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UPVC Given Top Environmental Rating

24 July 2008

Over the next few years, suppliers to the building industry are likely to see continued pressure to supply building components that have demonstrable sustainable properties.

Already there have been many advances made in this area, especially within our industry, the most recent of which has been an ‘A’ rating for PVC-U windows by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) in its 2008 Green Guide.

One of the reasons why PVC-U windows gained this top rating was because of the amount of work already being done in the area of recycling. By continuing to improve the environmental aspects of our industry in this way we can help developers and housing providers in both the public and private sector meet their own green build targets. Ultimately, everyone benefits through savings on disposal costs in addition to finding new uses for material that would otherwise end up in landfill.

PVC-u is not usually a material associated with recycling but the steps already taken means that we are beginning to change perceptions. Without a doubt, it is a low maintenance material that requires no ongoing upkeep and as well as offering longevity, however some still mistakenly believe that it is not possible to recycle PVC-U.

When used in windows and doors, un-plasticised PVC is one of the most rigid polymers at normal ambient temperature and shows little deterioration after decades of exposure to the elements. This is just one of the reasons why it has become such a popular choice, offering the building and homeowner sector a cost-effective low maintenance solution.

Suppliers within the PVC-U industry know they have a superb material in terms of its thermal performance, longevity and maintenance, but its perception in terms of a positive environmental choice still needs addressing. In this respect, the fact the BRE Green Guide has awarded PVC-U windows an ‘A’ rating will go a long way to independently recognising the material’s sustainability credentials.

As an industry, we have been poor at promoting the environmental benefits of PVC-U and indeed many other materials have had a head start on us because they have tenaciously stuck to driving home the sustainability message. For our industry, the BRE award is a clarion call for all of us to begin working even closer, to present PVC-U as the best environmental choice. In the future, we will therefore need to continue to build on the improvements we have already made. We all know that PVC-U is low maintenance, it is what we have hung our hats on for many years, however the market is changing and we must change with it. Low maintenance is now taken as a given and therefore over the next decade the focus will be on sustainability and recycling forms a key part of this.

For Eurocell, the starting point for improving recycling levels was always going to be the waste material generated during the manufacturing process. There is much development work going into the recycling of frames when they are replaced on site and this will continue to be an area of activity. However, the focus on the production side means that in addition to improving the environmental aspect we were able to manage our costs to fabricators at a time when raw materials are spiralling in price. Many extruders in the industry, including ourselves, have already implemented ISO14001, the internationally recognised environmental standard. By taking this a step further we have set up teams within our business that focus purely on improving the environmental areas of our operations even further and a major area of this is in recycling.

Interestingly, the legislative side of the industry in the form of Buildings Regulations provided us with the catalyst to make our first major breakthrough in recycling. This is because the improvements needed in the latest Approved Document L meant that many new builds, along with refurbishments, now require cavity closers because it aids compliance with air tightness and robust detailing. The updating of the regulations therefore prompted us to focus on improving our existing cavity closer and also to attempt to use waste polymer to extrude this item. The result is that we were able to launch our new recycled cavity closer that is made from 100 per cent recycled material. The work we have already done on recycling has resulted in us achieving a record last year with 2,896 tonnes of scrap material being reused.

This demand for sustainable products is being driven by legislation and our fabricators are aware of the Code for Sustainable Homes, which became mandatory for all newly constructed dwellings in April. The Code lays down the roadmap to achieving zero carbon homes by 2016. New products, such as our recycled cavity closer, help to create more thermally efficient dwellings and so play a fundamental part in achieving a higher star rating on the Code. Latest new product introductions such as our Thermalogik ‘A’ rated (for thermal performance) window profile can also help achieve a higher star rating on the Code. The latest ‘A’ rating (for sustainability) in the BRE’s Green Guide is now a perfect complement to the energy efficiency of PVC-U windows.

A double-A in these two crucial areas should open up many new selling opportunities for our fabricators in both the public and private sector.

Recycling is a major area of focus for our industry. It is a great way to reduce the amount of waste generated by the manufacturing process, which also improves the environmental credentials of our mainstream window profile extrusions. The simple fact is that recycled products dramatically reduce the amount of waste generated in our factory. The added advantage is that because it helps reduce raw material usage it keeps cost increases to a minimum, which is another important factor to ensure good value for our customers and specifiers.

Looking to the future, the PVC-U industry will need to continue developing new products from recycled material to help meet the latest environmental legislation. Sustainability too, in the consumer consciousness, is just beginning to reach buying decision level and its importance is only going to increase. The BRE Green Guide should be seen as the first milestone in changing the perception of PVC-U. By working together (and there are already some encouraging initiatives underway), we will ensure that our industry continues to strengthen its position as the dominant material in the window and door markets.”

Find more information on Eurocell window and door systems here. Alternatively, call the Eurocell Customer Care Team on 0300 333 6525, or use our helpful contact form.

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