Travelling the road to Net Zero

Phil Parry
Phil Parry

With U value requirements set to be reduced again in 2025 as part of the Future Homes Standard, Phil Parry, business development director at Epwin Window Systems, considers the challenges in achieving reductions – and shows why Epwin products are more than capable of overcoming them. 

Our industry – and the building industry more widely – will have a critical role to play in achieving the government’s target of Net Zero by 2050 because heating and powering buildings accounts for 40% of total energy usage in the UK.

To help achieve the necessary reductions in emissions, the Future Homes Standard says that by 2025 new homes will have to be zero-carbon ready. They’ll feature high levels of energy efficiency and no further retrofit work will be necessary to enable them to become zero-carbon as the electricity grid continues to decarbonise.

Last year’s changes to Part L of Building Regulations started to put this shift into motion. Legislation due to be introduced in 2025 will take us even further. It seems reasonable to assume there may be further reductions down the line too.

There’s little argument that the world needs to reduce carbon emissions. However, what’s less certain is whether people will be willing to make the trade-offs Net Zero will demand. For example, it’s possible to be strongly in favour of a zero-carbon home, but will the market be as enthusiastic if there are considerably higher price points for the components that go into them?

It’s the cost of zero carbon-ready products that is most concerning to the market at the moment. As U values are revised downwards – perhaps as low as 0.8 W/m²K – all attention is turning to how this industry can achieve them at a price point the market will stand.

Many are looking towards triple glazing or vacuum insulated glazing (VIG) as the most viable options for achieving the lowest U values. But there are vocal critics pointing out the cost implications to these options.

Triple glazing, by definition, uses more raw materials than double glazing, making it more expensive. It’s also heavier, which means more robust hardware is needed to withstand the additional weight. VIG doesn’t have the same weight issues, but by some estimates it’s up to three times more expensive than triple glazing.

The bigger questions are how scalable it is, whether consumers will accept the aesthetics, not to mention whether systems will need to be completely redesigned to accommodate it.

Here at Epwin, our approach is straightforward. We recognise that change is needed, and we’re proud to lead the way in the technical innovations required to achieve it. We’re helped by the fact that our size and scale means we can commit to the R&D and future-proofed innovation that’s required when even the biggest challenges need to be overcome.

For example, many aluminium systems use dummy sashes, couplers or reverse rebate adaptors to ensure their windows can be internally glazed. It’s a compromise that has a negative impact on thermal efficiency. Our Stellar aluminium system, however, uses a patented reverse butt joint. It also uses less material and delivers slimmer sightlines. But more important in this context is that it delivers better U values.

As a result of our constant innovation and commitment to delivering technically-advanced products, all of our multiple systems offer class-leading U values and were ahead of the curve for last year’s changes to Part L of Building Regulations with standard double-glazed units.

This includes Stellar, which is why it has gained considerable traction in the commercial sector where many comparative systems have needed cumbersome workarounds or triple glazing to meet even 2022 requirements.

We’re also happy to commit to saying that as well as meeting or exceeding all existing U value requirements, our multiple systems will be ready for the more stringent requirements that will be rolled out in the future too.

The UK’s Future Home Standard represents a significant step towards building more sustainable and energy-efficient homes for the future. As regulations becomes even more stringent, we remain committed to driving innovation and delivering sustainable system solutions that contribute to a greener and more sustainable future for the UK’s homes.