With mixed reports on the state of the housebuilding market and a slightly uncertain political climate surrounding the election, one area of certainty remains. The need for energy efficiency within new buildings. David Leng, CEO of Synseal explains how this can be achieved with aluminium bi-folds
Last year was heralded a particularly good one for home building, with housebuilders reporting much stronger growth figures on the year before. Compare that, however, with recent figures from the Office of National Statistics that the construction of new homes fell by 5 per cent in January, and it’s easy to get bogged down with the often up and down reporting about our sector. The country will go through periods of uncertainty prior to a potential change in government, and according to Markit/CIPS, the sector is still faring well. One area of absolute certainty against this backdrop, is the need to ensure those new homes built are as energy efficient as possible.
The recent Climate and Energy Policy Framework review saw EU leaders reach a landmark deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030, compared with 1990 levels. As you would expect, with this news comes a renewed interest in this important ongoing debate. Environmentalists welcome the deal but argue it doesn’t go far enough, while member countries that are still heavily reliant on coal, fear it could have a significant impact on their business growth. Promises have been made to financially support the poorer countries to help them achieve the goal. The Deal also agreed to boost the use of renewable energy to 27 per cent in the total energy mix and increase energy efficiency to at least 27 per cent.
Recently, there have been significant innovations in aluminium, and when something truly innovative comes along, people take notice and embrace the improvement. It wasn’t that long ago that more than 90 per cent of windows had insulated glass units with aluminium spacer bars. Now the situation has changed significantly due to improved product offerings.
The same is true of the more recent switch from steel reinforcement bar to recycled Plastic Thermal Reinforcements and from triple-chambered to Multi-Chambered PVC-U window profiles. All of these things were new concepts for us to embrace and required a complete about turn in the way we viewed the world of windows, but as we realised they were truly innovative and offered improved performance, we gradually embraced them and haven’t looked back since.
Take a break
To date, aluminium bi-folds have used Polyurethane resin or Polyamide separators as thermal breaks, but a third generation barrier system is now available. Using a radically different thermal break design that has never been used in aluminium before, a high quality aluminium bi-fold door solution can be produced, benefiting from a high quality surface finish and slim, elegant door frame sightlines which maintain an optimum front-to-back outer frame profile depth of just 70mm. Such a “warm aluminium” frame construction is key to offering U-values as low as 1.4 W/m2K using standard 28mm double glass or 1.0 W/m2K using 44m triple glass. The doors can offer a classical appearance, with a choice of high quality aluminium external design stylings and colours available from stock, providing 16 possible colour configurations, including dual-colour combinations, so the homeowner can suite inside and outside the home, with the added environmental benefits to help keep Brussels happy.
In the UK market specifically, homes have already seen a great improvement in this area, with uninsulated lofts and creaking old boilers generally a thing of the past, and EST reports that the number of inefficient F and G rated homes fell from 29 per cent in 1996 to just 6 per cent in 2012, but there is still a way to go. The Infrastructure Act was introduced this year, containing the final piece of legislation needed to deliver the zero carbon homes policy, with all new build homes becoming zero carbon by 2016.
Energy efficiency is something with which those of us in the window and door industry are all too familiar, and we work hard to ensure our products and practices adhere to each new piece of legislation in this area. Most recently the changes to Part L1a of the Building Regulations introduced more stringent compliance criteria in order to deliver a 6 per cent improvement across new home builds on the 2010 Part L1a document.
The fenestration industry has talked a lot about energy efficient PVC-U windows and high performance sealed units and more recently, efficient composite doors, but one area that isn’t usually top of mind when you think about thermal efficiency is aluminium. And yet the aluminium bi-fold door is a significant growth sector, thanks to demand from the consumer for an aspirational way to combine outdoor and indoor space in a slim, flexible and lightweight style which is virtually maintenance free.