Second generation uPVC windows offer some significant advantages compared with their first generation predecessors. Widely recognised benefits include improved security, reduced heat loss and better fuel economy, as well as increased durability. However, many social landlords are deterred from upgrading their window assets due to the perceived costs. For Housing Associations with 30,000 or more housing units, the prospect of an upgrade can be intimidating when faced with tightened maintenance budgets.
In this article, we’ll try to present an argument to prove that upgrading your window stock from 1st to 2nd generation uPVC is good, not only for your residents, but a cost-effective move for your organisation as well.
What upgrading means for you
Let’s start by defining what upgrading means and, crucially, what it doesn’t. The dictionary defines upgrading as…
“To raise (something) to a higher standard, in particular to improve (equipment or machinery) by adding or replacing components.”
So, upgrading your Windows does not mean taking them all out and replacing the whole window. For instance, carrying out an upgrade does not mean that the existing UPVC framing needs to be replaced and thrown away. It is possible to upgrade all existing components of a UPVC window without removing the uPVC frame. It is simply a matter of replacing certain window components. The glazing, hardware (handles, hinges, locking mechanisms, restrictors) and rubber gaskets can be replaced by specialists easily with modern equivalents.
There is a clear financial incentive for social landlords to regularly upgrade their window stock. Most social landlords give uPVC windows a life expectancy (lifecycle) of 25-30 years, but it is the components that break down before this time, mainly due to a lack of maintenance, wear and tear and misuse. Double-glazed window units, for instance, typically only have a lifecycle of ten years and most manufacturers will only guarantee five. Therefore, to get the full value out of the projected lifecycle of a window, components need to be upgraded on a regular basis. This aids financial planning and prevents unexpected costs due to having to replace the complete window prematurely before the end of the lifecycle.
Why Residents Deserve an Upgrade
For social housing residents, many of whom are vulnerable or living on limited means, a window upgrade is a practical and an affordable way of improving their quality of life. Around 2.6 million social dwellings in the UK underwent uPVC window and door replacement programmes before 2002 (when the building regulations changed) and typically offer a G Window Energy Rating (WER). By modern standards this is extremely inefficient.
New double glazing in private houses can often provide an A, or A++ energy rating, with the minimum expected standard being C. This means that residents with the least means of affording high energy bills are being burdened with unnecessary energy costs due to inefficient windows.
The English Housing Survey released by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in 2015 suggests that 21% of social housing failed to meet the decent homes standard in 2013. Of these, 72% failed due to being energy inefficient. Replacing single glazing with A-rated double glazing could save residents £8,211 and 22 tonnes of CO2 in energy costs over the lifecycle of a typical detached house, or £5,855 and 16 tonnes of CO2 in a semi-detached house, by using the Glass and Glazing Federation’s energy saving and carbon calculator.
With substantial cost savings to be had for you and your residents, surely you both deserve an upgrade?
Benefits of Upgrading
There are four major benefits to be had from upgrading your window components in the course of their lifecycle.
1) Increased Energy Efficiency: As noted above, window upgrades can save your residents considerable money on heating bills, aiding in the fight against fuel poverty. Upgrading the double-glazed unit alone could improve the window’s thermal performance by as much as 56%.
2) Lower Maintenance Bills: For you, upgrading the hardware means replacement parts are easier to obtain during the windows’ second generation. Therefore, your maintenance and repair costs are going to be significantly lower. Upgrading all the windows and doors in a property could save in excess of 100kg of maintenance material over the lifecycle (based on a standard three bed house with a uPVC front and back door).
3) Improved Environmental Control: It isn’t only fuel economy that is improved by window upgrades. Additional environmental benefits also become immediately apparent, such as better sound-proofing, improved solar control, extra heat penetration through glazing and further ventilation, leading to reduced build-up of damp in the dwelling.
4) Improved Security: A lot of the existing old PVC windows are externally glazed, which means that the double glazed units that sit in the actual window frame are attached from the outside. This brings security problems, as the glazing beads that clip in to hold in the glazed unit are accessible from the exterior and prone to being attacked by burglars. Upgrading the window units to 2nd generation versions removes this by adding an additional layer of security to deter intruders.
Increasing your Lifecycle
Upgrading your window stock is good for both social landlords and their residents. The most cost-effective approach to asset management is not to avoid expenses, but to proactively plan to adopt the latest technologies and so expand the serviceable lifecycle of your assets. For more information about our specialist door and window services for social landlords, please give us a call today or send us an email through our website.