Well, I'll pickle my windows!
This post is not for the faint-hearted, as it's something I'm incredibly passionate about. Brace yourselves... I hate plastic windows and doors and want to see them outlawed from property 'renovations'!!!
Right, now I have your attention (well, at least those of you who either agree with me, or want to read my reasoning) I'll explain myself.
Reasons for choosing uPVC (not!)
The home-owners who choose uPVC windows are doing so for one of two reasons:
1) they are ignorant of the alternatives; or,
2) they believe they are the only 'maintenance free' option.
One element that's not at all considered when choosing uPVC is the devastating harm that's done to the planet, yet they continue to be a 'cheap' option - we have tax on alcohol and cigarettes because of the harm they can do to health, but what about hitting the producers of plastic? These should be more heavily taxed than anyone else, as this is irreversible damage to the planet.
uPVC discolours overtime and it has its own life-span, so owners will often have to replace their windows every 15 years. However, the frames simply end up in landfill. Even if the frames are recycled, the process for reuse is yet another major pollutant.
If this hasn't put you off then think of their sheer lack of kerb-side appeal; they are nowhere near as aesthetic as alternatives, let alone the dire choice of furniture for them...
I even felt nauseous searching for an appropriate image to put here ... need I say more :(
So... what are the alternatives?
One option is Crittal windows and doors.
These are metal-framed and usually powder-coated, so are essentially maintenance free. Although they can be finished in almost any RAL colour*, they are more often than not seen, and look best, in black so are not to everyone's taste.
They look fantastic in most design schemes, from ultra-modern right through to Elizabethan period properties and often make striking interior partitions as seen here on the right.
However, there are downsides to choosing Crittall; metal is a conductor so it can draw in either heat or cold to the space which is a contradiction to any heat-saving properties of the glass. Additionally, although they are an environmentally responsible option due to their end-of-life recycling qualities, they are not fully sustainable as there is only a finite metal resource on our fragile planet.
The real alternative...
In my view there is only one real option and that is Accoya - never heard of it? There are sadly numerous industry professionals who should have heard of it, but still haven't so you're not on your own.
Accoya is essentially 'pickled pine'. "Accoya® is wood, but not as you know it. It is modified timber in which a process called acetylation, a cutting-edge patented technology, enables it to resist rot, defy the elements and stay strong for decades. Guaranteed for 50 years above ground and 25 years in ground or freshwater..."
The modification process reduces the wood's moisture to almost 0% and is then infused with 'vinegar' (acetylate) which stabilises the wood and prevents it from swelling, contracting and bending.
It's the movement in wood that makes paint split and crack which is why traditional wooden windows and doors need re-painting every few years and doors swell and contract during t he different seasons, hence them not being 'maintenance free'. However, if there's no (or very little) wood movement, the paint remains intact making Accoya virtually maintenance free. Some top paint manufacturers will even extend the guarantee of their paint by a further 10 years, if used on Accoya.
How durable is it really...?
It is so durable that there is even a dam in The Netherlands with Accoya walls yet there is no movement in the walls.
During the winter months the walkway is flooded and the whole area is frozen for skating. Even though the Accoya has been totally submerged, there is still no water leakage.
The Wood Design Factory, in Latvia has even designed an Accoya vanity basin.
They had tried for numerous years with different woods, but none were suitable until they used Accoya.
What an utterly fabulous statement piece this is.
What about sustainability credentials?
As it's predominantly pine, from certified sustainable sources, used for the production of Accoya it "provides compelling environmental advantages over scarce slow growing hardwoods" not to mention chemically treated woods, plastic or even metal.
C2C (Cradle to Cradle) certification is Gold overall and there is even a Platinum award for Accoya's 'Material Health'; it can be re or up-cycled at the end of its life so there are zero toxins released into the earth.
Even the 'vinegar' is recycled and used by the pharmaceutical industry, so there really is no wastage.
As if you need further persuading you cannot deny the true aesthetics of real wood, when it comes to producing beautifully crafted windows and doors, even in listed period properties, Gowercroft Joinery are an example of one of the best there is as shown above.
Per linear metre of wood, there is very little waste with Accoya for the industry as it is cut ready for manufacturing. Other woods, including hard woods, have a high percentage of waste where sections cannot be used due to knots or twists, which costs joinery companies millions worldwide.
Even the wood dust from Accoya is made into Tricoya, a totally moisture resistant MDF that doesn't swell of split like other kinds; it "is a ground-breaking construction material. The panels exhibit outstanding durability and dimensional stability which allow them to be used in applications once limited to products such as concrete, plastics or metals." Again providing sustainable alternatives to either pollutants or unsustainable alternatives.
I rest my case, M' lud!
uPVC must go, it's been left for far too long under the radar and, to be honest, governments are missing a trick in not generating a massive tax revenue from it. In deed, need I say any more on the issue?
* Reichs-Ausschuß für Lieferbedingungen und Gütesicherung (Reich Committee for Delivery and Quality Assurance)