Published On: Sun, Jun 8th, 2014

Aesthetics and safety & security are still important market influencers

As the British Isles are battered by continual storms and never-ending downpours of rain, the focus of homeowners in certain areas is probably moving from keeping their homes warm to simply keeping the floods out. The energy efficiency debate and its relation to the Green Deal is almost coming to a natural conclusion. Figures released point to the fact that 100,000 homes have received a Green Deal assessment, but only around 500 homeowners are actually carrying out the recommendations via the Green Deal loan scheme. Ninety-four per cent of these were for new boiler installations. The Green Deal has basically failed to deliver any real tangible benefits for the window industry, so Labour’s pledge to replace it if elected, and the Government’s promise to streamline the scheme is welcome news. To compound its failure, the Green Deal does not fill anyone with confidence when it is discovered that not one single Government department or local authority has applied for funding. These bodies have in fact turned to the interest-free Salix scheme to fund their plans; they then expect households to pay interest rates of around 10% for the same type of energy-efficiency improvements that were offered under the Green Deal. Proof of the failure of the Green Deal was also clearly indicated to me recently by a team of door canvassers for a national window retailer. Not one single door knocker could recollect a homeowner asking about financing new windows and doors through the Green Deal. Additionally, the market feedback from these foot soldiers was that sales were on the up and customers were happy paying in excess of £2,500 for a composite front door and over £4,500 for a three-pane bi-fold door.

Energy efficiency is still a key driver, but I still believe aesthetics and safety & security are just as important market influencers. The safety and security angle has been highlighted by the number of homeowners who have seen their properties wrecked by the effects of the recent floods. As an industry, we have an important role to play in the protection of homes from flood waters. Watford-based Aquobex is a fine example of a company that has stolen a march in the area of flood-protection products. Its BSI Kitemarked Flood Safety Door, ISIS Technology™ ensures that the flood door acts as a barrier up to a predetermined height, and then allows floodwater to enter the building in order to maintain the structural integrity and avoid the potential collapse of walls. Integral to the design are a number of safety mechanisms that ensure the door cannot be opened under flood conditions – a key factor in the prevention of injury to occupants. Innovations such as this door, highlight the positive impact fenestration products can have on protecting the home. As looting becomes the next potential threat to flood-stricken properties, hopefully, modern performance windows and doors will help keep the intruders at bay. The Green Deal and its inclusion of windows as a recognised energy efficiency product may have helped to add credibility to our sector. Regardless of that, we know that our products can confidently stand on their own two feet when it comes to offering tangible benefits to homeowners.

John Cowie – Editor