattractive and, despite the attraction of free energy, sales fell off a cliff when the feed-in tariffs ended. Imagine then having the opportunity to close the sale of a houseful of new windows and doors with the benefit that they will actually produce free energy for the home.

It’s our vision at TuffX that we will be producing units with this capability within the next couple of years or so.

And there’s much more to come. At TuffX we enjoy extending the potential of glass, and the next few years will be very exciting indeed.