On 5 May 2020 in the midst of a national lockdown with most joinery businesses closed, 15 participants from across the joinery sector kicked off a Welsh Government funded two-year programme to develop a Welsh wooden window specification for social housing with an online workshop.

Welsh joinery industry passionate to act

Activities setting up the project had started when the lockdown was announced. In accordance with recommendations from our network we waited until after Easter to approach joinery businesses to discuss how to take the project forward in the light of the coronavirus crisis. The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive. Within several hours we received calls and emails from various joinery businesses showing great interest to go ahead with a first meeting whilst we’re all in lockdown. Our kick-off workshop was subsequently scheduled for 5 May 2020.

Images of timber windows made in Wales. Left hand side and middle images of windows being manufactured by Williams Homes Ltd from Accoya acetylated wood. Right hand side a window made from Welsh larch by Custom Precision Joinery.  

Ramping up capacity for future demand

Housing associations across Wales are indicating that they are interested in using more wooden windows in the future. The benefits of wooden windows in social housing are compelling: Improved performance, reduced whole life cost, improved sustainability and higher quality. Over the next few years, 20,000 homes will need to be built in Wales. This is the time push for timber windows as a standard solution for social housing.

From specification to market impact

Over the past 18 months, Woodknowledge Wales has received several requests from social housing developers to help find Welsh window suppliers. Alas, at present wooden windows manufactured in Wales often cannot be specified because they are not third party certified to meet the Secured by Design (Gold) standard – a Development Quality Requirement (DQR) requirement for social housing in Wales.

In practice, most windows are built to standards set out in PAS24 and Part Q of the building regulations and do meet the Gold standard requirements but aren’t third party certified for a variety of reasons, including costs that are too high for the majority of small joinery businesses.

We want to overcome this roadblock by developing a set of standard specifications with agreed technical solutions that will be SBD certified. As part of our kick-off workshop we have discussed a joint approach with joinery businesses in Wales to take this forward through a series of workshops and discussions.

Once the technical specification is agreed, we will develop a solution to broker tenders for windows manufactured to the agreed specification. This will allow small to medium sized joinery businesses to deliver windows for projects that would normally be too large for each of them to manufacture and supply to on their own.

The technical solutions and the brokerage system will be tested in a pilot project. We will take on board lessons learned and deal with teething problems before launching a 12-months CPD (Continuing Professional Development) programme and marketing campaign for wooden windows made in Wales.

Wales is leading the way

Wales is currently leading the way on this agenda. This is the only project developing an agreed standard specification for wooden windows in the UK at present. The project team is in frequent contact with the BWF and further industry bodies across the sector who are supportive of the agenda.

Availability and use of Welsh timber

The priority of the project is to grow the joinery sector in Wales. Hence, our primary focus is on the capacity to deliver timber windows made in Wales. As the supply chain develops further our focus will gravitate more and more towards increasing the use of local timber.

To accommodate for this, it was agreed to develop a standard specification that works with Welsh timber and will be suitable for a maximum number of small and medium sized joinery manufacturers in Wales.

Wooden windows for a low-carbon society

The Welsh timber windows project fits into Woodknowledge Wales’ big ambition to turn Wales into a high-value forest nation – using high-quality timber from our forests for joinery and construction rather than fence posts and garden sleepers.

Welsh Government is highly supportive of the project because it responds to two significant agenda items; to tackle the climate emergency and to support the foundational economy in Wales.

Woodknowledge Wales’ ambition is to make sustainable wooden windows made in Wales a standard in social housing over the course of the next decade. While we are still a long way off from this target, we are working hard to develop the supply chain that can respond to an increased demand in Welsh timber windows from social housing developers as they decarbonise their assets and deliver low-carbon developments.

How to get involved

Joinery manufacturers who are interested in helping define the future of wooden windows in social housing and would like to get involved should contact our project lead, Christiane Lellig (christiane.lellig@woodknowledgewales.co.uk).