What I’m about to tell you is true, its 100% factual and I can send a copy of a report which further emphasises and backs up the savings and energy usage of Sweden. If we adopt the simplest of ideas that they now use, it could make a big difference!

Six weeks ago, myself, my business partner Bill Walker and our Biomass engineer visited a new supplier in Sweden called Ariterm.

Ariterm are a manufacturer of biomass boilers and are regarded as one of the best manufacturers in the world. While we were there we also decided to visit one of our glazing suppliers as well to check on the development of their new Passivhaus certified product.

It was planned to be a three day trip with meetings, lots of traveling and factory tours – pretty much standard for these types of trips. However what we saw there pretty much changed over night the way in which I look at my industry and the UK as a whole, and confirmed that what we’re doing as a business is right! Most of all though, the involvement that the glazing industry is playing in Sweden’s development and how their ideas and innovations, if adopted, could change the UK energy industry.

Its been some time since I had been in Sweden and as always I was keen to hear about how they were doing business wise and how their economy was at the moment. The answer as many of the big wig CEO’s over they will give you is: “its going good but could always be better!”

The gentleman who ran the biomass factory and was coincidently the owner, was very keen to hear about our business and how we could help them break into the UK market (specifically the largely “off grid” population of Scotland).

I took the ‘directors’ hat off, jumped into sales mode and started pitching what we do, how we do it and what our philosophy was and that our emphasis is always on “Fabric First”. At that point the ice was broken and the long of the short is that we got the National Distributorship for the product in Scotland.

The rest of the day though was now free, weather was nice and beer was calling, so after a factory tour and a ‘meet the team’ we went up to the town centre and retired to complete the business talks over some “foaming pints of joy” in a nice bar which he was keen to show off as his local – which as you may have guessed had a biomass boiler as a source of heat and yes some 10 year old triple glazed windows.

After a few beers, we got talking about the UK and the whole housing and energy industry. The CEO was very, very vocal about his frustration in trying to work with the UK and that for many years he has been looking to appoint a Scottish distributer, but up until now every company that he has spoke to just wanted to install the biggest boiler possible and didn’t really care about the cost imposed on the customer; “that’s what your house needs sir, so that’s what I will sell you”.

My statement relating to “Fabric First” was a statement that he clung onto during our short but fruitful pitch and it was the only thing that he was interested in.

As a CEO of a very large company I would have thought that his main concern would have been turn over and profit, and yes to a certain extent this is true, however, he emphasized how his business model changed almost 8 years ago and that since then providing advice and striving to install smaller boilers in more energy efficient homes has seen the surge in biomass as a heat source grow exponentially. Biomass is already much cheaper than fossil fuels, so combine that with an even smaller heat load, and improved air tightness and you use even less biomass – even cheaper than before!

Then the Kyoto protocol was announced and enforced around 8 years ago……

The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which commits its Parties by setting internationally binding emission reduction targets.

Recognizing that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity, the Protocol places a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities.”

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005. The detailed rules for the implementation of the Protocol were adopted at COP 7 in Marrakesh, Morocco, in 2001, and are referred to as the “Marrakesh Accords.” Its first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012.

The UK was set a task to make 15% of its properties more energy efficient and adopt cleaner fuel sources; Sweden was set the same task.

Up until now we have achieved around a 1.5 – 2 % success rate, and by the looks of things we’re never going to hit our target, well at least not in the near future anyway, we are the furthest behind out of all EU countries but the fastest at catching up, so some positives to take on board.

Sweden on the other hand entered into the agreement whole-heartedly and can announce and in some cases boast that 51% of all energy that they produce and use is renewable, a mega-impressive statistic.

But how did they do it ?

The starting point was their domestic housing stock. To set the standard for this and to give you an idea of how much more advanced their stock is compared to ours, “the average Swedish cow shed is better insulated than our local authority owned homes”.

Pretty shocking isn’t it? Talking about this statistic alone, we discussed what they did different to us, and it all came back to fabric first. The CEO explained that while the UK has only just adopted the idea of triple glazing and greater levels of insulation, Sweden has been using those construction methods for the past 15 – 20 years, and before the mainstream of triple glazing they used far greater amounts of insulation and focused on things like air tightness.

He went on to explain that in countries like Norway and Sweden when the winter strikes they often experience temperatures of around -20 & -30, when those temperatures do hit it means that IF your heating system was to fail its not simply a matter of waiting for a call out engineer to arrive and fix it…which may be a few days, it’s a matter of life and death!!

Strong words but at the same time very true. Now in the UK we rarely experience these types of temperatures for prolonged periods of time, however winters are becoming colder, fuel is becoming more expensive and as such people are being more and more reluctant to turn on their heating in the colder months because they simply cannot afford to. When it comes to the elderly this too could mean life and death for residents in the UK.

Sweden did not have incentives like the RHI (renewable heat incentive) and FIT (the feed in tariff) they had some tax benefits and certain write offs, but that’s all.

So this is all interesting and embarrassing at the same time, but why are we still so reluctant to embrace the fact that what these countries are doing is the way forward?

A common site in Sweden now is biomass installers and window installers and salesmen carrying around infra-red cameras which monitor heat loss from buildings, when they sell windows and doors (or boilers) they also supply a small report, that report basically says:

“if you install this boiler in this house in its current condition your boiler size may be 20kw as we feel this is the heat loss that is currently being emitted from the structure”


“if you were to appoint our partner glazing and insulation company, and fixed the heat loss in the following locations, your heat loss could be reduced by X% and as such we could offer you the following 10kw boiler for x price”

Now I’m very fortunate to be in the situation to offer this service to my clients and provide them with the other energy saving measures also, but think about how this makes you come across to the end customer.

All of a sudden you are no longer the guys that’s there to close the sale, you’re also the consultant and the honest guy that’s trying to help, this pays dividends, and its now a standard way of doing business in Sweden and I think that a leaf should be taken out of Sweden’s book.

Thermal imaging cameras have came down in price now as with all technology, and they are no longer an expensive investment, by showing clients examples of your work and images of houses that have triple glazing and greater insulation and comparing it to their own house you could do your bit help the UK improve its housing stock one property at a time.

Its an interesting concept that I feel even the smallest of companies should adopt, it will help raise your profile, your customers experience and may even help improve and remove the stigma that’s currently attached to the double glazing industry.

There must be well over 5000 windows installers in the UK, most of them doing a couple of installs per week. If 10% of those installers did one house a week using the above method and recommending more advance measures like triple glazing, it could have a dramatic impact on the UK housing stock.

If you would like more information on this report, or would like advice on Thermal Imaging Cameras, drop me a tweet or e-mail, I have stock units that I can provide you with or offer my input on what’s good on the market just now.

I know this has been a long post, maybe too long, however its something that I’m passionate about, and something that I think could transform the window industry!

See Mark’s site: http://markmclean41.wordpress.com/

Contact mark on Twitter: @markmclean41