Neil Puttock, managing director at Boavista Windows UK Ltd, makes the case for fibreglass windows in the UK.

An American engineer and professor named William Edwards Deming once said: “Innovation comes from the producer – not the customer.” When it comes to the window industry I couldn’t agree more.

After all, what is the incentive for the customer to seek an alternative to a tried, tested and familiar product – and in this context I mean PVCu and aluminium windows – when those products do exactly what is required of them: they let light in, enable those inside to see out and provide an adequate level of security.

However, innovation, like evolution, plays a key role in not only enabling us to adapt to the constant changes and demands of a continually changing world, but also pre-empting those changes and demands by developing products and services that significantly improve the lives of those who use them.

The launch of Boavista, Europe’s first full range of fibreglass window frames that set new industry standards in sustainability, durability and performance, is a perfect example of this.

It is also a move that I believe has the potential to disrupt the current window supply and install model by providing a credible alternative to plastic and aluminium.

In fibreglass window frames I believe that the window revolution has arrived, and here’s why.

Green window of opportunity

From a sustainability standpoint, fibreglass is far superior than its PVCu and aluminium counterparts due to its reliance on silica, which is naturally found in abundance, for its production compared with the fossil fuels used to make PVCu windows – a resource that is both heavily polluting and finite.

A Trend Monitor report, entitled ‘Five Key Trends which will impact on the UK home improvement industry in 2016,’ highlighted how the millennial consumer now looks beyond the cost of a purchase, and is more inclined to favour products that are based on a circular business model, use a minimal amount of the earth’s valuable resources and are manufactured in a way that designs out waste throughout the lifecycle of the product. I only see this attitude becoming even more prominent.

Using the latest in pultrusion technology, fibreglass frames are created by pulling resin-soaked glass fibres through heated dies, which only consumes 0.07 kilowatt to produce a linear metre of window frame weighing approximately 1kg.

When the windows need replacing, they can simply be shredded into sections and then mixed with concrete and asphalt to deliver a lightweight, stronger and crack and shrinkage-resistant composite material – a process that requires very low energy.

Designing out compromise

Fibreglass opens up a world of design possibilities due to its strength and stability, which enable it to hold large surface areas of glass, bypassing the need to produce and fit specialist, structural glass.

From the perspective of an architect or homeowner, fibreglass frames support more adventurous designs that would previously have been prohibitive due to cost. Not only that, but fibreglass also expands in line with window glass, removing the need for unsightly gaskets to hold the pane in place.

Perhaps one of the most striking features of a fibreglass frame is that, despite weighing half that of aluminium, it is exceptionally hardwearing, highly rot and corrosion resistant and delivers a much longer lifecycle than PVCu and aluminium.

It is these factors that have underpinned the material’s success in parts of Europe and Canada, countries that were quick to harness the power of fibreglass to counteract weather-related erosion.

Reducing the maintenance associated with repainting – or even replacing – windows in coastal parts of the UK would not only cut costs but also enhance the local environments.

Future-proofing the UK

The case for fibreglass also applies to the UK’s housing market.

A House of Lords report entitled ‘Building More Homes,’ concluded that the government’s target of one million new homes by 2020 will not be enough. It put forward the case that to address the housing crisis, at least 300,000 new homes are needed annually for the foreseeable future.

If we are to meet this target then the annual window footprint alone would be considerable and the volume of plastic and aluminium required quite daunting.

Given the renewed focus on sustainability, not just by millennials but also by society as a whole, made even more urgent by government targets that seek to reduce the UK’s carbon footprint, isn’t it time that the industry embraced new approaches to window frames and considered the role it plays in contributing towards delivering sustainable environments?

The technology exists. The challenge now is to make fibreglass windows a standard component within the built environment to improve the sustainability credentials of today’s buildings whilst helping to shape those of tomorrow.