To start the debate it’s asking the industry to ‘have its say’. Here Steve Goble, Managing Director at Hegla UK, specialist suppliers of glass processing machinery and equipment, tells us his opinions on triple glazing:
It’s my belief that the UK will move a significant percentage of its insulated glass unit output to triple glazing. The question is: when and how?
To give an indication of how the market will change it is important to look at the advances in energy efficient windows so far.
The first driver was the 2002 Building Regulations. Before this most units were made from two panes of float glass with an aluminium spacer bar. Hard coat low e glass then made significant improvement to the thermal performance of IGUs. This was quickly followed by soft coat glass technology which reduced centre pane U-Values further still.
Changes in Approved Document L in 2006 and 2010 made glass even more important in the performance of windows. Today double glazed units have far higher thermal efficiency with soft coat glass, warm edge spacer bars and gas filling.
For me it’s a natural progression to move towards triple glazing. In the past few years Germany, Switzerland and Austria have all installed much greater volumes of triple glazing.
Progress is led by technology. The adoption of window energy ratings was faster than many anticipated. This was possible because of the development in IGU construction and glass machinery that enabled the economies of scale in producing more energy efficient units.
But a move towards triple glazing may cause problems for IGU manufacturers. Output for triple glazed units on a typical production line reduces by one-third. Speeding up the process will require improvement in production flow. This causes further issues for technologies such as sealants, toughening and glass cutting.
It’s the companies that invest first that reap the rewards in extra profit margin and importantly, increased market share, whilst the competition catches up.
This creates an interesting consideration for companies deciding to invest in new machinery. The capital costs of equipment that can efficiently make triple glazed units are about 20 per cent more. So, is it worth companies spending extra on equipment that also mass produces triple glazing? Or do companies not investing the extra risk being left behind? With large glass unit manufacturers already choosing to invest in triple glazing capacity, that process may have already started.
The industry must also consider profitability. After five years of recession companies who now start investing in triple glazing must be able to realise a financial benefit. As well as the additional production costs, there are considerations for handling and transportation. Manufacturers must get the right price for the product.
My question is will the industry be able to maintain a higher price as the market for triple glazing grows? Or will we see reduced margins as we’ve seen in Europe?
If you’re interested in having your say about this, or another aspect of triple glazing, you can join the debate. Go to www.tripleglazingq.co.uk to get your FREE tickets to The Triple Glazing Question, A Quanex Building Products seminar, hosted by Edgetech UK on 10 April 2014 at the Ricoh Arena. As well as the live debate you can follow the Triple Glazing Question on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.