If I look back at the recent FIT Show, and the general state of product innovation, specifically in the PVCu sector, I don’t think it’s too bold a statement to say that PVCu windows and doors in their traditional sense have come as far as they can go. They have hit a ceiling and cannot go much further as they currently are. PVCu as a material isn’t ever going to go away, that’s a certainty. But when it comes to taking it to the next evolutionary level, the existing raft of traditional PVCu products need to be left on the shelf.
Leaving the old behind
When I mean traditional, I’m talking about the plain white or traditionally wood grained windows that have been around for decades. Chamfered or Sculptured frames have been around for a very long time. Nothing new there. Yes things like the energy efficiency and security of those products have improved over time. But visually they haven’t really changed.
Chamfered and Sculptured profiles can only be re-imagined a certain number of times before their appeal is lost and they just blend into the other boring parts of the industry. It’s time to leave those on the shelf.
The other factor to be aware of is the rise of timber and aluminium windows and doors in the residential sector. Perhaps something which the PVCu market didn’t really see coming and was caught off guard. But no one can deny that these materials are making a very strong comeback and are genuinely changing the window industry.
They’re changing it because of consumer demand. Home owners want more choice, more focus on design and aesthetics, and PVCu can only give home owners a selective range. If home owners start looking at all materials, they suddenly have a lot more avenues to explore. And with the advancements in both the timber and aluminium residential sectors, we’re seeing sales in both rise strongly.
The timber effect
The proof in the theory is with companies like Residence 9 and Evolution. Both companies who specialise in PVCu products that create the appearance of timber, but in the low maintenance PVCu. Without that demand from home owners and the brick wall that PVCu hit, the industry would not have been forced to seek new innovation and we would not have had the timber alternative market we have today.
In fact the Residence Collection launched at the FIT Show was a perfect embodiment of this point. All of their new PVCu lines were designed to mimic the effects of both timber and aluminium. They have seen the way the market is moving and have responded by providing a suite of new products to meet that demand, ensuring they capture this part of the market.
The whole of the PVCu sector needs to take a look at where their material is going. Home owners are getting increasingly bored with the plain white windows that have been the staple of the industry for decades. The aesthetic lure of timber and aluminium are drawing some portions of the public away from PVCu.
In fairness, the industry is moving. You only need to look at the number of flush sash windows that were announced at the FIT Show the other week. Every company now has one, and the existing ones have been constantly improved since their introduction.
The composite market
There lies a big opportunity in the composite window market. PVCu can only achieve so much on it’s own. Everything has limits. But in the years to come the composite window market is going to explode with products combining PVCu with timber and aluminium, or other combinations of the three.
We’re seeing innovations in this area more and more often, and although there perhaps isn’t a perfect composite window capable of blowing up the market just yet, it is round the corner. Each material has it’s own benefits. Combine them and I really believe that this is one area where PVCu will find fresh impetus.
I actually think that the rise in popularity of timber and aluminium could be dented if the new age of PVCu windows and doors gets significant traction. The residential PVCu sector has lost a bit of ground in recent years, but this could be reversed if home owners tap into the idea of a timber or aluminium alternative in PVCu.
One thing I am very sure of though, when all is said and done, is that traditional PVCu is dead. There will still be sales of the boring white stuff, but these will decline year on year until the market is so diverse and varied that those figures become diluted and pointless.
These are competitive times we live in. Lets embrace it.
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