After some significant recent industry impacts including Covid and net zero targets, John McComb from Reynaers Aluminium uk looks at five key glazing specification trends and how it’s responding to them.
During these undoubtedly uncertain times, it is difficult to make accurate predictions. However, with recent updates to the Building Regulations coming into force from June 2022, it is apparent that environmental impact and maintaining a higher standard of living will be at the forefront.
BALANCING AESTHETICS WITH PERFORMANCE
The continuous trend to invite more natural light into properties has increased interest in aluminium profiles. This has sparked a change in design – with slimmer sightlines and more room for glazing, the whole construction approach is evolving.
Developers need to provide properties that are not only aesthetically better but thermally improved too. The renewed focus on thermal performance is apparent across both residential and commercial settings due to the updates to Part L of the Building Regulations which relates to the conservation of fuel and power, in particular thermal insulation and energy efficiency. As part of the journey to net zero 2050, the Future Homes Standard legislation and Building Regulations will lead to a reduction in U-values in 2022, and further major reductions in both 2025 and 2050. The lower the U-value, the easier it is to keep heat flow through building structures to a minimum. In order to achieve this, housebuilders must ensure that new buildings do not exceed a maximum CO2 emission rate. This will ensure that new properties are properly insulated and produce fewer carbon emissions.
The ongoing trend for properties to let more light in requires more glass and less metal, however, it is essential this balance is struck with thermal efficiency in mind. Currently, bi-fold doors have a big market as they allow residents to better connect with the outdoor world, while commercial users will continue to rely on curtain walling solutions to create spaces that are productive and pleasant places to work in. Residentially, there has also been a definite move towards sliding doors, as these use a lot more glass and allow more daylight to enter.
As many people were unable to travel during lockdown, trends have shown that many households have spent income on home improvements instead, which has led to extra revenue.
However, with the current uncertainty of the pandemic and supply of materials, it remains to be seen if the growth in residential developments will continue over the next 12 months.
We can be certain that the supply chain and the ongoing effects of the pandemic will be the defining factors for the direction in which the market takes.
Sustainability continues to be high on the agenda of all building product manufacturers, and this will only be accelerated following the recent COP26 conference. With focus on thermal insulation in Part L and the Future Homes legislation, the industry as a whole will have to review the products it manufactures, fabricates and installs.
With the entire industry now committed to working towards a zero carbon approach for 2050, being able to demonstrate green credentials as a manufacturer and supplier will become increasingly important. While in some places it has already begun, in future, tenders will require the ability to demonstrate green credentials and certifications. This is because developers and contractors use this as part of their value proposition to clients; they want to show that they have a transparent and green supply chain.
Supply chain issues experienced in 2021 are expected to continue, however some suppliers have mitigated against these risks by employing additional workers, implementing intensive training, and partnering with new suppliers.
While there has been a spike in people investing in home improvements, it is the supply chain which will drive the market depending on availability of materials and, given that there is currently a capacity issue on materials and labour, that customers may have to wait longer for work to be completed.
Fortunately, the residential market should begin to stabilise, and there is plenty of market share, but ultimately it is the supply chain that will affect the way in which the market goes. From that perspective, in the near future traditional builds on site will change, with modular construction coming more to the forefront, saving time and speeding up production to meet the demand.
Ventilation, thermals and acoustics have been driving the glazing industry for a decade from a design point of view. Part F of the Building Regulations forces a change regarding ventilation. Traditional methods of ventilation such as natural ventilation (opening a window) and trickle ventilation (vents) are often considered ineffective because they are either draughty or allow in intrusive outside noise.
As society is getting louder, residential settings are starting to pose a challenge for noise control. Mechanical ventilation could be the way forward in domestic settings; however, this poses a balancing act between ventilation and energy. In order to achieve targets and aspirations there needs to be a real change in regulations.
John McComb is Technical Director at Reynaers Aluminium UK.