One of the biggest debates to be had this year is triple glazing, and whether it really is going to break through into the mainstream or not. A lot of you may have now seen something called The Triple Glazing Question. This is a brand new event that is being held at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry on April 10th, and aims to answer some of the key questions around triple glazing.

The event was launched by Edgetech UK at the start of this year, and the GGF and Pilkington have now joined as key stakeholders. There are 500 free tickets and it’s first come first serve so if you are thinking of going then it would be wise to register now. So, here’s the cynical bit. I’ve not really seen such a product specific debate like this before, and I think it is happening because the industry is worried about the slow uptake of triple glazing.

It was launched with great fanfare a few years ago and was hailed as the next big thing to happen to the industry. Some even thought it was going to be so good it would lead our industry out of the doldrums and into the land of profit and happiness. I on the other hand said the launch of triple glazing couldn’t have come at a worse time. People’s spending was seriously limited, so the idea of spending MORE on triple glazing over standard double glazing wasn’t going to fly. The economy was on it’s knees and unemployment was rising rather fast. A high end product intended for the general public was never going to perform well in those conditions.

Since then, triple glazing has continually threatened to break into the mainstream, but has reliably flopped each time. The reason I think is due to the public not yet truly seeing a need for triple glazing. Let me give you an example. Look at how solid roofs for conservatories have taken off. Yes there are many pitfalls to that industry, most notably safety and certain legal aspects. But look at the reason why it has taken off. There are literally millions of old conservatories with polycarbonate roofs that are too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer for people to use. A new solid roof not only changes the climate inside the conservatory but also gives it a massive facelift. There was an actual need for this product as it solved a problem millions of people had.

Double glazing on the other hand has advanced a lot in recent years, to the point where triple glazing is only marginally better. For most consumers, the extra money they would have to spend on upgrading to triple glazing wouldn’t bring them value for money benefits. Therefore not really solving any major problem.

Yes, in some cases such as high noise areas like motorways, flight paths and train routes, triple glazing might be helpful from a noise reduction perspective. But in general, there just isn’t a screaming need for it. Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of triple glazing. I believe it has a very important place in new construction and specialist building like Passivhaus. It plays an important role in helping to improve the overall fabric of new buildings. But in the replacement market, it still hasn’t found it’s place.

Some companies are reporting rising sales of triple glazing. But as an industry in general the uptake remains painfully slow, too slow for many manufacturers, hence this triple glazing conference.

I think one of the aims of the meeting is to ascertain how the industry can help improve the popularity of triple glazing and help shift some more sales of it in 2014. I don’t blame the companies who set this up for doing it. They have ploughed a lot of money into R&D departments to bring this to market and they want to see a return on that. But I’m afraid that triple glazing is going to be a slow burner for a few more years to come. If it’s to really grab the imagination of the general public like the solid roof market has then the industry is going to have to reach a point where triple glazing can be sold (and I mean genuinely sold with a decent profit margin) at the same price as double glazing on mass. How we can get to a situation like that is beyond me, but I’ll leave that to the smarter folk in our industry to work that out.

As for the event itself, I probably will attend, to see what the generally accepted commentary is surrounding triple glazing and see where it is headed in the next few years.