A window to the future

Phil Brown of Pilkington UK looks at three advanced glazing trends that can help make your project more sustainable, as well as some of the regulatory measures you need to be aware of when building or renovating your own home

Specifying the right glass and glazing is an essential part of any building or renovation project. Windows and glass facades have the power to transform the appearance of a building, fill spaces with natural light, create the illusion of bigger spaces, and help connect occupants with the outdoors.

But if a project is going to be a forever home, it needs to be fit for the future – not just by looking good, but by doing good too. Self-builders must consider both the aesthetic value and the environmental benefits it creates with regard to its impact on a building’s energy performance.

The ethical case for sustainable development is growing in line with concerns over the climate crisis. But policymakers are laying new regulatory frameworks to steer the creation of homes with a reduced environmental impact, introducing a new legal case for self-builders to consider too. 

Nearly 15% of the UK’s total emissions come from heating homes, and the Government is legally bound to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 78% compared to 1990 levels in less than 15 years. This commitment has triggered an array of regulatory changes to improve the energy efficiency of buildings. 

These will have a significant impact on the type of glass that must be used in buildings that any self-builder needs to be aware of.

So, sustainability needs to increasingly be front of mind when building or renovating a home, which is where high-performance glazing can deliver major benefits.

Solar control glass 

Solar control glass allows daylight to pass through a window or facade while reflecting away the sun’s heat to help prevent overheating, which can improve a building’s environmental performance by reducing reliance on cooling systems.

The specialist glass has an increasing role to play in UK architecture, with 61% of architects seeing a spike in demand for solar control glass. They attribute this trend to climate change, driving the need for energy efficient cooling solutions, as well as building regulations. This includes changes to an existing building regulation in England and Wales known as Part L, which legislates for the conservation of fuel and power.

Building regulation for new homes will include a section on glazing’s role in limiting the effects of solar gains in summer, introducing requirements for certain levels of shading, depending on where in the UK the property is located. These are expected to come into force in mid-2022 and specifics can be found on the Government website, but solar control glass will have a key role to play in helping to meet these requirements. Developers will need to consider much more carefully in their designs how to limit solar gains during the summer.

Thermal insulation glass 

Thermal insulation, or low-emissivity glass, is central to energy conservation and comfort in a home, minimising heat loss and reducing the need for central heating. It works by reflecting the energy emitted by heating systems and surfaces back into the room, while also allowing the heat of the sun’s rays to pass through the glass and passively warm the house. This can be hugely valuable in the winter months, helping families to reduce their central heating usage.

Building regulations to limit the heat loss from dwellings have been around for a while, with Part L1A outlining the requirements for new dwellings, and L1B for replacement windows fitted in existing dwellings. They dictate that fabric elements, such as windows and glazed doors, must meet or exceed certain U-values and, in the case of existing residential buildings, Window Energy Ratings, which quantify the energy performance of glazing, effectively mandating low-emissivity glass as standard. Requirements can also be higher when glass elements exceed a certain percentage of floor area.

However, standards are set to become more stringent for both new and existing dwellings following the Government’s recent consultation on Part L to tackle the climate crisis. The proposed changes will result in windows with lower (i.e. better) U-values, particularly for new build, the requirements are anticipated to increase the prevalence of triple glazing. This is also driving the increased requirement for thermal insulation glass, with 51% of architects reporting a surge in demand.

Heated glass 

Glass doesn’t just have a role to play in preventing heat gain and loss from your home – it can also be used to actively generate heat. Heated glass has an electrically conductive coating, allowing electricity to pass through and create a radiant heat source. It can be used in an array of different design features, from bi-fold doors to large picture windows, to help prevent condensation build-up and offer unobscured views of your home’s surroundings.

Powered by only a small amount of electricity, heated glass also helps maintain thermal comfort if you are considering a heat pump to heat your home instead of a traditional gas boiler. This alternative heating solution runs on electricity, significantly reducing heating costs, and is low carbon. The Government is likely to implement a gas boiler ban in new homes from 2025 as part of its climate strategy, meaning such technology is likely to become much more commonplace. As well as mitigating unsightly condensation, heated glass could play a role in providing ‘top up’ heating.

Fit for the future 

Solar control, thermal insulation and heated glass are three types of specialist glass that can help to reduce your home’s environmental impact, cut energy bills and create a comfortable living environment year-round. These complementary solutions can be used in combination to ensure that your development is sustainable and compliant with Government regulations, both present and future, while not compromising on the aesthetic appeal of your forever home.

Phil Brown is European regulatory marketing manager at Pilkington UK, part of the NSG Group