Published On: Wed, Feb 14th, 2024

A pivotal moment in building regs and industry response

In the ever-evolving landscape of building regulations and environmental standards, the UK’s Future Homes Standard has emerged as a pivotal topic of discussion among industry experts, component suppliers, system designers, and manufacturers. The much-anticipated consultation process for this standard has stirred a whirlwind of conversations, debates, and expectations across the nation, with each sector harbouring its unique aspirations and concerns.

Central to these discussions has been the proposed reduction in required U-values for windows to 0.8 W/m²K for new builds, a shift that could significantly impact manufacturers, components suppliers and installers. The question posed by a leading expert at a recent seminar encapsulates the industry’s sentiment: “Why are we all focusing on 0.8 – who decided that as a figure?” This query not only reflects the uncertainty surrounding the consultation but also the scepticism about relying on expected outcomes from governmental processes.

As it stands, the outcome of the consultation leaves the industry at a familiar crossroads. There are no planned changes to the existing performance standard of 1.2 W/m²K, introduced in the June 2022 revision of Part L. This decision has been met with varied reactions. For advocates of triple glazing, it’s a disappointment; for fabricators worried about production challenges, a relief; and for those who have heavily invested in future-proofing technologies, a moment of reflection. However, it’s crucial to recognize that this isn’t a final verdict but a snapshot of a decision at a specific point in time, subject to future changes. Internationally, Poland offers an insightful contrast with its proactive and structured approach. The country’s seven-year roadmap toward achieving a U-value of 0.9 W/m²K exemplifies a planned, transparent method that allows industries to adapt and prepare adequately.

The UK’s shifting policy focus away from net-zero targets has sparked considerable concern. Previously poised to lead in the global environmental arena, the UK’s strategy is now leaning more towards green energy production rather than reducing energy consumption. In the context of building regulations, glazing – particularly triple-glazing and advanced double-glazing – plays a crucial role in energy efficiency. The industry’s disappointment, thus, stems not just from missed commercial opportunities but from a broader sense of moral responsibility: the imperative to improve home energy efficiency for a more sustainable future.

However, with an upcoming election, these policies and priorities could undergo significant changes, highlighting the fluid nature of governmental strategies and their impact on industry practices.

As the industry navigates into 2024, reflections on the past year reveal critical insights. The tightening of consumer budgets in 2023 has underscored the necessity for innovation, value for money, effective marketing, and customer service. These elements are essential for sustaining sales and ensuring a steady flow of enquiries in a competitive market.

The lingering challenges from 2023, such as the volatile labour market and rising material costs, will continue to shape the industry in 2024. An anecdote from a pre-Christmas conversation with an installer illustrates this reality. Facing a 20% increase in costs for fitters and a 15-25% surge in material prices, this installer adapted by raising his prices. His success, despite these hikes, can be attributed to his strong local reputation, effective marketing strategies, and commitment to offering the latest products like warm roofs, flush sash windows, and contemporary doors equipped with smart locks.

The overarching message for the industry is clear: staying proactive and keeping abreast of the latest innovations and market trends is essential for success in the coming year. As companies grapple with the ongoing challenges and opportunities, adaptability and forward-thinking will be key determinants of their ability to thrive in 2024.