Fendor manufactures and installs performance glazing ranging from standard commercial curtain walls and windows to specialist fire and security glazing systems.

In December 2006 it underwent a management buyout and since then it has invested £400,000 in a new aluminium profile plant enabling it to offer both steel and aluminium framed systems.

The firm employs 60 people mainly at its base in Gateshead and has a turnover of about £8m a year which it hopes to take into double figures in the next two years. Chris Duffy, managing director, gives an insight into the changing world of high-performance glazing.

Describe your market

We offer a range of specialist glazing solutions including fire glazing, security glazing and specialist solutions such as atriums and acoustical glazing. The type of things we might be asked to provide range from bespoke acoustic curtain walls to fully glazed, frameless doors. We work with most of the large main contractors as well as directly with clients and architects at the specification stage depending on the nature of the job.

Which are the busiest sectors?

As well as commercial, the biggest sectors for us at the moment are healthcare and education. It’s extremely busy, we’re getting lots of enquiries from architects, and most of the main contractors are saying they can’t find enough good quality subcontractors to do facade-type work. We’ve recently won a £1m order for one-hour fire-rated glazing, which is quite rare.

Material price rises and shortages are having an impact at the moment. It’s mainly on the aluminium side rather than the glazing or steel.

When do you get involved in specification?

It depends on the type of building and the application. We’re quite often involved in the specification right at the early stages and we’re finding, particularly with security projects, that the client wants to get involved. A good example of this is the NHS; they will get involved in the type of window system to be specified and we’ll make up samples and carry out testing for them, quite often before the architect has got involved and before a main contractor has been brought on board. The other end of the scale is the small to medium-sized curtain wall projects where we’ll tender through the main contractor and won’t get involved in the specification at all.

On the fire side there is a lot of demand from architects for CPD seminars. Although you get a lot of fire engineering going on at client and main contractor level, the architects still want to understand the requirements and solutions for fire glazing applications, so they want to know the obligations even if they are later designed out.

What product developments have you been working on?

We’ve been granted a European patent for our SecureLine high-security window glazing system. The way in which the system is glazed allows a sacrificial layer of glazing, such as polycarbonate or laminated glass, to be used on the attack side of the window. The sacrificial glazing also protects the double-glazed unit, which is used to obtain the required U-values for Building Regulations approval. If the sacrificial glazing becomes damaged, the special fixing system allows it to be replaced quickly and easily. The windows have been tested to LPS 1175 and achieve a security rating of SR3 for restricted opening and SR4 for fixed windows. We’re also working on a new steel window system and a hybrid aluminium system. This is still in the early stages but it could use aluminium in a steel system or an enhanced aluminium system; we see quite a good market opportunity here.

What other developments can we expect?

There is an increasing shift towards unitised cladding systems. A few years ago the market share was quite small but it’s been steadily growing. It’s not something we have got into yet but it will be. A lot of it’s been driven by the main contractors who want to get more manufacturing off site Technically it’s a more complex solution and it requires much finer tolerances at the interface between the building frame and the cladding units to make sure it can be installed successfully.