What will the next five years bring?

Synseal Group’s head of R&D Phil Parry looks five years on to see what energy efficiency improvements will be made in PVCU, aluminium and roof products.

PVCU innovation has already come a long way in quite a short space of time. We’ve started to see some competitors even going backwards, developing much wider and thicker profiles, which have their place in a very niche market but are not necessarily more thermally efficient than some of the best multi-chambered profile suites.

Most will agree that multi-chambered profiles are the way forward for the majority of applications, and most of our fabricators are now switched to these profiles combined with our recycled EnviroCore content, which helps us to reduce waste and minimise our environmental impact in the manufacturing process.

More suppliers will be investing in this transition over the next few years if resin prices continue to rise and threaten the cost of our raw materials.

In terms of innovation, the big breakthroughs have come and gone for now, and the years ahead will be about consolidating existing offers and moving remaining fabricators across to better multi-chambered profiles as we see the increasing redundancy of plastic thermal inserts.

In the aluminium market, there is still a lot of work to be done to catch up with the rate of innovation seen in PVCU products. When we first developed WarmCore back in 2014, the majority of leading market contenders we benchmarked against tested U-values between 1.76 W/m²K and 1.94W/m²K when using double glazing, meaning some systems available weren’t even meeting Part L requirements for replacement doors which specify 1.8W/m²K.

However, the introduction of WarmCore has encouraged a number of our competitors to release more energy efficient products that prove that lower U-values are achievable. We’ve shown no signs of slowing our WarmCore product development this year, using the technology to launch our inline patio door system, a slim vent window that has an 18% slimmer sightline than standard, and a frameless fixed roof light for our Celsius Solid Roof.

As the demand for aluminium products continues to grow, and as sales of other product materials stagnate, pressure will be on the aluminium market to deliver more innovative products. I’m eager to see whether our competitors can come up with an alternative product to challenge WarmCore, which at the moment is the only composite product to really be tackling the issue of poor thermal efficiency in aluminium that is commercially viable and scalable.

It’s a product suite that our customers love, and we will certainly be looking at more products which could benefit from the integration of WarmCore technology.

We expect in the next five years most of the attention will turn to conservatory roof systems and how we can both modernise these for the emerging extension market and incorporate more energy efficient materials.

The simplest way to improve the energy efficiency of a product is to eliminate cold bridging, yet many of the roof products on the market don’t appear to have considered this in the design stage.

Our Stratus lantern roof has been designed with polyamide thermal breaks to make it fully thermally broken with an aluminium exterior, and we have sold more than 1,000 fully fabricated kits in the first year of sales, as well as many more via our bar length fabricators.

This has given us confidence that consumers are looking for thermally efficient products that have been purpose-designed to tackle poor thermal insulation, and we think many more will follow suit in designing out thermally inefficient flaws in their product development cycles.

This is the approach we adopted with our Celsius Solid Roof system, using timber sections and Kingspan Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) as a simple yet effective way of designing out cold bridging from the start.

More of our competitors are going to be taking influence from products like these to help tackle thermal inefficiency in conservatory products, and we’re looking forward to seeing what the next five years brings in terms of genuine innovation.

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