Angela Welsh presents a snapshot of the world of windows, doors and hardware, as gleaned from some for the experts that gathered for this year's specialist fenestration conference in Queensland.
Energy-efficient glazing emerged as a major focal point of Australia’s glass and fenestration industry when the Australian Glass and Glazing Association and the Australian Window Association co-hosted AUSFENEX in September.
Hundreds of industry participants met on the Gold Coast for a three-day round of discussions and exhibits covering areas ranging from energy efficiency to cyclone-resistant windows.
The event opened with a presentation from Finnish glass expert Jorma Vitkala, organising committee chairman of Glass Performance Days. His speech, titled ‘Worldwide Glass & Window Trends’, covered a number of industry changes, from international business practices to solar glazing.
The key trend he identified is that demand for glass with solar control properties is likely to increase in the next few years.
Judging from the current situation, we can expect that demand to be massive. In 2010, Vitkala explains, the global glass market constituted approximately 52 million tonnes of glass, mostly sourced from China. And within the Chinese glass industry, the greatest investment going on is in coatings for low thermal emissivity (low-E).
There are many new technologies for architectural glass now emerging that will be used in windows and façades in future.
Building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), while still a new technology, is rapidly gaining momentum. Looking forward, by 2020 it is expected that 900 million sqm of glass will be used in solar applications.
An example Vitkala describes is a series of light emitting diodes (LEDs) being housed inside a glass unit, allowing it to act as one huge TV screen.
Another newcomer is LED technology that can change the colour of glass. Some architects use polyvinyl butyral (PVB) laminated glass to create colourful façades and also to construct safety glass.
Other innovations to look out for include glazed balconies and energy-saving technologies such as double-skin facades and custom printing on glass.
Cost comes first
The most pressing issue at present remains matching architectural specifications with client budgets, says Scott Coppin, director at custom joinery company Hampton & Larsson.
“The demands of BASIX (the Government’s Building Sustainability Index) and new bushfire construction standards are driving the use of quality windows and inclusions,” he says.
However the stringent quality requirements also drives up prices to the extent that costs have become prohibitive in some projects. The updated Bushfire Construction Standard AS 3959-2009 presents an improved definition of fire hazard or threat, which requires a more detailed specification of timber species and hardware that can be used in the manufacturing process.
Double glazing is being more frequently specified, which Coppin sees as a positive trend.
“Hopefully the increased use of double glazing will help suppliers reduce its cost in the medium term,” he says.
The price versus performance problem
Due to the downturn in economic activity in the building industry, the push for cheaper product has increased and means price is too often considered before performance, according to Doric marketing manager Tom Arciuli.
He says the major downside of choosing cheaper materials and manufacturing is the longer term warranty and maintenance issues that result. This is a real issue when it comes to hinges and door closers.
An upside, Arciuli says, is that there is a growing demand for points of difference when it comes to visual components such as door handles.
Disabled access standards
Another concern, according to Arciuli, is that the new disabled access standards include inconsistencies that make it difficult to comprehend and apply.
The new AS1428 has placed a new restriction on door handles; they must have a gap of no less than 35mm and no more than 45mm from the face of the door. Most handles would be around 50mm, Arciuli estimates.
The purpose of the new requirement is to limit the possibility of someone’s arm getting caught between the handle and the door.
“The obvious point is: What age arm? A child and teenager and adult?” Arciuli asks.
“It seems very strange. It is also seems ridiculous when a pull handle for the same door or a grab rail in a disabled toilet or a handle rail down stairs doesn’t have the same restriction.”
Openings: a weak point in the thermal envelope
Archie Shaw from Hafele says while the trend is toward using wide open glazed areas, a problem faced by designers and specifiers is that windows and glass are seen as the weak point within a building envelope as they account for the majority of heat loss and heat gain.
“Homes now need to achieve a prescribed energy rating,” he says. “The problem for many architects is knowing which products are suitable for them to continue to use in wide open glass spaces. The positive side to this is that there are many new products, both in glass as well as frames which meet and exceed the requirements as set out by the BCA.”
With the updates to energy efficiency requirements, across differing climate zones, it is vital that windows and doors are recognised as tested by an accredited Australian/National Fenestration Rating Council (AFRC/NFRC) member and are seen on the Window Energy Rating Scheme (WERS) website.
“Architects, designers, builders and fabricators all have the responsibility to ensure they are using the correct window or door type for each geographical area,” notes Shaw.
Don’t forget security
For Assa Abloy marketing communications manager Nick Penny, a key issue is that the process of choosing suitable door hardware and security products is often neglected. The challenge, he says, stems from the fact there are thousands of products of varying quality on the market. And an influx of cheap imports is exacerbating the situation.
The company directs specifiers to seek locks that meet Australian standards to ensure the product has been tested for security, durability and corrosion resistance.
Next, the lock is only as good as the door it is being fitted to. For external doors ensure that it is a solid core door with a minimum thickness of 34mm.
Another aspect that is often overlooked is the door frame. Higher quality dead bolts that meet Australian standards are supplied with boxed strike with concealed cross grain door frame strengthening screw. This provides increased security for the door frame against attack.
The locking bolt also provides a pivotal role when providing security. Products should have a counterbalance bolt, as this distributes the load between the door and frame for maximum strength. Rim locks and dead latches can also used for this application.