ALack of proper fenestration standards and specifications in the Gulf is one of the biggest issues facing the industry, a senior official from Veka, a leading German manufacturer of uPVC profiles for windows and doors, told Gulf Construction.
Speaking at the recent opening of Veka’s new office in the Dubai Airport Free Zone, general manager Middle East and Africa, Venky Kosaraju said: “Although specifications have been set for façade systems and curtain-walling in the GCC region, there is an urgent need for standards and specifications to be adopted when it comes to window technology. In addition, there is a need for a regional watchdog or committee for the fenestration industry to monitor the implementation of the specifications, once a particular standard is stipulated. In some projects, for example, even though standards are specified at the planning stage, they are overlooked during the implementation stage to cut costs.”
In the absence of these standards, windows and doors being installed in many parts of the region are falling way short of international standards, according to him. To back up his assertion, Kosaraju pointed out the findings of a survey conducted by the Veka technical team supported by a team of fenestration experts. The survey was conducted in the markets of Iran and Kuwait, during which they inspected windows made from various materials. According to him, 95 per cent of the surveyed windows failed to meet the minimum quality standards being applied in Germany and elsewhere in Western Europe. The windows, he said, were tested for air filtration, energy savings, performance, water and air-tightness, security and ease of operation.
He attributed the inferior quality to the poor choice of material used and bad workmanship, not just in the fabrication but also in the installation of the windows. Also, the windows were not properly insulated, not just in terms of thermal but also of air and water insulation. As a result, the windows were not only energy inefficient, they also would not prevent water and dust from entering the room, in case of sandstorms or rainfall, he pointed out.
Kosaraju indicated, however, that Iran has taken positive steps in this area, through the Iranian Fuel Conservation Organization IFCO, which stipulates and implements standards and norms for energy conservation in buildings. One of its functions is to identify suitable thermal insulation material and ensure that its specifications are implemented in the fenestration industry. The specification called building code No. 19 is now mandatory in most provinces of Iran and has led to a spurt in demand for uPVC windows with double glazing, which are highly energy-efficient as compared to other materials, according to him.
“It is a good start for the region, and hopefully the neighbouring Gulf countries will catch up soon,” he added.
Commenting on the inherent thermal insulation properties and other advantages of uPVC window profiles, Bonifatius Eichwald, Veka's member of the board – sales and marketing, claimed that uPVC as a material fares far better than aluminium as an insulating material. For example, conventional aluminum with a single pane of clear glass, as is generally used in this region, has a thermal transmittance ‘U’ value of about 5.8 W/sq m K. The second category of aluminum windows, featuring thermally-broken aluminum with clear double glazing, has thermal transmittance of about 3.5 W/sq m K. In comparison, uPVC frames with clear double glazing have a thermal transmittance value as low as 1.8 W/sq m K.
“If good quality, insulated double-glazed uPVC windows, which have been fabricated and installed the right way, are used then they can result in an energy saving of 35 to 40 per cent as compared to other materials,” he said. Other advantages of using uPVC profiles is that it is easy to manufacture and lends itself well to all kinds of architectural shapes and colours, Eichwald added.
Commenting on international trends, Eichwald pointed out that biggest move in Europe and the Americas has been towards using better insulated windows to save energy, a move prompted by high energy costs and environmental concerns. “This explains the growing popularity of uPVC as a material for the fenestration industry,” he said.
Back in 1969, when Veka was founded, the general market share of uPVC windows in Germany was only 20 per cent, while today it stands at 58 per cent in the country and at almost 70 per cent in the UK. Also, uPVC is the preferred window profile material in the renovation market throughout the world, with a whopping 80 per cent of the market share,” he continued.
However, the Middle East and African markets have yet to catch up on this trend, with uPVC's market share amounting to only eight to 10 per cent, while aluminum ruling the roost with an 85 per cent market share. The main reason why aluminium is still being preferred, according to him, is that the product concept and advantages of uPVC windows are relatively new to this region.
Veka is a global company with a turnover of €750 million ($1.12 billion) and exports to more than 50 countries. It has 18 subsidiaries worldwide, which extrude profiles, and nine offices worldwide, including its newly-opened Dubai office.
Veka has tailored a profile system called Veka Softline AD to suit the requirements of the Middle East region. This 58-mm-wide system is said to have a track record performance for the past nearly 14 years in this region, mainly due to its slim profile, neat finish and aesthetically appealing contours, besides its excellent insulating properties.
“Architects prefer this slim system over bulky ones, as they prefer the glass to be more visually pronounced and the frames to be thin and visually insignificant,” Kosaraju pointed out.
All Veka profiles that are being extruded in Germany and supplied to this region are made in a UV (ultraviolet)-stabilised tropical mix compound formulation, designed to withstand the harsh desert climatic conditions and high UV rays of the region. The company has a large network of Veka-licensed fabricator partners all over the Middle East, who are trained by Veka to manufacture uPVC windows in keeping with its standards.