How can we specify sustainability?

How can we specify sustainability?

Colin Torley explains why window and door specifications need to take a holistic view on sustainability.

The benefits of choosing thermally superior windows and doors for upgrading the energy efficiency of social housing, schools and all other public sector buildings have long been understood. But making a choice to help cut energy usage — as critically important as that is — is only part of what makes a window or door specification a ‘sustainable’ one.

The adoption of life cycle thinking in terms of a product’s design, manufacture, service life and post-use fate has enabled specifiers to consider and compare the holistic sustainability of one window and door over another. And continuous innovation by companies right along the supply chain means there is always scope to improve on the sustainability credentials of a specification whenever a new project is planned.

Here are some of the latest dimensions to consider in the next specification:

Waste reduction and avoiding landfill
What happens to old, post-consumer windows and doors when they are removed during refurbishment projects? There is no need for a single kilogram of waste to go to landfill given the high recyclability of timber, PVC-U, metals, glass and all other materials used to manufacture windows and doors. For example, in 2018-19 CMS Window Systems diverted 100% of its waste including all post-consumer waste, from landfill. It sent 97% of its waste for recycling and 3% was converted from waste-to-energy — that included production waste such as PVC-U off-cuts and packaging too.

Increasing recycled content in new products
Many systems and products used to create new windows and doors are now manufactured using a degree of recycled content. As processes evolve, the proportion of previously used materials in PVC-U profiles, glazing and metal hardware is gradually increasing in line with ‘closed loop’ thinking. New double glazed units are now available which contain nearly 40% post-use glass, easing the pressure for ‘virgin’ raw materials.

CMS Window Systems recycling facility at the CMS Window Systems depot in Kirkcaldy, Fife on December 22nd 2016.

Product manufacturing’s environmental impact
How sustainable are the factories producing your new windows and doors? The industrial and manufacturing sectors are responsible for a large proportion of the UK’s overall CO2 emissions, so it is important that all supply chain partners are playing their part by making progressive changes in their operational processes.

Heating the offices and factories using biomass boilers, for example, has reduced fossil fuel consumption at CMS. This achieves a carbon saving of around 95% versus oil. But the impact of a business on its local environment should also be considered too. Here a biodiversity programme can make a big difference, with active management of local wildlife habitats to manage flora and fauna. Any factory site or location can implement a programme, with even the smallest steps such as installing bird/bee/bug boxes capable of making a positive contribution.

Greener transportation to site
Consumers are gradually shifting from diesel and petrol vehicles to electric, and businesses are increasingly being able to utilise the technology as it matures and becomes more commercially viable. CMS has already added the first electrically-powered van it its fleet and others will follow, and their impact will be closely monitored to establish the CO2 savings in the long term.

CMS Window Systems windows installed in Ferguslie Park Housing Association properties, Ferguslie Park, Paisley, Renfrewshire.

Socially sustainable practices
The importance of social sustainability and how businesses in the supply chain are making a positive difference to people must not be overlooked. Strategies to ensure young people have credible career options are extremely valuable, which is why CMS has set up its CMS Academy for apprentices, as is being a Living Wage employer and investment in employee wellbeing. The training of mental health first aiders, for example, is just one of the ways that the workplace is improving in this respect.

Economic sustainability
None of the environmental or social benefits outlined here can be delivered by a supply chain partner if they are not commercially sound, which is why the financial integrity of a supplier cannot be overlooked. Well-managed businesses can provide stable employment and re-invest profit back into the business to create more jobs and support the local economy, extending the benefits into the whole community.

Colin Torley is Market Development Director at CMS Window Systems

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