You’ve got to be in it to win it
Homeowners living in cold and draughty homes that are expensive to heat and keep warm in winter are set to be the winners in the Green Homes Grant scheme. Mike Butterick, marketing director at Saint-Gobain Glass, agrees that the government has the right objectives for the £2 billion scheme and urges the door and window industry to engage with the scheme.
We should praise the government for making £2 billion available to improve the energy efficiency of the British housing stock, and for trying to generate employment opportunities during the Covid crisis.
It has been long understood and accepted that replacing and improving single-glazed windows delivers significant benefits in terms of the energy performance of homes, and also broader benefits in terms of comfort, for example noise-reduction, security, safety and prevention of draughts.
But less than 6% of homes in the UK have single-glazed windows.
Many of these windows are challenging to upgrade. For example, many are in protected or listed buildings. Nevertheless, these single-glazed windows remain the priority to improve as a secondary measure in the Green Homes Grant scheme, either through direct replacement or through secondary glazing if replacements are not practical.
It isn’t surprising then that door and window fabricators and installers are not seeing the Green Homes Grant scheme as a growth opportunity. Why would you go to the trouble of seeking the appropriate accreditations and approvals for a scheme with such an apparently small opportunity? Especially during Covid when you’re either struggling to remain in business or experiencing higher than usual demand as homeowners flock to improve the homes in which they are spending even more of their time during national lockdowns and regionally tiered restrictions.
But are we missing a trick? Don’t you have to be in it to win it? Many in the industry may be busy now, but how long will that last? Shouldn’t we be working with government to shape the future of the scheme? If they are serious about climate change and really want to help people to make their homes more energy efficient and save money on their heating bills, then the government should consider that less than 5% of homes with double glazed windows are actually A-rated or better.
There are close to 13 million domestic dwellings that have double-glazed windows that were fitted before 2002, which is when the revised Part L regulations came into force. While these first-generation double-glazed windows were a significant improvement on single-glazed windows, the performance of these first-generation double-glazed windows are typically G-rated at best and therefore inferior to modern high-performance windows now supplied by the UK fenestration industry.
Imagine the difference it would make to carbon emissions, heating bills and the comfort of homeowners if we replaced the replacement window? Our estimation is that there are over 100 million windows in the UK housing stock that were fitted before 2002, so the opportunity is significant.
An important aspect of the Green Homes Grant scheme is the broader contribution that windows and doors make to a renovation project. Many homeowners investing in primary measures as part of the Green Homes Grant, may also consider it a good time to upgrade their windows and doors, even if they are not single glazed: replacing the replacement is a huge part of our industry.
If a homeowner is about to undertake a large renovation project such as external or internal wall insulation, then it can be more convenient, more integrated and more cost effective to change the windows at the same time.
High performance glazing is a key component of a comfortable energy efficient home; the overall performance of other improvement measures will be enhanced through an effective building envelope, and windows and doors are a key component of that.
This is a sales opportunity now for our industry, and a key message that we should be taking to consumers as part of the Green Homes Grant scheme.
Saint-Gobain is working hard to influence government and make the case for the window industry and positioning it within the wider construction sector as an effective retailer of energy efficient consumer products that have adapted and innovated tremendously over the past 20 years.
Our mission is to make the world a better home and the Green Homes Grant scheme is certainly aligned with this if the right measures can be put in place. Hopefully, the scheme will be extended, and we can maximise the longer-term opportunity. We must take our seat at the top table and demonstrate the impact we could make in helping to achieve the government’s objectives.
Here at Saint-Gobain, we are maximising our position as advisors to the Construction Leadership Council, the joint industry/government body established to BEIS to lead Construction Transformation, our role within industry trade groups and as founders of the Healthy Buildings All-Party Parliamentary Group.
As an industry we need to demonstrate our understanding of the bigger picture, take a longer term view, and start to embrace the current opportunities so that we can play a much bigger role as the Green Homes Grant scheme develops.