Eurocell | Making the right specification choice

Eurocell | Making the right specification choice

Gordon Heron, Business Development Manager at Eurocell, believes following some best practice principles will help local authorities and housing associations achieve better outcomes as they look to maintain, refurbish, or replace windows across their housing stock. They can also help to drive sustainability objectives as responsible product specification becomes more important.

Like all sectors, local authorities and housing associations charged with delivering good quality and long-lasting housing stock, are increasingly mindful of the importance of sustainability when it comes to the many product specification choices they must make.

Balancing both the need to deliver value for money for the public purse, alongside growing public and legislative demand for organisations to make sustainable product selection a higher priority, is placing pressure on public sector decision makers looking to maintain, refurbish or renew essential housing stock components such as windows.

The requirement to satisfy local government targets around recycling and the use of recycled products in specification, are only set to grow in importance as the climate crisis intensifies and solutions are sought.

Whilst cost remains the chief determining factor for many window-based public tenders, the split between price and quality — which includes facets such as material origin, performance, and sustainability — is closing. This direction of travel is expected to continue in the years ahead. A focus on sustainable solutions will need to be at the heart of current and future housing stock strategies.

For public sector managers looking to get the most effective outcomes from either one-off refurbishment, new-build projects or longer-term building maintenance programmes that cater for a large volume of properties, considering four key areas of specification best practice will help establish a strong and sustainable framework by which to manage and implement public sector tenders that can tie up significant public funds.

Don’t restrict your choice
A common issue seen across the sector is the impact of out-of-date window specifications. Legacy management often creates situations where specifications are issued to a closed shop encompassing a small list of historical suppliers. The spec frequently cites products that are no longer available or targets manufacturing companies no longer in business. Sticking to this approach limits the opportunity to see what the wider window specification marketplace can offer, and with it the prospect of achieving best value and optimal sustainability product performance from the specification. Extending choice, not restricting options will deliver improved outcomes.

Look to partner with experts
A successful specification process on a major citywide window refurbishment project can be drawn out and often complex. But by partnering with expert window manufacturing suppliers from the outset, assistance can be provided to ensure the result achieves the original objectives.

A partnership approach can help assess the current housing stock and agree on future needs; helping to provide an expert-based recommendation for a product specification that meets cost, performance, and sustainability targets. Eurocell already does this with many organisations, assisting local authorities and housing associations to shape their specification appropriately and interrogating views so the ultimate aims and objectives of the project can be met.

Eurocell also provides access to a range of national and regional manufacturing and installation businesses so the final like for like tender can be circulated widely to proven solution providers and the best all-round response for cost, performance and sustainability selected.

This partnership philosophy can lead to tangible benefits that also support sustainability agendas. For example, Eurocell’s service that removes and recycles end of life windows directly impacts project cost positively. The old windows collected and recycled by Eurocell are subsequently used to manufacture new profiles with 50-60% recycled content. They go on to be used as new replacement windows and are an example of a true circular economy in action.

Think longer term
Whilst the day-to-day pressures of maintaining housing stock to the standards demanded by stakeholders can mean short-term objective setting and annual budgets dominate, taking a longer-term view can also deliver positive outcomes. Instigating, with the help of expert suppliers, a 25-year maintenance plan for windows, will, over the lifetime of the project, deliver defined cost efficiencies more difficult to achieve when adopting an ad-hoc, piecemeal strategy. Whole lifetime cost savings can be reinvested back into the scheme in the form of higher specification window solutions that will enhance the day-to-day experience of tenants through better insulated, warmer, and drier homes.

Consider all aspects
Finally, when making product specification choices, it is important to take a rounded view of all aspects, especially to ensure a focus remains on good sustainability outcomes. From a product perspective, look at the raw material content. What is the level of recycled content in the window profiles? Examine the manufacturing process, so you are clear where the windows are created and how they are distributed. Are they made here in the UK or are they manufactured and then transported from overseas? What are the sustainability credentials of the company behind the window profiles? What are they doing to ensure they operate sustainably and responsibly? Look at the thermal performance of the specified window. Does it meet the minimum requirements as set out in Building Regulations or are you looking to future proof housing stock so it can satisfy more stringent legislation in the years to come? Will the window perform in a way to help tenants tackle rising energy costs through better insulation and ventilation? Do the windows provide an acceptable level of security so people feel safe in their homes?

By examining the product specification from a holistic standpoint, decision-makers will be able to make informed choices and select an appropriate window solution that delivers value for money, performs effectively for years, and underpins important sustainability targets.

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