By Tony Pell, Chairman of the Wood Window Alliance – article first published in Structural Timber, April 2019
Wood has been the natural choice for windows and doors for centuries. However, over the last few decades, housebuilders have chosen to install PVC-U windows over wood windows as it was perceived that they provide a longer life. This has often resulted in properties scarred with stark out-of-place PVC-U windows.
Having worked in the timber industry for 20 years, I’ve witnessed significant advancements in technology and manufacturing which has driven the use of timber across a variety of projects, from social housing to healthcare and education. The world’s oldest and most traditional building material is being increasingly revaluated as a modern-day first choice.
Independent research by Heriot Watt University looked at a typical casement wooden window made to WWA standards and found that the window had an expected average service life of 60 years; double that of a PVCu window at 30 years. This provides those who favour wood for construction purposes with a wonderful opportunity to share the truth: wooden windows actually provide longevity far beyond what plastic can hope to.
Maintenance, too, is easier than many believe. When made to WWA standards, factory-finished windows come with a supplier-backed coating guarantee – typically 10 years for paint and seven years for stain coatings, dependent on exposure.
Overall, there is a growing appetite for natural materials – homeowners especially don’t want their houses to contribute to global warming and would much rather see their home built with timber sourced from sustainable forests, where more trees get planted than chopped down. Research carried out on behalf of WWA shows British homeowners perceive wooden windows as the most environmentally friendly (44%), most aesthetically pleasing (44%), the nicest to live with (33%) and providing the most character (56%).
This is why wood windows made to WWA standard have negative Global Warming Potential over their estimated 60 year life service, with each frame saving 160kg CO2 over its estimated lifecycle compared to a PVCu equivalent. Additionally, all WWA members hold either FSC® or PEFC™ chain of custody certification to show how they source timber from sustainably managed forests.
Wooden windows are suitable for all sorts of buildings – another misconception worth highlighting, as many associate natural windows with older properties. WWA members get involved in all types of project – from sympathetic replacement of original windows in listed properties through to contemporary designs with slim sightlines and triple glazing.
As a renewable, eco-friendly material coupled with modern manufacturing, wood is proving to be the catalyst for architecture and construction professionals in creating spaces that promote lower carbon emissions, longevity, beauty and a real connection to nature.