A New Glass Era for Conservatories

We’re not just looking at specialist glass for roofs, but now the whole glazed area for conservatories, explains Jason McCabe, commercial director of Clayton Glass, the company behind the dominant SMARTGLASS® brand.

The dynamics in the conservatory sector have fundamentally changed over the last decade.As volumes have fallen back slightly, the adoption of specialist glass as a roofing material has grown impressively and it now dominates sales for installation companies. Conservatory sizes have also increased, as have the overall specifications for conservatories, so what’s next?

With the increased adoption of larger and more complex shapes, along with new foiled finishes, the typical white 3×3 polycarbonate glazed conservatories seem to be a legacy of the last decade, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Margins were tight and product innovation was lacking and so the increase in specifications and adoption of pseudo-orangeries in recent years has bolstered the prospects for many.

But I believe one of the biggest changes in the way we both manufacture and promote conservatories is about to happen in the form of technically balanced glazing throughout the entire conservatory and that includes all doors, windows and gable ends. It is with this in mind that we created SMARTGLASS®–W, the sector’s first dedicated range of clear glass specifically designed for conservatory doors and windows.

The considerable developments in glass over recent years have been able to do much to regulate the temperature gain through the conservatory roof, but have not yet been transferred to the vertical plane. Often instead, in part due to the influence of Window Energy Ratings scheme, and in part due to a lack of knowledge or just for ease, typically C or even A-Rated specifications may be used as the default.

Although this can help in the winter, such products are actually designed to give a good level degree of solar heat gain, something clearly unwanted during the summer in a conservatory environment. Faced with 3 externally glazed areas the issue is magnified and often problematic, hence the development of our new wall glasses which, exactly like our roof range, tackle both the summer heat and the winter cold in the same unit.

While the very first Victorian conservatories were designed to house tropical plants, the modern derivative is designed to offer a cost effective glazed extension to the home and a link to the world outside. Conservatories have and do suffer from the issues of solar heat gain, harmful UV rays and organic dirt, which have been addressed in the roofing area, but up until now not for the doors and windows in the vertical plane.

The launch of a dedicated range of specialist glass for conservatory walls is something our customers are eager to take up. Everyone is happy as installers can differentiate and increase margins, whilst the homeowner gains a genuinely better engineered and more temperate glazed extension to the home. The additional cost to upgrade from Low E glass to standard SMARTGLASS-W for example is moderate, yet the performance differential is huge within a conservatory.

As we continue to look at new ways in which to develop specialist glass solutions, our standard SMARTGLASS-W glass offering for conservatory side frames is almost 3 times better than standard clear glass for heat retention, offers 227% more solar control than standard clear glass and benefits from warm edge technology. We believe this should be the minimum standard for all conservatory door and window glazing in the future.

As much of the specialist conservatory roof glass on the market can seem over complex, in common with our SMARTGLASS roofs we’ve kept our new range to a simple 3-tier strategy. Added value features such as enhanced security and acoustics and the ability to block out 98% of the sun’s harmful UV rays are included as the range progresses.  Bleaching and physical damage to soft furnishings can be almost totally eliminated through the side walls and we’ve even added a flagship product that offers the same true self cleaning technology in the doors and windows, as well as in the roofing area.

I firmly believe that we are entering a new glass era for conservatories and one in which will offer consumers a complete, smarter glazed solution throughout. As an industry we need to innovate to ensure we keep on attracting new first time buyers of conservatories and importantly, those second time purchasers who will be primed for some of the latest upgrades both in glass specification and in the overall design of a conservatory. While the growth in the newly emerging solid insulated roof market is strong, conservatories and the desire for a glazed extension still dominates the consumer sector.

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