The race to get one over the competition in the window and door industry at the moment is probably the most energetic as it’s ever been. Almost every month there seems to be a new product or range of products announced by a supplier, designed to take a step further than the product just announced by their competitors. This is a very good thing for the industry in general. It is driving forward innovation and pushing the boundaries of what our products are capable of. However, I feel those boundaries for doors are being pushed and tested a little more than windows.
When you look at the number of new products being released, more often than not these new products are doors. You only need to look at new products such as WarmCore to see the direction manufacturers want to go with doors. And you can understand why. Doors are the things that excite homeowners the most when it comes to products our industry sells. They are opened every day, closed everyday, locked and unlocked every day.
Then there is the growing trend of specialist door companies. I’m thinking of companies like Apeer and Deuren, who are really pushing the boundaries of design, materials and technology. There are more and more companies like this being established to take advantage of the growing bespoke door market.
And lets face it, if you’re a company with a R&D budget to spend on new products, doors are going to be the natural choice. When it comes to doors, there are plenty of areas to explore and innovate in; colour, locking technology, hardware, glass designs all areas that make doors exciting and innovative.
Doors have come so far, and continue to progress further, that I fear windows and window technology may be being left behind a bit. You do hear of incremental improvements here and there. The odd new colour. A hike in a WER or a lowering of a U-value. But has there really been a paradigm shifting new product which has changed the way the window industry works? Probably not. Composite doors have done that to the door market, spurring on other new products and developments that have changed the geography of the door market entirely. For me, doors have advanced in the past few years way quicker than windows.
But things might be about to change…
Signs of a shift in windows
Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh on windows. I know it’s easier to get excited about doors, so maybe that is the reason why new window developments aren’t as engaging.
But lets take a quick look back at some of the things to happen to the window industry. We had Evolution make their first version of the timber alternative window, to then follow it up with Storm 2. This blazed a trail for the whole timber alternative sector and now there are a whole bunch of dedicated timber alternative companies and products. It is this new timber alternative product that has spurred on developments in the already established PVCu sector.
We’ve had enhancements in the glass sector too, which has increased the efficiency of the product, helping to make homes warmer. And only a couple of weeks ago I saw a fantastic opportunity in glass from a company in the US called Sage Glass, which could have a huge impact on the UK conservatory market.
So what are the chances then of a new golden age in window products and technology? Well, I honestly think we’re not that far away. I think the window industry is at that stage where it’s trying everything. Lots of R&D departments churning out small quantities of very advanced, very innovative products. After this intense R&D phase, the industry will then know what works and what doesn’t. It will focus on what does work, and expand the successes wider into the industry. This will not only bring us a whole new suite of products to work with and install in people’s homes, but it will also have an effect on the existing crop of products which in turn should help evolve those too.