It’s one of the most energetic and occasionally heated debates our industry has and will continue to have: should PVC windows and doors be allowed to be installed in conservation areas and listed buildings? It’s a complicated issue, but one that is here to stay so long as PVC windows and doors are.

Conservation areas

There was a time where conservation areas only allowed timber windows to be fitted into people’s homes where timber was there before. And for the purists out there, that is how it should remain. If timber was good enough then, then timber should be good enough now. The fans of wood will tell you that aesthetically, characteristically and traditionally, timber is, and always should be king.

I get their point. But at the time when those original windows were put in, often well over 150 years ago, timber was the only practical material available. We have moved on a lot since then, and there are now other practical materials other than timber.

Aesthetically speaking, early generations of PVC were total garbage. Flat, chunky, gaskets all over the place, often discolouring. There was absolutely no way those early PVC products were going to compliment any conservation area building.

But the rate of PVC evolution has been rapid since those early days, and now we have dedicated companies like Residence 9, Evolution, Prestige and others making some incredibly realistic timber alternative PVC windows and doors. So much so, that councils are now accepting them in buildings inside conservation areas. That will come as relief to the PVC brigade, blasphemous to the timber boys.

Listed buildings

Unlike conservation areas, the rules for buildings that are listed, especially Grade 1 and Grade 2 listed properties. When it comes to trying to put PVC windows and doors in a listed building, you’ve got very little chance. English Heritage don’t even like companies putting in special heritage-style mega slim double glazed units into really old buildings, even if it means the people living inside the building benefit from the measure.

Personally, do I believe we should be putting PVC in listed buildings? No, probably not. Although the quality and aesthetics of PVC have come on a million miles in just a few short decades, they still can’t quite match the looks of say, 150 year old steel frames. However I do believe that like for like materials, like steel and timber, should be being applied in a modern way, such as putting in slim double glazed units into steel frames. In 2015, the idea of keeping flimsy single glazing alongside sky high fuel costs and more extreme weather makes no sense to me.

Moving with the times

Going back to conservation areas, I do believe that we should be moving with the times. Consider what a conservation area actually is:

Although conservation areas mean some extra planning controls and considerations, these exist to protect the historic and architectural elements which make the place special. They are most likely to affect owners who want to work on the outside of their building or any trees on their property. – English Heritage

To me, that reads as preserving the aesthetics of the building or home. So, if a PVC window, specifically a timber alternative PVC window looks just as good as their timber counterparts, then why should it not be considered an acceptable material? I have seen plenty of stunning PVC products which replicate timber so accurately. Of course in the end this comes down to opinion, and there will be plenty of people who will disagree and say that PVC looks like PVC and always will do. Well to that I say, take your blinkers off! Don’t let your love for timber cloud your judgement on PVC and how far it has come.

It’s also important to remember that homeowners may actually want PVC in their home. There are clear benefits the material brings over the others. Other than the original efforts to create the product, it’s green. It can be recycled over and over. They have fantastic energy efficient properties. Little to no maintenance of the frames.

It’s time to move with the times I think. If a PVC window looks and performs just as good as their old timber counterparts, maintains the traditional looks of the property, then I can’t see any genuine reason why a council shouldn’t at least consider PVC.

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