The UK’s flat economy has led to an excess of capacity in the domestic double glazing sector. This has led to more and more domestic IGU manufacturers moving into commercial work. Joint Managing Director of Float Glass Industries David Offland reports.
The recent desperate price reductions of certain IGU manufacturers have prompted me to consider what a contractor is looking for in a commercial double glazed unit supplier.
In the domestic sector prices are agreed and then glass is ordered practically on a daily basis by the client at the agreed rate. Conversely in the commercial market each order has to be tendered for individually. The client may go out to 4 or 5 suppliers and will then use the best price to submit his own tender. The client may have a favoured supplier and may well indicate where their price needs to be at this stage.
It is usual for the client to indicate to the IGU supplier that he is using their price to tender for the job. Subsequently this supplier then produces all the requisite technical information such as barrier loadings, photometrics and so on. If the client is awarded the job sometimes the preferred supplier is invited to review their tender by the buyer, who has an order to place! I have always disliked this second bite of the cherry as it places too much emphasis on cost and not enough on capability and infrastructure.
By the time the order is placed, the specification may have changed several times but the glass will still be required in two or three weeks’ time.
Lower specification work will generally be 6mm toughened backed up by a 6mm toughened Low E. Perhaps a solar control glass would be required backed up by a laminated glass. As a lot of commercial sizes exceed 3.21 metres it is prudent to check the potential supplier has a capability to cut jumbo sheets. Additionally a lot of solar control glasses are on extended lead times, so it pays to use a supplier who has a large stockholding across a range of manufacturers.
Often spandrel panels are required for the non vision areas. It is important to ensure that the supplier has a large roller coater so the paint is toughened into the glass and not sprayed on after.
Low-E glasses suitable for commercial applications have different photometrics to those used in domestic requirements. Customers should recognise the benefits of units with a 1.1 WM2K-1 U-value rather than a 1.2 WM2K-1. The typical ruse from domestic unit makers trying to buy their way into the commercial market is to state that their U-value is 1.16WM2K-1 and hence achieves 1.1WM2K-1 U-value performance. This is not the case.
When the units are made and sealed online with either silicone or polysulphide, the units are ready for despatch. It is important to check that your supplier uses certified stillages which are numbered and craneable on site. Additionally good suppliers will offer hiab deliveries if required as well as packing lists. It is important to have a mainland based supplier for ease of sourcing any replacements that may be required quickly and efficiently.
In my experience jobs, like life, often do not go totally according to plan. A measure of the supplier will be how quickly they respond with a site visit or other help when things go wrong.
On a similar note it is important to have a suitable warranty in place should things go badly wrong. How many of the domestic IGU manufacturers trying to fill up with light commercial work will be around in 10 years’ time, never mind how many are offering a 10 year insurance backed warranty on all their products? How many are certified to make fire glass units and offer these products ex-stock?
Your supplier should be able to differentiate itself with its products, as well as its service.
Very few of the domestic IGU manufacturers can offer a unit with better than 1.2WM2K-1 U value whereas FGI Everseal IG can offer a U-value of 0.9WM2K-1 ex-stock in a standard thickness unit. Similarly Everseal can offer double glazed units with up to 50db sound reduction.
All this capability and investment costs money. Hundreds of complicated tenders are reviewed and reworked each month with less than a 10% conversion rate. Clients phone on a daily basis to query technical and design nuances. Penalties for mistakes and lateness are getting more punitive as the recession continues to bite.
Ultimately, the market will decide whether it will pay for the technical support, superior capabilities and peace of mind when dealing with a company as I have highlighted above. My question is how can it not?