Doors & Windows, An Environmental Choice

2 September 2008

Here Eurocell Profiles takes a look at the reasons why PVC-u doors and windows have recently been recognized as an environmental choice.

PVC-u windows and doors make a valuable contribution to sustainable developments within the housing association sector and the fact that the BRE (Building Research Establishment) recently awarded PVC-u windows an ‘A’ rating in its 2008 Green Guide to Sustainability, went a long way to providing independent verification of this fact.

For a long time, PVC-u has been highly regarded for its durability, low maintenance, performance and value for money. When used in windows and doors PVC-u is one of the most rigid polymers at normal ambient temperatures and shows little deterioration after many years of service (BRE estimate the life of PVC-u windows at 35 years in its 2008 Green Guide). In addition to these properties, the BRE also awarded the top rating to PVC-u because of its recycled content. In actual fact, PVC-u extruders have been recycling the material for many years, mainly because it helped reduce their carbon footprint, but also because it made sound economic sense.

One of the characteristics of PVC-u that make it possible to recycle on a large scale is that it can be ground into pellets, which can then be re-heated and moulded into new products (BRE again estimates that PVC can be recycled 7 times over a 200 year lifespan). There are now products on the market that are made from 100 per cent recycled PVC-u and our cavity closer is an excellent example of this, which indicates how far the industry has advanced in the last few years.

The PVC-u industry continues to invest large amounts of resources into improving its recycling activities. For many, the start point was always going to be the waste material generated during the manufacturing process. There is also much development work going into the recycling of post-consumer frames when they are replaced on site. Eurocell also purchases waste material from other sources, improving the ‘green’ credentials of our operations one step more.

Many businesses in the PVC-u industry have already implemented ISO14001, the internationally recognized environmental standard. By taking this a step further, we have set up teams within our operation to focus on improving environmental ratings even further. The results are already beginning to show and we recycling around 2,896 tonnes of material in the last 12 months.

On a wider scale legislation within the industry is also providing the ideal catalyst to drive forward innovations that use recycled material to make products that actually improve thermal performances. Take for instance the updated Approved Document L which was introduced to provide a 20% improvement in the thermal performance of dwellings. These same Building Regulations will be tightened again in 2010 and 2013, as part of ensuring all properties meet the highest thermal standards possible.

The improvements needed in thermal performances now means that many housing associations prefer to use cavity closers because it aids compliance with the tighter Building Regulations. The tightening of the regulations therefore prompted us to focus on improving our existing cavity closer and also to try and use recycled material to manufacture this item. At the outset we considered that this would be the ideal outcome as cavity closers improve air tightness minimising heat loss between the jambs and cills and as it would be produced from recycled material would make it an ideal environmental choice. For us it was a major breakthrough when we finally developed a method of using waste polymer to produce the cavity closer and, with the addition of expanded polystyrene, we were able to improve the thermal performance even further. The fact that the cavity closer is made from 100 per cent recycled material makes this product perfect for many housing associations and it is very satisfying to find that a recycled product also helps improve a dwelling’s thermal performance.

There is little doubt that the award of an ‘A’ rating for sustainability to PVC-u has been a major breakthrough for the industry and it is the work that has been done around recycling that has helped this. Door and windows are now expected to meet the highest environmental standards and the work that continues within the industry will ensure that housing associations are given a real green choice.

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