WHO MAKES IT — Coed Derwen was set up last year to make doors and windows from local Welsh hardwood. And its green credentials have already attracted the attention of Prince Charles.

Hardwood door and window manufacturer Coed Derwen was launched last December by Anthony A Davies Group, a Welsh joiner and construction company. Anthony A Davies was founded in 1980 and has 70 staff. The seven-strong Coed Derwen, which is about to open a 930m2 production unit and double its workforce, hopes to increase its turnover to £1m in the next year. General manager Ian Widdrington explains how the company is developing its green credentials.

Q: Why did you set up a specialist doors and windows company?

A: Our idea was to produce doors and windows with wood that doesn’t travel further than a mile to our factory. We make windows and doors by laminating small-section Welsh oak and Welsh sweet chestnut that come from renewable sources in the Wentworth forest of the Wye Valley.

Q: What are the advantages of laminated hardwood windows?

A: Through our timber lamination process, we manage to produce hardwood windows that are the same price as softwood windows. We’ve just been contacted by a housing association that is interested in our products. It said it didn’t want plastic windows any more because it looked at the life cycle and realised plastic needs to be replaced after 10 years or so.

Q: In what other aspects is your company environmentally friendly?

A: We use Pilkington glass to improve the U-value of our windows, which exceed the heat loss requirements by 20%. We recycle the timber off-cuts by giving them to local farmers as bedding material for animals. We’re also planning to use the wood chippings and trimmings taken from the making of the products to burn in a biomass boiler that will heat the production facilities.

Q: Which sectors are busy?

A: The residential sector represents 70% of our work. Commercial companies are using the cheapest doors and windows they can. They think plastic windows are good enough because they don’t look at whole-life cost issues.

Q: What projects are you working on now?

A: We’re supplying four single-sash and twin-sash windows to Prince Charles’ shooting lodge at the Tibberton estate near Hereford. The windows are made from Forest Stewardship Council-accredited Welsh oak. He wanted local people with green credentials to work on this project. At the University of Wales’ new Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Bangor, we’re supplying 125 similar windows but they are larger – typically 1.6 × 1m.

Q: What has been the most challenging project to date?

A: The Bangor job because the windows were the largest we had ever produced. The architect wanted big windows so we produced single modular units that are joined together to make windows up to 7m long. But the biggest technical challenge is a triangular-shaped window to sit in a roof.

Q: How do you work with specifiers?

A: We organise face-to-face meetings with the specifiers, work on drawings and the quotation together and then visit the site to measure up. People often assume that triple glazing is better than double glazing. But we have to explain that a special glass is used for double glazing, which is doubly coated and very good at stopping noise. Triple glazing is good for airports or other places where the noise level is extremely high. Otherwise, we are not convinced it’s worth it.

Q: What’s the lead time for products?

A: It varies, but typically 12 weeks.

Q: What innovations are you working on?

A: We have more than 30 types of windows and doors. We’ve developed a ventilation system for windows that can’t be seen from the outside. It offers a high level of engineering not traditionally associated with joinery.

We’re also working on producing traditionally laminated doors and conservatory roof lights.

Q: Could you be hit by materials shortages?

A: No, because 95% of our materials come from the same postcode and we have a single supply chain that represents 95% of our purchases. We deal with suppliers that can quickly respond to a significant demand and know that we’re not going to hop to someone else for 2p cheaper on the prices. This year we funded the planting of 2000 oak trees at Trellech in Monmouthshire and we will do that again.

Q: What are your expansion plans?

A: We have local customers, but also work in London, Margate and Halifax. We have projects that should go ahead in France. And there is nothing to stop us from exporting to the whole world. Well, apart from glaciers, because nobody in the company likes such a cold climate …

Specifier 17 November 2006