WHO MAKES IT - Self-cleaning glass is the big seller for Pilkington, purveyor of cladding products since 1826. And it has teams of researchers busy making its ranges more energy efficient and better at transmitting light.
Pilkington manufactures a wide range of float, coated, rolled, laminated and toughened glass products, as well as insulating glass units. The company was founded in 1826 and became a member of NSG Group in June 2006. The group has 36,000 employees worldwide, including 3,800 in the UK. NSG’s global sales stand at about £4bn a year, with £300m for the UK building products division. David Pinder, Pilkington’s managing director, discusses the state of the glazing market.
Q: Which sectors are busy at the moment?
A: The home improvement market has been quite flat in the past 18 months, because the price of houses hasn’t been rising so people don’t want to invest in property. But it is showing signs of recovery. Similarly, the private residential new-build market is quite flat.
The public housing market is buoyant, however, and the private commercial sector doesn’t show any real sign of slowing down. Next year’s Comprehensive Spending Review will affect the public sector markets, though.
Q: What has been the impact of new Building Regulations on your products?
A: The last time Part L was revised in 2002, energy-saving products experienced considerable growth. The latest revision to Part L, which came into force in April, has opened things up again with its focus on the U-value of windows. Now we consider the impact of all the elements of a building on its energy efficiency.
We’re moving from the nightmare of designing smaller and smaller windows to create bigger glazing areas. The G-value – energy gain through solar transmittance – is becoming more important, particularly in residential schemes. We launched Optiwhite to offer a much higher light transmittance and demand is growing.
Q: Which other products are popular?
A: The real hit is the self-cleaning products from our Planar range. We developed those with the residential sector in mind. Laminated Planar Activ and solar glass is very popular for conservatory roofs, used in combination with blue-tinted solar products.
An independent report from BRE on self-cleaning glass has shown that across the whole-life cycle, it is really competitive. It has a payback period of three to 11 years, depending on the amount of glazing in the building. That’s why we’re expecting a rise in demand from the commercial sector.
Q: Has Planar been used on any large projects?
A: The most recent has been Battery Park ferry terminal in New York. The project team specified SG Laminated Planar to help transform the building into a high-tech ferry terminal that would offer spectacular views of the Hudson river shoreline.
Q: What other technical developments are you working on?
A: Apart from Planar, the most important development is the move towards lighter and cleaner glazing. We try to develop toughenable coated glazing to deliver high light transmission. We invest about £30m a year in our development team.
Q: How do you work with specifiers?
A: We organise seminars and one-to-one meetings on request. But we’re increasingly using online resources. We put all our technical bulletins on our website and specifiers can download information about the technical characteristics of products. We have also launched a free software program on our website to help them calculate the energy performance of buildings.
Q: What are your lead times for products?
A: Some are available off the shelf and we can provide standard and bespoke solutions within four to six weeks. Lead times are not a problem. What’s more critical is when there is a delay in the project and you have the products ready to go, which can create problems with logistics.
Q: How do you cope with the rise in oil and gas prices?
A: Like the rest of the glass industry, we have adopted an energy surcharge. If the cost of energy goes up, the price of building products go up as well.