Our recent Market Trends Survey is encouraging reading for the timber windows market. The optimism of last year continues, with 71% of the companies that forecast market growth expecting a sales increase of at least 10% in the six months ending February 2006. Confidence is high, the PVCu replacement market faces saturation point and the support of leading environmental groups means our sustainability credentials are being taken seriously.

But even with an open goal, you still have to put the ball in the net. The outlook is positive, but our battle for increased market share will be seriously impaired if the timber window industry is not prepared to look at how it gets its message to consumers.

There’s no question that timber is the most thermally efficient material for window frames. So increased regulatory pressure for energy efficiency presents a golden opportunity. It should be no surprise that the PVCu window manufacturers have not simply accepted this; they’ve looked for a new angle, and found it in Window Energy Ratings. These figure prominently in their new marketing literature; simply presented, easily understood, and in some cases, endorsed with the Energy Savings Trust’s Energy Efficient Recommended blue triangle.

So where are the energy ratings and endorsements for timber windows? I’ve heard it asked whether these ratings are for genuine products or theoretical computer simulations for marketing. It doesn’t matter. It’s time that timber window manufacturers faced the fact that decision makers will increasingly look for energy-rated products.

With the new Part L and regulations becoming more demanding, the industry has to commit to investment in energy rating. And we will have to move fast to catch up with the PVCu manufacturers who have grasped the opportunity. There are already three ‘A’-rated PVCu windows – and their manufacturers are shouting about them. They’re creating the impression that the most energy efficient windows are made with PVCu. If momentum builds behind that message, we will be like Betamax video manufacturers 20 years ago, struggling to sell a technically better product in the face of a marketing juggernaut.