U know it makes sense

By Adrian Redshaw, design director, Sheerline.

There’s been a move towards using WERs and DSER’s rather than U-values to achieve Part L compliance for aluminium products since the tightening of Part L regulations last year.

We believe this is a short term ‘work-around’ rather than a real solution to the need to improve the energy efficiency of our housing stock – and our considered opinion is that this route to compliance will probably be removed in the next major update to the Building Regulations in 2025.

If we look at what happened to electrical appliances such as fridges and washing machines, where the idea of energy ratings caught on, even they had to be recalibrated after 25 years to ensure they still delivered useful information to guide consumer buying habits.

Over 90% of products were within the A+, A++, A+++ range, which was causing confusion when people were looking to purchase something new. It made it difficult to work out which product was the most efficient – the whole point of the Energy Rating scale.

Many consumers believed that just because a product was A or A+ rated, it was one of the most efficient appliances on the market. But this simply wasn’t the case, with the least efficient products being A and A+ rated as opposed to C and D rated.

In recent years, it became increasingly apparent that this scale no longer worked, which has resulted in a new simpler Energy Rating range of A to G. Under the new energy rating scale, products that were once classified as A+++ in 2020, are now likely rated B or C.

Many former A++ products are now classified as D or E, and A+ will find themselves F or G rated. This varies from product to product, along with product type. And it perfectly illustrates why products and manufacturers must keep pace with contemporary expectations as standards change.

Another example of an Energy Ratings system that has fallen out of favour is the one used for new builds. The Government has already moved away from using WER’s in favour of complying through the U-value route.

This is the only way they can calculate a building’s thermal efficiency – allowing a direct comparison between various elements of a building’s structure to accurately show how much heat the building will lose and thus, how expensive it will be to heat.

Our belief is that the government will sidestep the issue of WER inflation – where all products congregate towards the top of the ratings, thus failing to give consumers a clear route to choosing the most efficient products – instead looking to U-values as the only method of approval.

By dropping the WER route to compliance in 2025’s Future Homes Standards, the government will navigate a key issue caused by WER, which is that it uses some counter-intuitive elements when determining a window’s energy rating such as solar gain.

Solar gain is so dependent on the location, facing and shading of the installed product that it’s misleading to consumers who want a simple indicator of performance. Factoring in solar gain as a positive attribute is also detrimental to Part O of the Building Regulations.

Part O is likely to gain traction in the coming months and years as it seeks to mitigate the risk of overheating in a property – a growing concern against the real-world impact of global warming. The fenestration industry will play a leading role in providing tangible solutions in-line with Part O.

For Part L compliance, our advice to fabricators is to plan to put yourself in the best possible position so you can take advantage of the next step in the UK’s move towards a net zero future. Ensure the aluminium system you are manufacturing is futureproof.

This will not only set you apart from other fabricators, but it will also ensure you remain in business. Ensure your customers understand how your products comply and why this is (or should be) important to them. And last, make sure you aren’t putting all your eggs in the WER’s/DSER’s basket.

If you leave it until the rug gets pulled from under you, you may find that manufacturers with low U-value ranges are inundated with new start up requests, while their existing customers will be busier than ever servicing new installer customers.