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WERs – What’s next?

When it comes to sustainability, the glazing sector has come a long way, but there are still substantial challenges ahead says Chris Alderson, Managing Director of Edgetech, as he ponders the future of Window Energy Ratings and triple glazing…

The 21st century has already seen huge changes in the way we think about sustainability, and in the years ahead, this will only continue.

Regarding net zero, both as a country and an industry, we’ve got a very long way to go. There are many big challenges we’ll need to overcome.

However, while it’s extremely important to pursue solutions to these challenges, it’s also worth considering how far we’ve come already.

Back in the mid-2000s, Edgetech was heavily involved in the debate around Window Energy Ratings (WERs). The ratings were designed to make it easier for homeowners to choose energy- efficient products and incentivise manufacturers to make greener products.

Then, in 2010, WERs became law when building regulations were updated which stipulated that all new windows were required to achieve a WER of ‘C’ or U-value equivalent – and at the time, that was a major hurdle for IGU manufacturers, systems companies, fabricators, and others around the industry.

Seeing the confusion in the market, Edgetech hosted the ‘Journey to C’ series of seminars which were designed to help companies throughout the sector meet these new performance requirements, and in the years that followed, the fenestration industry rose to the occasion. Companies adapted, and the ‘C’ minimum was achieved.

Today, when C-ratings are seen as the minimum standard, that might appear like an insignificant step. Nevertheless, it was a huge leap from what we had before. It saved the public millions of pounds in energy bills and reduced the country’s carbon footprint.

The future of Window Energy Ratings

However, it was inevitable that the WERs initiative – at least as it exists today – wouldn’t be fit for purpose forever.

As technology has continued to improve, energy efficiency has improved with it – and so have the public and the government’s expectations.

An A-rating was once seen as a badge of excellence. In 2023, ‘A’ is now the norm. In the fenestration industry, there seems to be an emerging consensus that something needs to change.

This change could be as simple as a reset of the existing WER scheme. The current ‘A’ could become the new ‘C’, reflecting the fact that windows now need to achieve much greater energy efficiency to be seen as exceptional.

Or perhaps, as some are arguing, we need to shift focus from WERs to U-values. This rating system is well understood within the industry, and widely considered more accurate.

They’re much less known among homeowners but will be quite easy to understand once people become familiar with them: the lower the number, the better a window performs.

The Future Homes Standard

The WER scheme as we know it today will undoubtedly be influenced by the fast- approaching Future Homes Standard.

For now, the industry is in the difficult position of knowing the Future Homes Standard will likely make energy efficiency requirements stricter than ever, without knowing exactly what those requirements will be.

However, there’s a growing sense that triple glazing will need to be part of the solution.

With some industry figures suggesting the new minimum standard for windows in new-build homes could be as low as 0.8 – on a par with Passivhaus standards – it’s hard to picture a scenario where the large-scale adoption of triple isn’t at least part of the solution.

Making triple glazing the new norm is doable – but managing that transition is a big task.

Mostly, this is due to time constraints. The Future Homes Standard comes into force in 2025. Two years isn’t an extensive amount of time to begin with – but some of the machinery required to start making triple glazing can come with lead times of up to a year.

UK glass and glazing can have a brighter, greener future ahead of it. But to make that future a reality, we need to act now.

www.edgetechig.co.uk

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