The Green Deal—time to get on board
Those that attended Ecobuild this year, not just the exhibition but the many conference and seminar events, may have been surprised by the buzz. It's an exhibition that I have seen grow from when Epwin first exhibited in 2006 with just hundreds of visitors, to last year's 57,000.The jump in visitors and the calibre of speakers and moderators demonstrate that it is the place to be not just in the UK but Europe, if you are serious about promoting sustainable products for the built environment. [ read more ]
Back to the future
Two things strike me as we move towards the end of the first quarter—the direct sell/ retail sector of our market is stronger so far in 2013 than most had anticipated and secondly, whilst some installers are taking advantage of this, clearly some are not. A stronger retail market is good for the industry not just because it represents over 70% of the window and door volumes but because when properly managed it is a profitable sector that generates cash. With the FIT show nearly upon us why is it that some installers are not making the most of the opportunity? [ read more ]
Housing starts and housing transactions need a helping hand
There’s a plethora of forecasting out at the moment and the danger is one cannot see the wood from the trees. However there is one sector I always track and that is the housing market. Why? Well 80% of our industry’s products end up with the consumer; house prices are an important part of consumer confidence; and, over the years, the level of housing transactions has been a key driver for the major home improvement markets, particularly kitchens, bathrooms and the window and door markets. In the halcyon days of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s over 20% of installations would be with households that sold in the previous year, today the figure is still late teens. Although historically our industry has benefited from people staying put, it has gained much more from people moving. [ read more ]
Another tough year ahead for demand but opportunities are there
Before last months's Autumn Statement (published on December 5th) the main forecasters for the window industry were forecasting 2013 to be another year of modest decline in both the home improvement and public sectors with a market improvement in the house building sector, but still well below the 2007 level. [ read more ]
Reflections on 2012
December/January is when we Epwin Group all take stock of the year that’s been and look forward to the year ahead. So this month I’ve focussed on the year that’s been and next month, after we’ve fully digested the Chancellor’s so-called autumn statement (delivered on 5 December), we will have some pointers for 2013.[ read more ]
Autumn saw the conference season and with it, the usual round of political posturing. We had apologies from one half of the Coalition, Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems on university tuition fees, while his colleague, the chancellor George Osborne, remained resolutely unapologetic for austerity cuts. [ read more ]
'The Conservatory Party'
At the end of last month as the Paralympics were winding down, the Government was winding up for the launch of a proposed 'relaxation' of the planning laws. Renamed the 'Conservatory Party' by the headline writers, it outlined its plans to allow homeowners to extend their properties by up to eight metres without having to go through the full planning process. [ read more ]
'The great, the good and wood?'
The final report by the Independent Panel on Forestry, was published last month. Commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, it suggests that “local authorities should use their Local Plans to introduce a 'wood first' policy for construction projects to increase the use of wood in buildings”. [ read more ]
'Lost in translation?'
Whatever the debate as to their technical merit or otherwise, Window Energy Ratings were supposed to facilitate better communication of window performance to the customer. The same principles were applied to DERS or should I now say DSERs? [ read more ]
'To build or not to build?' Surely that can no longer be a question
Figures published for the delivery of affordable new homes last month made for pretty sober reading. In the last financial year only a little over 15,000 properties were delivered – a staggering 68 per cent drop on the previous year to March 2011 when almost 50,000 homes, still short of the Government’s own targets, were completed. [ read more ]
A constant state of readiness
Earlier this month my boiler packed-in. Talking to the engineer replacing it, I threw in a casual reference to the Green Deal expecting if not an outpouring on the potential opportunities it represents, at the least some 'teeth sucking' and comment on its relative merits or otherwise. "What's that then?" was the reply. [ read more ]
With the Green Deal looming large on the horizon, construction businesses, big and small, have jumped on an environmental bandwagon, committing ‘sins’ as one report described it of ‘no proof’, ‘a sin of vagueness’, ‘irrelevance’ and ‘of downright ‘fibbing’, amongst many others. [ read more ]
Little green men [and women]’ and big business opportunities
Another Ecobuild has come and gone. As in previous years it attracted a heady mix of the great and good – politicians, an eclectic 'gaggle' of 'personalities' each vying to stamp their colours to the green 'cause célèbre.'[ read more ]
Are you being served?
In eras past we used to have a rule: the phone had to be answered within three rings. It’s something basic but the principle remains true: people want service when they want it and if there’s a problem they want to talk to someone who can make it ‘go away’.[ read more ]
A new British Group for the UK building products industry
At the end of last month the Epwin Group and Latium merged to create a new combined operation incorporating many of the building product industry’s top brands, Profile 22, Swish Window and Door Systems, Spectus and Kestrel to name but a few.[ read more ]
I'm going to pick up where I left off last year precisely because business conditions going into the first quarter of 2012 haven't changed and nor should we expect them to change, until the tail end of the year at the very earliest.[ read more ]
A turbulent year in 'A seedy old sector' [?]
"2011 is not going to be easy for anyone" I wrote in my first column of the year. "But we aren’t sliding uncontrollably towards oblivion". At its close, I suggest I wasn’t far off - 2011 was a tough year for the UK window industry and the UK plc more broadly but not the complete disaster that many had feared.[ read more ]
A political head of steam?
'Am I an optimist?' It's a question that I have been asking myself a lot recently because despite continuing economic uncertainty I still see opportunity for the window industry.[ read more ]
Reason for optimism?
Up and down the country there are no doubt plenty of fabricators and installers sitting shedding a tear into their pint as they lament the double whammy of economic downturn and market maturity. And they can be forgiven if they feel a little sorry for themselves, things are difficult, there are challenges but we also shouldn't lose sight of the fact that people are still making money in construction and home improvement.[ read more ]
'A summer of discontent'?
Images of burning houses, shops and cars do little for consumer confidence. Coupled with the continuing fragility of the Euro and uncertainty of economic recovery in United States, plus the downgrading of forecasts for growth at home and things are far from easy for business.[ read more ]
'Every little helps [?]'
"An exciting opportunity to drive a coach and horses through a seedy old sector" – choice words indeed if the Mail is to be believed from Tesco marketing manager Simon Singleton (or as it appears in another incarnation, business development director at Tesco's partner in its latest venture, Job Worth Doing).[ read more ]
...The Proof Is In The Pudding
'The Consumer Protection Report by David Herman FCA, Foreword by Nick Ross (Former BBC Watchdog and Crimewatch Presenter)' – could anything sound more authorative I wonder?[ read more ]
A Third Way
We are at an exceptionally interesting point in the development of our industry. Triple-glazing is a commercial reality.[ read more ]
"The vast bulk of schools will require investment and in some cases their needs are very acute", this was the what can only be described as the damning conclusion of the report into new Labour's flagship Building Schools for the Future program.[ read more ]
An altogether new connotation for the term 'low carb'
At the time of writing economic pundits, the national press - not to mention many within the construction industry - are batting back and forth their predictions, trying to second guess the contents of Mr Osborne’s ‘budget for growth’.[ read more ]
'Burning platforms' - and what we can learn from them
It was either a stroke of genius, a carefully crafted political cannon ball fired across the bow of his internal critics; or a consumer relations fiasco; or perhaps a combination of both; but Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop didn't mince his words.[ read more ]
Off the political agenda?
While in the past I have found myself a critic of the industry's representative bodies, today I find cause for some encouragement. I read with interest comments from the GGF chief executive Nigel Rees that the body intends to push the Government for the inclusion of double glazing in its 'Green Deal, alongside other 'green measures'.[ read more ]
Construction – Part of the UK's not-for-profit sector?
The end of 2010 had one final sting in its tail. As if to rub salt into the wounds caused by the collapse of Connaught and ensuing collapse of Rok, a report by KPMG suggested "similar fallouts" should be expected as "inevitable" in the New Year.[ read more ]
'Deal or no deal' for the window industry
Marks & Spencer, Tesco, B&Q, British Gas – just a number of the companies in talks with the Government on the shape of its grand plan to improve the energy efficiency of the UK's somewhat energy 'leaky' existing housing stock, the Green Deal.[ read more ]
The bitter end of WERs?
Imagine the scene: it's early summer 2009. As a budding 'young' window industry writer (and contrary to Mr Hatcher's assertions in the Top 30 last month that I am 'well past retirement age'!) I sit pondering the latest announcement from Graham Hinett, CEO, BFRC.[ read more ]
Anything but a summer of love for Connaught
It's hard to bounce back from a £13m profit warning in July, a month after the full scale of Connaught's financial plight became apparent the social housing specialist's Chairman Sir Roy Gardner was still putting on a brave face of it, arguing a new £15m overdraft facility amounted 'tangible evidence of support' from its lenders.[ read more ]
The three pillars of sustainability' or 'Why PVC-U is right and sustainability is right for PVC-U in a new age of austerity
I suspect that the title of my column this month will have already put off half its readers but for those who haven't yet given up – stick with it. The 'three pillars' are a rather grandiose way of saying that sustainability isn't just about mulching your kitchen waste and switching off lights when leaving the room but is also about communities, people and economics. And in this context PVC-U performs strongly.[ read more ]
Half full or half empty?
Rises in taxes accompanied by cuts in public spending are a combination pretty unpalatable to most of us but that's more or less exactly what the Rt. Hon. George Osborne MP served up in his June 22nd emergency budget.[ read more ]
Lies, damned lies, and statistics
As I write we're just a few days away from the Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration's emergency budget. We know it's going to be painful (David Cameron has made that perfectly clear), the question is just how painful?[ read more ]
When 'all publicity' isn't necessarily 'good publicity'
Picture the scene, a cup of coffee in one hand a slice of toast in the other and BBC Breakfast on in the background. I suspect I wasn't the only member of the window industry to choke over my cornflakes as the 'Beeb' went from attempted terrorist attacks in New York to the Double Glazing & Conservatory Ombudsman Scheme.[ read more ]
Putting political posturing to one side
Quite what's going to happen over the next couple of days is anyone's guess. The politicians are out in force, kissing babies, shaking hands, taking cover at the mere mention of duck houses and second homes. The outcome of all of this gushing empathy for their fellow man is as unclear as it was a month ago but in some respects it doesn't matter anyway.[ read more ]
What happens after the low hanging fruit has been picked?
In more than two hundred pages double glazing, windows and doors barely get a mention – it has to be another government strategy on climate change![ read more ]
Why extremism is as damaging in construction as it is in politics – a few thoughts on ecobuild
Another year and another ecobuild is behind us. That sounds more blasé than I intended – I'm actually quite taken with it. It's difficult not to be. The 'eco' element today is perhaps a given, if you're in building and your products and services aren't sustainable, you're nowhere these days. The show has become much more of a showcase for innovation in construction.[ read more ]
The final countdown
In October regulation will force the hand of that not insignificant sector of our industry that has wholly failed – despite the best efforts of the BFRC, systems companies and others – to buy in to Window Energy Ratings when changes to Document L of the Building Regulations come into force.[ read more ]
Melting point: VAT and the Copenhagen Climate Summit
How does this sound? You're charged with cutting CO2 emissions by somewhere between 25 and 40 per cent and you have 10 years to do it in. Do you: A) cut VAT on those products and services that can directly support you in achieving this target; or B) do you actually go the other way and increase it? You also, of course, have to factor in a fragile economic recovery.[ read more ]
Less hot air
"After home insulation and more efficient boilers we now need more – double glazing, cavity wall insulation, solid wall insulation. We need much more of a whole house approach – one stop shops where people can get a total report on what they need." Not my words but Lord Adair Turner, chair of the Climate Change Committee. I don't, however, think I could have said it better myself.[ read more ]
'Not us guv – it was the media wot done it'
After three months of being dragged over the coals the media assault on PVC-U appears to have abated.[ read more ]
Lightning does strike twice after all
This summer has been anything but a holiday for the PVC-U industry. News of severe disruption in polymer supply after thunderstorms knocked out power at Ineos ChlorVinyls' Norwegian chemical plant, was enough to make anyone fall off their deck chair.[ read more ]
No 'blood bath' but a sticking plaster fix
This time last year I confidently predicted that the industry would see 'a blood bath' as recession bit. My blushes aside, I'm pleased to say that it hasn't happened but that doesn't mean that we're in any better shape.[ read more ]
Time for a little sobriety
Booms are seductive things. They make businesses look good – even the bad ones. Recessions are far more sobering experiences altogether and sobriety and prudence will be critical going forward.[ read more ]
James Strawbridge, the BFRC and energy efficiency – a white elephant?
I read with interest last month that the British Fenestration Rating Council was throwing its resources behind a new 'look for the label' energy efficient window consumer campaign.[ read more ]
A few more thoughts on recession, recovery and industry exhibitions
In its fifth year, ecobuild 2009 held last month, was an educational experience. Attending as an exhibitor for the second year in succession, it showed us that despite recession, industry shows can flourish – something that should be food for thought for those currently organising Glassex and Interbuild.[ read more ]
How a 'green deal' could be a New Deal for UK plc
In times of difficulty and strife it can be all too easy to sacrifice longer term progress and innovation for that short term fix. Don't get me wrong, if your structure isn't delivering you need to change it – no one in business today can afford to carry unnecessary overheads or costs – but 'throwing the baby out with the bath water' can undermine the long term future. The secret is balance.[ read more ]
Dear Mr Darling: a few thoughts on energy efficiency and VAT
Getting on your soapbox is meant to be what columns are all about.[ read more ]
'Leaner and meaner'
Many of us will have made resolutions this month to shed those extra pounds we put on over Christmas. UK manufacturing too needs to get into better shape so that it comes out of the current economic downturn not only leaner but also meaner.[ read more ]