Whether designing a residential, commercial or institutional building, architects and owners carefully consider the qualities and long-term advantages of fenestration materials. Windows and doors provide essential protection and architectural character to a building and must also respond to various owner-driven requirements including aesthetics, cost, performance, maintenance and life cycle.
Fenestration, or the arrangement, proportioning, and design of windows and doors in buildings, keeps occupants dry and protected from environmental elements, while providing sound insulation, thermal control, natural daylight, and ventilation, thereby contributing to indoor air quality and personal comfort. Collectively, these characteristics contribute to how building occupants perceive the quality of their interior spaces and overall environments. With increased emphasis on sustainability and energy efficiency, fenestration performance has become critical in determining the overall energy efficiency of a building.
Earlier, windows and doors in residential and commercial constructions in India were merely looked at as apertures in the wall, and traditionally made of mild steel, wood or aluminium and simple float glass apart from some basic hardware such as handles, shoot-bolts, hinges, etc. However, windows have come a long way from being insignificant to being recognized as the single most important area in the envelope or shell of the building for preventing energy loss and providing in-habitat comfort.
Since the past decade, the Indian fenestration industry has undergone a huge metamorphosis with newer window technologies and materials facilitating these changes. Apart from traditional fenestration materials like wood, steel and aluminum, one such material that is rising in popularity is uPVC (unplasticized polyvinyl chloride). Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is a chemical compound of chlorine, carbon and hydrogen. The components of PVC originate from the naturally occurring raw materials of petroleum or natural gas and common salt. The ‘u’ stands for unplasticized and means that the material has not been softened by the addition of chemicals known as plasticizers.The multiple advantages and benefits of uPVC make it a versatile fenestration choice because of its strength, durability, low maintenance, energy efficiency, and sustainable qualities, as well as its resistance to corrosion, dents, and scratches.
Advantages of uPVC
Following are some of the advantages of using uPVC in India.
Windows with a low thermal conductive material can reduce loss of energy by upto 30-35%. The decisive factors in reducing energy loss are the materials of the window profile and the selection of glass. Without a doubt there are clear thermal advantages to using uPVC, as the solar heat gain coefficient and thermal transmittance U values are far superior to aluminium, steel and in most cases timber.
uPVC also prevents thermal bridging, thus preventing condensation unlike aluminium. For example, conventional aluminum with a single pane of clear glass 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.
The Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) 2007 issued by Bureau of Energy Efficiency, Ministry of Power, Government of India recommends the use of energy Saving, low u value uPVC Windows in Indian constructions .
uPVC never rots, flakes, rusts, fades, pits, peels or corrodes. It needs only a light soapy wash and a check of the seals for maintenance. Aluminium can scratch and chip on the surface coating leading to exposed damage, whereas uPVC typically has colour all the way through its profile so any scratches are not noticeable and it is tough on impact.
India receives UV radiations which are 10 times higher than Europe, 2-3 times higher than China. uPVC was earlier sensitive to UV and oxidative degradation and this was one of its major disadvantages. However, recent technological advancements and addition of anti-oxidants and other stabilisers have addressed this problem.
Fire tests have shown that uPVC materials, being naturally flame retardant throughout their product life, will not cause, support or enhance the development of accidental fire and are in fact self-extinguishing.
Water tightness measures how much water can infiltrate through cracks/joints in a window. This is especially important for construction in coastal and heavy rain areas. With uPVC unit being fuse welded all around it is sound, wind and rain sea-led, unlike aluminium and wood which aremitre joined at the corners. These mitre joints are areas of weakness as the frame sections move to accommodate wind loads, climate expansion and contraction. With wood warping and swelling over time, air infiltration and reduced energy efficiency occurs.
Wind Load Suitability
Wind speeds in India are very high compared to the rest of the world. Normal breeze on ground becomes a gale force on higher floors. Growing trend of high rises in India has also raised safety concerns. Windows have to withstand higher wind loads particularly in windy locations, coastal areas, high rises, etc. uPVC windows have broad sections, reinforced with steel, multiple seals stop air ingress, in addition there is good sound insulation. They are designed and reinforced to withstand even 3000 pascals of wind speed (equivalent to 245 km/hr of wind velocity).
uPVC windows can also reduce noise levels by 75-95%. Due to their better seal-ability and product integrity, uPVC Windows ensure that noise from outside does not come into habitable area. This property is important for construction of hospitals, hotels and educational institutions.
In terms of material composition, uPVC is 57% common salt. Recycling and a long, low maintenance life cycle are major strength for these products. The extrusion process of uPVC is also relatively energy efficient compared with aluminium. They can be fully recycled and reused for production.
This used to be a big disadvantage for uPVC as the look and quality used to be poor, with discoloration, cracking and poor UV ratings. However, with colour stabilizers, laminates and the ability to spray the frame with technology borrowed from the automotive industry, wood grain texture and any colour imaginable are now possible.
uPVC profiles are easy to manufacture and lend well to all kinds of architectural shapes and colours. Since they can be customized, they can also easily replace existing retro fits to any shaped openings. To match existing cottage pane, the profile can be placed in-between the double paned glass to get similar look. Also in-between the glass a moving blind can be placed to help control the sun.
Market Size and Drivers
While uPVC windows and door systems are already firmly established in the rest of the world, they are still gaining a foothold in the Indian market. According to a study, the Indian window and door market was around ` 13000 crore in year 2013-14 and the market share of uPVC windows and door profiles share was about 6-7 percent in India.
Globally, the uPVC window system market share ranges from 60-80% in most countries while the predominant material of construction in India is still timber (in rural and in upper end constructions), mild steel (in low cost housing) and aluminium (in urban constructions).
However, growing awareness about the benefits of uPVC and demographic factors like rapid urbanization, growing concern about energy efficiency, regulatory changes and aging building stock in the country is expected to change the fortunes of the uPVC windows and doors market in the country. A United Nations report suggests that the number of Indian citizens living in urban areas will reach 900 million by 2050 amounting to 55% of its population. Massive construction is underway to respond to this urbanization. It has been estimated that the total built space in India would increase five-fold from 2005 to 2030, and by then more than 60% of the commercial built space would be air-conditioned. Over the next 10-15 years, the share of uPVC is expected to grow over 30% in both new and replacement sales.
The industry consists of profile extruders, fabricators, installers and hardware & tooling machinery manufacturers. A large number of extruders and profile manufacturers present in India such as Profine, Aluplast, Veka, Rehau and Dimex are subsidiaries of uPVC giants from Germany and Korea. Indian companies include Fenesta, Sara Elgi, Wintech, Encraft and Sintex. Big Chinese profile companies like Shide, Kinbon and Konsh are also present in the market in the low price segment.
While some companies are pure-play profile manufacturers and are building a strong fabricator network, there are an increasing number of companies that are becoming vertically integrated, thus providing a one-stop solution from extrusion to installation for both projects and retail users.
Despite having a small market share, the market players in the industry are obviously expecting uPVC to realize its potential as significant investments are being made by companies to enhance their presence in the country. Last year, Profine India announced investments worth ` 100 crore in India. The company has already invested ` 35 crore for a new extrusion plant at Savli. The new extrusion plant at Vadodara is expected to manufacture unplasticized Polyvinyl Chloride (uPVC) under the brand Koemmerling. The plant at Savli spread over 14,000 square metre has initial capacity to manufacture 3,000 metric tonnes from three extrusion lines, which will be subsequently increased to 10 lines with a production capacity of up to 12,000 metric tonnes. Koemmerling is the brand with a tradition within the Profine Group having started the extrusion of window profiles and PVC sheets since 1967.
VEKA India, a wholly owned subsidiary of VEKA AG, Germany has its own state-of-the-art fabrication and warehousing facility in Navi Mumbai and a network of fabrication associates and dealers in major cities across India. The customized orders with high quality standards are fabricated in-house. To control the overall product and its functional quality, the installation is also carried out under VEKA supervision and by VEKA authorized teams only.
Part of DCM Shriram group, Fenesta Building Systems is an end to end service provider right from extrusion of UPVC profiles to installation of windows.The extrusion plant in Kota manufactures UPVC blend, especially engineered for India’s harsh climate. The profiles are extruded in Kota are sent to factories across the country. The company has fabrication units all across the country in Bhiwadi (for North India), Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad. The fabrication units and Extrusion plant of Fenesta meet the highest international standards of quality and productivity.
Sara Elgi has an extrusion plant situated at Hindupur, Andhra Pradesh. The company has its own fabrication centre in Coimbatore &Hindupur and franchisee owned fabrication centres at Chennai, Hyderabad and Nasik.
There is also an ongoing debate whether the market should focus on retail or projects. During the last one year, Fenesta has changed its fundamental approach to the retail business, whereby alongside with the channel sales, direct sales have also been initiated. All direct sales employees have been given branded vehicles and the company has also launched its own “Signature Studios” for further enhancing high-street presence. Fenesta has also started its own call centre to further boost the retail sales. The belief is that while in projects, the quantities are large and sizes are predetermined the credit period is quite long and offers low margin. On the other hand, a retail customer would be more concerned about the quality of the window and its components, its longevity and functionalities compared to a project client. However, the marketing side of the business in retail has to be very strong.
Typical of any emerging market, the Indian uPVC doors and windows sector has its inherent challenges. As uPVC is relatively a new concept in the Indian market, the onus is on the manufacturers to in-crease awareness about the benefits of uPVC to the construction community at large. Indian consumers are price sensitive and much needs to be done in marketing of these products by showcasing the advantages of these products to the builders, architects and common man which includes the major advantage of energy saving i.e. reduction in air conditioning bills upto 20-30% as well as saving of wood (in turn-forests) and energy intensive materials like aluminium.
Also, since the market is still highly unorganized and fragmented, it lacks standardization. Thus, manufacturing practices are sometimes inefficient due to which product quality is poor. With quality standards not in place, many local players and Chinese imports are coming into the field offering cheap but inferior quality products, not suitable for India’s extreme climate condition. uPVC has varying quality depending on the class and specification and the quality of the windows and doors depend on the company profile, steel reinforcing, fittings and hardware but due to lack of awareness about these aspects by the end-user, the profile of the industry suffers a blow.
To address this, uPVC Windows & Doors Manufacturers Association (UWDMA) was founded in 2008 as a non-profit body. The Association, represented by members encompassing profile extruders/importers, window fabricators, machine manufacturers including suppliers, software providers, raw material suppliers, hardware manufacturers, technologist and researchers, is committed to create awareness and educate all concerned viz. the end user, technocrats, builders, architect others all about the product, its concept & salient features and the product conformity to the tropical climate of India. As a stake holder, it is dedicated to assist agencies like BIS, BEE other certifying agencies to create/ benchmark and Standards, technical specification of uPVC Windows & Doors ensuring peak performance by the product in line with laid Standards.
The profile manufacturers are also conducting dedicated programs for training the fabricators to avoid shoddy workmanship. For instance, Wintech provides ancillary support to help establish, train and grow an independent fabrication network. A training academy has been established solely for providing training for fabricator teams on aspects such as identification of machinery, advice on design requirements, help in maintaining ongoing fabrication and installation quality etc. thus allowing the fabricator to focus on more important aspects of the business -serving the end customer.
Despite being in the nascent stages, the Indian uPVC windows & doors industry has a huge growth potential in the country due to the rapid urbanization and the need for investment in housing stock and requisite infrastructure. Increased awareness about the benefits of uPVC, strict implementation of energy efficient regulations and standardization within the industry will go a long way in realizing this potential.
Cover Image: Encraft