Unlearn ‘Double Glazing’

Paul Godwin, managing director of The FIT Show, appeals to the architectural community to take another look at the domestic home improvement window market.

We in the ‘double glazing’ market know that you shun us; that you liken us to Blackpool holidays, TOWIE, and Burberry checks. Double glazing was responsible for the creation of the sold-on-the-doorstep home improvement craze back in the ‘70s and perhaps for those out there of that vintage you may be forgiven for continuing the association with stone cladding, lean-to conservatories and GRP Doric columns.

We understand it if PVC-U glazing is not included in the syllabus on the way to your March or BSc and that mock Georgian bars or leaded lights may not be the path to architectural glory; and that many of you feel it is outré in anything other than estates three bed semis.

But then we also know that many of you are compelled to commit mortal sin and embrace the devil, even if the ultimate cardinal architectural faux pas of woodgrain foil is eschewed. Residential builds and upgrades are commercial bread and butter for many practices.

I am guessing that even if you have been responsible for writing a spec that includes aluminium or PVC-U windows and even composite doors you will not have looked that closely at the market recently. As for visiting a whole trade show on the subject… well that would be expecting too much.

But perhaps it is time that you did because the domestic window, door and conservatory industry has come a long way since those heady days of double glazing salesmen kicking off their shoes and ransoming poor Mr. and Mrs. Jones into signing the order.

In recent years the industry has become as professional as any other component sector that you are likely to draw from. Of necessity, driven by regulations and competition, products have improved in terms of performance, aesthetics and innovation and the people driving these changes are committed professionals, even at the retail level.

I am guessing that if you are involved with the design of anything residential then you will have been pleased to include bi-folding doors. These are very much a product of the double-glazing industry and, fortunately, are selling in droves thus creating something of a mini-boom for the home improvement

industry and indeed, for the architectural community.

Couple that with the desire for composite doors – traditional appearance but with the performance of modern materials – and the fact that many first and even second generation window replacements are way past their sell-by date and the industry is enjoying itself at the moment, if not to the levels of the halcyon days of the ‘70s and ‘80s.

Pretty much everything the  industry churns out these days is of high quality and innovation is high: there is now a huge choice in bi-folding doors – have you seen the hinge-free versions now available? And keyless, connected door and window security systems may at last make it into the wider market instead of being restricted to high-end developments or the domain of geeks. And vertical sliding sash windows are now close to perfectly replicating period originals, paradoxically even including imperfections.

If you have not looked closely or even glanced in the general direction of this section of the window and door market lately then there will shortly be the ideal opportunity for you to apprise yourself of all that is great and good, at an exhibition called The FIT Show. A moniker few in the window industry question anymore, it stands for Fabricator Installer Trade and from its origins as a forum for the hard-core of the industry it has now evolved into a highly effective product showcase and should be the destination of anyone buying or specifying such products.

Taking place on the 12-14 April at The International Centre, Telford, an unexpected gem of a purpose-built exhibition facility, around 180 exhibitors will be showing literally thousands of windows, doors, conservatories, glass systems, hardware and everything in between.

Highlights include SageGlass, an app controlled, electronically tintable glass, for which the manufacturers, part of the giant Saint-Gobain group, have replaced the whole of a glass wall of the exhibition hall to create a real-world, permanent demonstration of the product. Visit their UK partner Clayton Glass in the Innovation Zone for details or attend the seminar session each day.

Another product, described recently as ‘‘A product that truly re-invents the window” by the judges of a glazing industry award, offers a remarkable alternative approach to traditional glazing as well as a stunning finishing touch for contemporary dwellings. Lumi is a complete range of customisable, matching frameless windows and bi-folding patio and residential doors.

The triple glazed units bonded to an internal GRP subframe give tremendous strength, performance and looks, especially on a wide span of bi-folding doors.

At least three brand new, ground floor up conventional window systems will also be seen for the first time at The FIT Show, which by the very nature of such things have been produced to reflect current but also anticipated performance requirements and regulations. As such they offer an excellent benchmark for anyone wishing to take a look at just how far the industry has come. Go to Profile 22 and Residence 9 for these.

The FIT Show is free to attend and offers an excellent seminar programme with a number of sessions that might conceivably benefit architects and other professional specifiers (though sadly, without the incentive of CPD points this time round). And actually, it will provide a pleasant and unpressured environment in which to see just how far ‘double glazing’ has advanced. We hope it will also change a few perceptions; disguises are optional.

The FIT Show takes place on the 12 – 14 April at The International Centre, Telford. To register for free, fast access go to www.fitshow.co.uk/23/reg.