As you may have seen, I am currently running a guest column by @MarkMcLean41. You can see his section here: but there was something in one of his posts that caught my eye whilst reading. He mentions in his column of a recent trip to Scandinavia and one of the observations that was brought up whilst he was there. He said that during a conversation, his Swedish colleague explained that in his country during construction, priority was always fabric first. That’s what stuck with me.

Fabric first. The very simple principle that during the construction of any building, the fabric (materials) of that building have to be number one priority, with everything else, including cost, coming second. Now, on first glance that is going to make some of you with padlocked wallets wince a bit. But think about this long term. If a building is constructed using the best materials available, rather than materials that will just get the job done, then that structure is going to last longer due to the fabric of the building lasting longer. The lesser the material, the sooner it is going to need replacing. In fact one of the other observations Mark made was there were cow sheds genuinely more insulated and better built than some of our homes!

Now this isn’t just a climactic argument. Yes it gets cold here at times, but not as cold as Sweden. But this isn’t about weather but about the overall attitude to construction in this country, including the fenestration sector too. If from the start we took the approach of other countries and construct our buildings as well as possible, rather than skimp and save a few quid here and there just to cut corners and make a bit more profit, then perhaps we wouldn’t be suffering from shoddily thrown up new-builds. Our building stock would then be lasting longer, running repairs would be fewer and the carbon footprint of our buildings would be less too. Lets face it, a lot of the problems we face right now with our building stock have been caused by our fear of slightly higher costs.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, other European countries have got construction down far better than we have. Rather than being tighter than ducks backside when it comes to construction and the materials we use, we should be changing how we look at building and switching our focus back to quality and long-term sustainability. I do believe as a country we are capable of doing it, but while construction firms continue to hold all the cards rather than the Government holding them, I fear that the switch isn’t going to come soon.

On a fenestration point, the same can be said. Look at when PVC first came to the market. In most cases it was cheap, unreinforced, flimsy and prone to discolouring and highly insecure. Basically it was a very poor, cheap first attempt. Perhaps I could give it a little sympathy given that it was a new materials trying to break into a very aluminium and timber dominated sector. But if the originators of the PVC window took a step back and analysed what they were about to bring to market, perhaps we could have made a better start. Only now is the PVC sector catching up and really focusing on quality. Maybe I’m being a little harsh here but that’s the way I see it.

All comments are welcome as always!