Why sustainability will sell windows and doors

Increased awareness on climate change has the potential to transform the whole of the window and door supply chain, according to Ian Cocken, director of sales and marketing at Aluplast.

Sustainability isn’t new. The fact that it’s now entered the mainstream, however, is – 2019 has been a year of protest.

Climate change protests, mass ‘die-ins’, pupil walk-outs, plastic ‘mountains’, and civil disobedience have dominated the headlines. However, the driving force behind our shift in attitude to sustainability runs far deeper.

The UK faces huge commitments to cut carbon emissions. Currently set at an 80% reduction on 1990 levels by 2050, emissions have fallen by an average of 4.5% per year in the last three years and are 38% below 1990 levels.

And with the threats of legal challenges and growing individual pressure, climate change and the sustainability of UK homes is very much on the political agenda.

While the government has so far tinkered around the edges, it’s failing to get to grips with one of the biggest causes of UK carbon emissions: it’s energy leaking housing stock.

The carbon saved through the 2040 ban on cars powered by fossil fuels pales into insignificance when compared to the potential saving more energy efficient housing can deliver, which accounts for more than a quarter of annual UK carbon emissions.

At the same time the hikes seen in energy prices aren’t lost on consumers.

Sustainability’s influence on window and door retail sales has fallen below expectation, yet it is going to define our relationship as an industry.

A report by the Parliamentary Committee on Climate Change published earlier this year reiterated the impact energy efficient home design can have in reducing carbon emissions, highlighting not only the importance of low carbon home design in the future but also the retrofitting of 29 million existing homes.

With the scrapping of the Green Deal and the Zero Carbon Homes Plan in 2015, it said the delivery of improvements to existing housing stock and higher standards of build in new homes had slipped backwards.

It said the UK must now implement Green Finance Taskforce recommendations on so-called green mortgages and green loans to finance upfront costs of energy efficiency home improvements. It added that “loopholes that had allowed poor quality housing to be built must now be closed”.

The report also called for the formation of a ‘green infrastructure retrofit strategy’ to drive change and increase focus on reducing the “whole-life carbon impact of homes, including embodied carbon”.

We’re at a point where the construction of new homes isn’t going to be driven solely by economics in the way that it has been in the past. Price will remain important but through-life performance and embodied carbon within the supply chain are going to be increasingly important in deciding who wins which contracts.

According to the latest figures from VinylPlus, the PVC industry recycled an all-time high of nearly 740,000 tonnes last year – 92.4% of the VinylPlus 2020 target.Almostfive million tonnes of PVC have been recycled since 2000.

Aluplast has taken a lead within the window and door industry in bringing this material back into use. Available as an option on our core Ideal 70 offer, but also contemporary Ideal 4000 system, ecotech, does this by isolating recycled material only in the core web of its product where dimensional stability is not critical.

Aluplast surface profiles are completely flat with depth of gloss and no pits, no extrusion ‘lines’. It gives us the flexibility to supply a product that is lower in embodied carbon and more sustainable, but also delivers through life.

Through-life performance is increasingly important in building design, extending beyond simple measures of energy efficiency to material longevity.

PVCU again scores highly on this front. The Building Research Establishment (BRE), gives PVCU window frames a reference service life of 35-40 years.

One of the issues cited by the Committee on Climate Change was the gap between theoretical and actual product performance. Delamination of foils has been an issue within the PVCU industry, particularly on some systems using recycled content.

ecotech provides a stable substrate for the millions of metres of foils we supply each year. Critically, having doubled our foiling capacity accompanied by investment in the latest CNC foiling technologies, we are able to under-write our foil offer with absolute confidence.

We’re not using foils to disguise a sub-standard surface finish, which means we can offer exactly the same guarantees of performance as on any extrusion using virgin material only.

Ultimately, it will be a a shift in consumer behaviour that will make sustainability a key driver of sales going into 2020; it’s about individual consciousness and increased awareness of the environmental impact all of us has.