There is no doubt that we’re headed into much tougher times. I cannot remember an economic outlook being so unstable. When it comes to the economy, instability and uncertainty aren’t exactly remedies for what ails it.

However, where there are problems there are also opportunities, and within fenestration one of the major opportunities right now is with aluminium. So much so in fact that I believe there is a good chance of aluminium making a serious dent in the market dominance of PVCu.

Nu-era aluminium

Whenever I talk about aluminium in the general sense within fenestration, the companies I talk to come out with some staggering numbers when it comes to growth. Origin, who is one of our suppliers at our place, is set to record some amazing sales figures this year so long as they stay on track. It would make them one of the largest in the UK, with momentum firmly on their side.

That same story could be said for pretty much every major aluminium systems company operating in the UK right now. Even though aluminium sits at a higher price point than PVCu, and even though we’re headed into rather rough economic waters, the demand for residential aluminium only looks like it is going one way for the next five to ten years and that is vertical.

To demonstrate how the market thinks demand will perform in the coming five years, this is a poll still currently live on my Twitter feed right now:

Well over half of installers are saying they plan to sell more aluminium in the coming five years. This a clear indication that installers expect demand to rise and so are planning to accommodate that demand. Good news from aluminium fabricators and systems companies!

If I was a PVCu fabricator that had still to take on an aluminium system, now really would be the time to start work on incorporating aluminium into your product portfolios. This is a serious growth opportunity when there is likely to be very little in the next few years so to miss out and actively not provide that option to your installers will mean they have to look elsewhere to get the supply they need. Someone else is going to get that business you could have had.

This new age of aluminium within fenestration is strong. It is not confined to the commercial part of the market and the rising popularity of bi-folds, sliders and entrance doors means I believe that in five years’ time we could see a bit of a rebalancing of the dominance of PVCu in the residential market.

Opportunities across the board

For those who have been in the industry long enough, you can trace back the renaissance of aluminium back to bi-folding doors. Popularised thanks to TV shows like Grand Designs, they began to become a feature on higher-end homes. Aluminium established itself as the material of choice for bi-folds from that point, and as companies began to realise that demand was only going to grow, other avenues in aluminium opened up.

Until now, aluminium had been reserved for the commercial sector. The idea of aluminium windows making any kind of significant return to the residential part of the market wasn’t really on the radar a decade ago. How things have changed.

If you’re building your own home, you’re probably going to specify aluminium windows and doors. If you’re an architect designing a home for a client, you too are probably going to specify aluminium windows and doors. If you’re undertaking a large renovation project, chances are you’re at least looking at aluminium bi-folding doors or sliding doors, an entrance door, and maybe the windows too. Even in the regular retrofit market I am seeing much higher levels of demand for aluminium windows than in previous years.

So whether it’s windows, entrance doors, bi-folding doors, sliders, roof lights and lanterns, aluminium is presenting a wealth of opportunities for installers and fabricators at a time when new opportunities are even more important. Even in the super-high-end part of the market, there are product niches to make the most of. Head to my Twitter to take a look at the insane pivot door from Spitfire we installed this week. Possibly one of the best doors in the world!

PVCu will still have it’s place and will very likely remain the dominant material in the residential part of the market. In the value space, new-build and those looking to make home improvements but do not have a major budget to spend, PVCu will remain top of the pile. But that market share is going to be reduced in the next five to ten years and it will be due mainly to aluminium. At a time when things look tough, now would be a very good time to make the most of this one part of the market which is rapidly rising.

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