As time goes on, the industry continues to digest what the Future Homes Standard in 2025 is really going to change. At the end of last year we discovered that there was to be no change to what the minimum u-values were going to be. Rather instead, we were going to be required to prove that every single window and door going into new dwellings meets the 1.4W/m²K minimum standard.
Future Homes Standard relates to all new dwellings – the new target for windows and doors into new dwellings is likely to be 1.2W/m²K
So instead of the industry going full beans triple glazing across the board to meet 0.8W/m²K, we have a very different headache to tackle. Spoiler alert: plenty of windows don’t meet 1.4W/m²K now!
Proving 1.4 and 1.2
At the moment, windows and doors need to meet 1.4W/m²K as per current Building Regulation requirements. In 2025 the FHS is going to require proof, as things stand pending any further changes to the proposed legislation, that every single window and door has met that 1.2W/m²K threshold that are being installed into new dwellings.
So here is where the problems begin. At the moment, as I understand the process, a fabricator or systems company will submit a window of a certain size and specific glazed specification that it produced intended to pass. The testing house will then test that window, and grant approval. However that approval covers the entirety of that window range. It means that just one window at one size and one specification has been tested.
For example, the window that was tested may have been a simple 1230×1480 window with a side opener and a fixed section. Probably without trickle vents or anything other than clear glazing. You could then have another window, say 3000×1400 with a couple of top openers, that hasn’t been tested, but its able to be sold as 1.4W/m²K compliant because of the loophole that exists at the moment.
It has been a valuable workaround for a great deal of the industry as at present, there would be many window configurations being sold and installed right now, that if were tested, would not be able to meet 1.4W/m²K. But at the moment, as current regulations allow, one window being tested grants a pass across the entire range without taking into account different sized windows.
From 2025, that is likely to change, with the industry being asked to be able to prove that every single window going into meets 1.2W/m²K. That is the Government closing that loophole and causing a large portion of the sector to wince. That unspoken reality looks like its about to come to an end, and I’m not sure the sector is going to be ready in time.
Who will it affect?
In short, everyone. But in reality, the entrance door market, aluminium market – PVC less so as many can already get to 2025 FHS levels as it stands right now. The hope is that all suppliers in the most affected parts of the market are investing and researching hard at the moment to make sure that by the time June 2025 rolls around, they are offering products that truly meet the minimum requirements.
It’s also going to affect the IT and tech side of the sector. At the moment systems companies like VEKA offer software, some for free, to fabricators and installers so that they can calculate the U-Value of each item individually today. Some do not. Looking at the likely outcome of the consultation, it is going to be necessary for both installers and fabricators to be able to prove that each window and door is actually able to meet 1.2W/m²K. That means they are going to need to have access to software to allow them to do so. As I mentioned, there are some already out there in the market, but that availability and reach of calculating software is going to have to be rolled out much further.
Good news for IT and tech companies in the fenestration sector! More processing work for installers and fabricators.
Will this be enforced?
One of the biggest frustrations with the trickle vent regulations since their introduction is the lack of policing of that rule. The Government is relying on our industry to do the right thing and stick with the new regulations, which of course is insane because there is a significant portion of our sector ready and willing to not do that. And the trade bodies within our sector do not have enough people-power to be able to keep an accurate track of who is doing what and where.
It has lead to endless complaints on online forums from companies who are losing orders to other companies who are willing to fit new windows without trickle vents. So it does beg the question as to how enforceable this new method of u-value compliance is going to be. Will the final set of rules in FHS 2025 be strict enough to actually make fabricators and installers prove that every window and door meets 1.2W/m²K. Or will there be some last minute lobbying which works in a workaround or loophole which dilutes the aims of the laws?
Then there is the policing of the reporting of the u-values of each item? What is to stop, for example, an installer quoting a specification of window that meets 1.2W/m²K in order to gain a sale, then order a cheaper spec of glass from another supplier and fit it into their frames? How easy is any configurable software going to be to manipulate? Who will be responsible for checking and reporting and how many inspections will trade bodies begin to do to ensure these new rules are being adhered to?
Could FHS be pushed back?
In my conversation with one of our suppliers today, who themselves are bringing their entire range of windows and doors up to 2025 standards well in advance, it is clear there are significant portions of the market that are rushing to bring their own ranges up to spec, but may be running out of time.
June 2025 is the proposed date as to when FHS kicks in. But what happens if parts of our market simply cannot make their products work? It takes time, money and a lot of testing before any new or updated products come to the market. So unless manufacturers have already made a solid start months ago, it’s going to be very close as to whether the entire market can make itself ready.
This is perhaps why there is a provision to retain a backstop u-value of 1.6W/m²K, just in case it becomes clear that these new proposed targets are going to be off limits for a larger portion of the sector.
Judging on previous performance, I think it would be safe to say that some may not make it to the finish line in time for FHS. So, to that end, would the Government allow our sector a period of grace, say 12 months, to allow all suppliers more time to update their product ranges? It will depend on who is in Government I think, and looking at the polls right now it’s almost certain to be Labour. They appear to be more committed to the green cause than the Conservatives, so I am not convinced they would grant our sector more time if we needed it.
That being said, much of our industry was convinced that there was going to be a big reduction in minimum U-Values to 0.8W/m²K and then we were all surprised to learn that there was going to be no change at all. So there could always be another shock waiting when the next update from the consultation in published.
So after all the hype and expectation around a reduction in U-Values, it is the relatively mediocre change to proving compliance to all windows and doors going into new dwellings which is throwing up a lot of questions and nervous conversations for some. Perhaps more than we thought.
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