Think about this for a moment. Fenestration, which by definition is the arrangement of windows and doors in a building, is literally everywhere.
Every home. Every office space. Every pub. Every cinema. Every skyscraper. Every Government building. We are surrounded by our industry at every turn. What a remarkable thing that is. What is even more remarkable is that our sector is still (as a rough estimate) worth less than £5bn and has very little influence both with the public and with Government.
That is a shame because I believe that what we do is very influential and very important in all our lives. But the truth of the matter is one of the main reasons we’re not at a more elevated status is down to us as a sector. Can we change that?
Could, should be bigger
How often have you thought about the above? How often have you considered that in every building in this country, windows and doors play an integral part in the functioning of that building? Entry, exit, security, energy efficiency, appearance etc. When you really consider it, our sector is quite amazing.
Yet, despite the very vital role our sector plays in every building, our influence and impact both within society and the general public, as well as Government is pitiful. Why? Because for decades our sector has been causing most of the damage itself.
Think about the White Gold days. The point at which PVCu was taking off and replacing timber and aluminium as the fenestration material of choice. What a boom the sector had. What an opportunity to forge a new path and show the general public what a fantastic new investment for their homes was being made available. Instead, as per the sadly accurate comedy series, our industry engaged in a race to the bottom. Stack them high and sell it cheap was the order of the day. Cut corners on quality to reduce the price further. Undercut the competition and do absolutely anything to get the sale.
As a result, we bred a generation of salespeople and businesses that garnered the industry a terrible reputation that is has been struggling to shift ever since. The wrong people were in the right place at the right time, and we have been paying for that ever since.
That is one side of this coin. The side that faces the general public. But we also continue to undermine ourselves internally and to greater powers thanks to our petty politics and general lack of genuinely serious professionalism.
In my 17 years in this industry, in the various capacities I have occupied, it never ceases to amaze me how willing we all are to cut our own legs away. We have so many complexes it’s hard to keep up. Industry bodies that refuse to work together to create a louder, more influential single voice. A unique arrogance that believes only one of something can exist. Glacial pace when it comes to trying new ideas. DGB is still one of a kind in this sector which is sad to see. The petty internal politics and playground antics only serve to undermine any progress we try and make as a sector.
Short-termism and personal gain continue to overshadow better business decisions and genuine progress. And what amazes me is how many conversations I have with key people across all parts of the sector where they all agree with the above and some go further than me in their criticism of the sector. And yet, nothing changes.
This is what is so frustrating for me. I am genuinely passionate about this sector and the influence and potential that lies within it. To me, these are not just windows and doors. These are life-changing products that keep people safe at night. That can inspire people to invest in their homes. That can keep precious energy bills down. That can provide well-paid jobs and careers. The impact of what we all do has such a significant one yet I don’t think we all see it. I think many of us just see the frames going in and going out every week and the wider context of our work is lost.
I want to see more people as passionate as I reach influential places in our sector. To become the decision-makers who don’t let false politics get in the way of good decisions. To be able to unite the various factions within our industry to build a stronger, singular voice which delivers massive impact when it comes to talking to Government.
The debacle in the run-up to the revised Building Regulations, especially trickle vents, is such a good example of what happens when a splintered industry cannot get its house in order in front of lawmakers. Had our sector been able to unite on a common position, and deliver that position to civil servants and MPs, the impact would have been far more influential, and the fenestration sector would have had a more powerful seat at the table. As it was, the opposite occurred and we got what we got.
If you look through noise and rabble and seek out the nuggets of quality, you’ll see that there is so much potential within fenestration. Just look at the door sector for example. It’s exploding in all directions. Composite doors are a market in themselves and continue to grow rapidly. Aluminium bi-folding doors and sliders are massively popular with growth baked in for years to come. Aluminium internal doors are an emerging market set to explode. Pivot doors are on the scene now and are gaining traction. Elsewhere, flush windows are surging. Smart tech is breaking through. There is a genuine software market within fenestration now. Lanterns and flat skylights are very much a thing now, with garden rooms and verandas providing fantastic outdoor living opportunities. All of this is very much NOT White Gold and are new markets that we should all be looking to make the very most of.
Our industry should be twice the size it is. Some estimates put the sector at £4.5bn-ish in value. Some might call me over-optimistic but I see a route to £10bn if we can get serious about what we do. Internally, we have to be better. To behave like a bigger industry and instil professionalism and integrity at all levels. Set aside the egos and politics and begin to think like a bigger sector. Externally, we have to show the public that we’re a hell of a lot more than our reputation would have them believe. That there are plenty of good companies and good people doing brilliant things. That this sector is a very good place to forge a career. That “double glazing” is not that tarnished phrase for dodgy practices.
If we do all that, just watch that growth happen.
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