No one is happy…and the vinyl, timber and aluminium
October 30, 2008 By John Roper*
A lot of furore from the vinyl
guys lately. It’s complicated. There is an organisation called The
Building Research Establishment, BRE for short. It sounds very
scientific doesn’t it? Well recently, after much consultation, it
published The Green Guide to Specification intended to help specifiers
select products based on their green credentials.
No one is happy…and the vinyl, timber and aluminium sectors are all up in arms
A lot of furore from the vinyl guys lately. It’s complicated. There is an organisation called The Building Research Establishment, BRE for short. It sounds very scientific doesn’t it? Well recently, after much consultation, it published The Green Guide to Specification intended to help specifiers select products based on their green credentials. Its assessment of components is comprehensive – cradle-to-grave they say. In fact, ever since BRE published its Green Guide everyone seems to be unhappy and feeling vulnerable.
Much of the information was obtained through consultation with relevant trade associations but, as far as windows are concerned, no one is happy and the derision is vociferous. No material came out well and the vinyl, timber and aluminium sectors are all up in arms.
The timber windows sector, via the Performance Window Group, is raving that PVC gets such a good rating. The aluminium sector is distressed that its material does not get full credit for its recyclability (99 per cent) and the vinyl guys, never ones to take anything lying down, have set up no less than two campaigns to tell the world how great vinyl is. In this case I feel, one’s company, two’s a crowd ’cause that’s where the politics kick in.
The first campaign, PVC Aware, was set up by two of the major vinyl extruders: Veka, which has its origins in Germany and the U.K.’s own home-grown Epwin Group the member companies of which pretty much cover the industry from extrusion to recycling. Then the British Plastic Federation stepped in to say it should be running such a campaign. Then it goes very quiet for a while before jumping up again to take over the running and the web site, www.pvcaware.org.
As I have often said before, the window industry is nothing if not entrepreneurial. So up steps a guy called Martin Randall, a typical double glazing entrepreneur. Martin started out fitting windows and is now the chairman of a multi-million dollar window fabrication business that he built from scratch. He is a lot more laid back these days splitting his time between his horses and the business but Martin Randall did not get where he is today by relying on other people to do the job. So he launched Fighting Back with Facts on the basis that fabricators and installers should not rely on systems companies to support their cause. See it at www.fightingbackwithfacts.com. The campaigns have the common aim of telling users that vinyl is an ecologically sound material, stable, long-lived and eminently recyclable. Indeed this is a position supported by none other than Dr. Patrick Moore, the founder of Greenpeace.
The problem seems specifically U.K. to me. Nowhere else in Europe do I see the industry splitting along materials lines. Fabricators make windows from vinyl and aluminium in the same factory. Weru, a huge German fabricator, teaches its apprentices to make timber windows before it lets them anywhere near vinyl.
Vinyl has had a lot of bad press over the years, unfairly in my opinion; it is a very good, versatile material. There are far worse plastics around. And right now, we have enough problems in the window industry. It is going through a natural cyclical downturn and on top of that we have to contend with ‘the credit crunch’ as it is called here. The economic downturn caused by the bank’s greed and the wider financial service sector’s manipulation of the sub-prime market to make a quick buck…well, several million quick bucks actually. There is no doubt we need to get our act together. As a publisher covering the industry, I do not have an opinion, I just observe. But I observe that the vinyl window industry in the U.K. is about to start a turf war over whom best represents its interests when it needs to look at how to survive in the long-term.
* John Roper is the editor for The Installer, The Fabricator, The Conservatory Installer and Glass Works magazine published in the U.K. His comments reflect his opinions from the U.K. and may not be applicable in Canada.
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