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After capturing European construction choices, uPVC Doors and Windows are a growing market in India as they offer much more than simply aesthetics. Varsha Trehan shares her learning.

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Scene: A room in a high-end hospital. The patient has just dozed off; her companion leafs through a magazine as the air conditioning gently hums in the background. Suddenly, the peace is shattered as a railway engine hoots jarringly as the train pulls out from the station near the hospital. The patient groans out of her restless nap despairing at being disturbed yet again.

Scenes like this are a growing reality as schools and playgrounds come closer to homes, flyovers lift the noise from the traffic way up to the premium high floor apartment and the dust – the dust is just everywhere. How much can you shut out? The answer surprisingly lies in giving some much needed attention towards doors and windows. A little effort here will allow the view and natural light connect with the interiors, while inclement weather, dust and noise are efficiently kept out.

Shivendra Singh

"Windows and doors as a category is very-very low interest category. People cannot flaunt their doors and windows system as they can flaunt bathroom fittings and wooden flooring, etc. For them, glass as well as doors and windows create connection with outside world or, create illusion of more space. When I joined this industry in 2006, trust me, I never paid attention to door and window frames, as I never thought that they play such a crucial role in a home" confesses Mr Shivendra Singh, Regional Sales Manager, Veka India Pvt. Ltd.

Complete window solutions

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Farid Khan
Mr Farid Khan
Arun Sharma
Mr Arun Sharma
Overcoming several concerns raised by traditional fenestration materials like wood, steel, aluminum etc are Unplasticized Polyvinyl Chloride (uPVC) doors and window systems. Also commonly known as rigid PVC, the material is extremely popular in global markets when it comes to installing a window system. "All uPVC window systems are suitable solutions for thermal control, sound insulation and sustainability against weathering. The quality of the profile decides the extent of the benefits gained from these installations" says Mr Farid Khan, Head, Sales & Marketing-India, SriLanka, Bangaldesh, Profine India Window Technology Pvt Ltd. Open to a high degree of customization to suit design requirements, a uPVC profile system, according to Mr Arun Sharma, Country Head, Aluplast India caters to the 5S principle. "uPVC profile systems are specially designed to cater to the 5S principle, that is Safety, Security, Solar –Thermal, Sound and Sustainability. So security for example, comes from the Steel used for reinforcement in the uPVC systems, suitable Hardware like locking mechanism and matching quality glass. So if Security is a concern, the whole system needs to be designed holistically to get the most effective solution" explains Mr Sharma.

The Market View

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Already well established in the European markets, where uPVC caught on with improved building codes and green concerns, there is now a rise in acceptability in the 'newer' markets like Russia, China, Turkey and India. "Globally, the uPVC window system market share ranges from 60-80% in most countries. In the past 15-17 years, markets like Russia have really grown both as new installations caught on and replacements of existing fittings were carried out. Countries like China and Turkey, which were predominantly inclined towards aluminum windows as wood cutting was prohibited by law and any available quality wood meant a prohibitively high cost, have now, seen a changeover. Preference for uPVC window systems means that these products cater for 60-70% market share. We expect the same trends to develop in India. Currently, the uPVC windows and door profiles share is about 5-6 percent in India. Over the next 10-15 years, we expect this share to grow to over 30% in both new and replacement sales," feels Mr Farid Khan.

Putting it in numbers Mr Shivendra Singh tells us that "As per study conducted by Reliance Polymers, Indian doors & windows market size is approximately Rs.12,000 crore in which uPVC doors & windows market is around Rs.600-800 crore."

Identifying quality

As a comparatively new product in the market, uPVC window systems are primarily meeting International standards. Standards suitable for Indian conditions are being formalized as players pitch in their energies to give the customers the best deal. Mr Sharma informs us that "uPVC is new to the Indian market, and it is mainly engineered in Germany and there are all standards available mainly following EN (European Norms). ift Rosenheim Germany is the biggest testing institute testing complete / all parts of windows and all major European systems are tested by ift Rosenheim. There is a Forum recently formed in India called International Fenestration Forum-IFF which is an NGO, working towards awareness generation on Fenestration (Glass, Facade, Windows). IFF signed an MoU with ift Rosenheim Germany for getting their knowledge. Also there are a lot of actual users coming close to IFF for clarification, seeking help in identifying the solutions etc."

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On the part of the industry players, the uPVC Windows & Doors Manufacturers Association (UWDMA) with major names on its member list is coordinating with the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) to lay down standards to meet Indian conditions. "In a market where substandard products, often from countries like China and Turkey, are being offered to customers bodies like UWDMA are taking a lead in helping to establish standards. There is a need to define profile width, formulation and environmental safety. Additionally, environmental bodies like IGBC associated with LEED ratings and GRIHA are also helping promoting uPVC for energy saving initiatives" says Mr Farid Khan.

Till these standards are formally put out, Mr Shivendra Singh recommends that customers approach companies directly and preferably at construction stage itself. He also suggests that customers put in an effort to understand specifications for profiles, reinforcement type, fittings, glass and warranty on the product.

Viewing sustainability

Jayant Surana
The primary reason for uPVC catching the eye was its environment-friendly composition. In terms of material composition, uPVC is 57% common salt. Recycling and a long, low maintenance life cycle are major strength for these products. "uPVC windows are preferred over aluminum and wood one due to their low maintenance. Simple soap solution and sponge can easily clean out the UPVC windows whereas aluminum and wood windows require careful cleaning. The changing weather conditions influence the windows' durability but with uPVC windows, you need not worry about its life" assures Mr Jayant Surana, Business Development, Plasopan Engineers India Pvt Ltd. Manufacturers are also committed to their responsibility to offer eco-friendly products to their customers. Talking about Profine's Koemmerling brand Mr Khan says"Sustainability as we understand is more than just environmental protection. We pay attention not only to ecology, but also to economic aspects and issues of social relevance. With our USP 'greenline' principle, we have gone lead free in our products. We also have in place sophisticated recycling schemes that carry the added benefit of enhancing sustainability."

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Offering effective insulation means these window systems are an emerging answer for shutting out the rising menaces of heat, dust and sound. Add to that the freebie of reduced power bills and there's a great bargain to be grabbed. "UPVC doors & windows are more effective as a noise resistant, heat resistant & thermal insulating system as compared to wooden, aluminum doors & windows. Casement or, openable windows & doors systems are more summer heat, noise resistant & thermal insulating rather than sliding windows & doors systems. AD systems of VEKA are best suited for these applications" says Mr Shivendra Singh. Ratifying these benefits along these lines Mr Sharma details "uPVC being practically non conductive is one of the best solutions for thermal and sound insulation. India being blessed for more than 300 good Sunny days, thermal is a major issue, the fact that more than 50% of our electricity bills are contributed by air conditioners and that cooling is 5 times more expensive than heating the same interior that cannot be ignored or negated. The Thermal conductivity (u -Value) of aluminum is 7.00W/m2 K, Aluplast systems are designed for u- value less than 1.5W/m2 K. You can see the difference. Sound is also a major issue now, as the cities are getting crowded, and for best indoor comfort. Aluplast uPVC system can achieve the noise level reduction up to 55db when Glass is of the same insulation level." According to Mr Surana "uPVC windows will reduce noise levels by 75-95%. Much better than any replacement windows, sound insulation will act as a sound barrier and eliminate your noise problem. More than 90% of all the exterior noise comes in through your doors and windows - your walls are almost never the problem."

Uttam Khatode

Highlighting another benefit of these products is Mr Uttam Khatode, Chief Executive, Eureka India. "These materials are fire retardant. In direct contact with fire doors for example will not ignite like wood, but bristle in place. The waterproof material is both strong and durable."

Widening visibility

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While the benefits of uPVC window systems have been experienced and acknowledged worldwide, penetration of the Indian market is challenged by two major hurdles – lack of awareness and the price conscious customer. "The market is changing, getting tougher, and the competition is getting better. In addition to existing local competitors, there are new competitors and the rising national uPVC fabricators. The market demand has changed from a mainly retail one to a fragmented market with new build and other high growth and demanding sectors. Maintaining excellence is only a ticket to the game" declares Mr Surana.

The lack of customer awareness coupled with a degree of passive acceptance of heat, dust and noise in the surroundings adds to marketing these products. "In Europe nobody needs to promote uPVC, the customer simply chooses the specific product and places his order. In India however, there is an effort required to explain the benefits of uPVC over aluminum or wood. A prospective buyer needs to be convinced of the long-term benefits, cost recovery over time. There is a joint effort on by all uPVC players to increase this awareness in the market," informs Mr Farid Khan. The ignorance of windows as comfort source is explained by Mr Shivendra Singh - "We, Indians are habitual of dust & noise. I will explain it to you by another example. Recently I read an article on terrorism in India by Dr. Kiran Bedi in which she stated that we Indians are most vulnerable for terrorist attacks. As we have never been educated about safety and we never paid attention for individual accountability as we never cross check safety parameters as when we travel and meet at public places. Same with doors and windows, we never feel that we are living with problems as with dust & noise. Our carpets, home furniture, expensive LCD TV and other cool electronics gadgets are getting affected and losing their shine as well as performance level due to dust."

Price understanding of consumer is another challenge "UPVC windows & doors is a customized product so customer needs to understand that we cannot compare one customized product with another if specifications are not same. There are 4 major components in any doors & windows...i.e. uPVC Profile, reinforcement, fittings & glass type. So price varies with change of components type" explains Mr Singh. "For the same insulation requirements a comparable aluminum profile may actually be more expensive, yet the customer has to be convinced that using uPVC profiles will be the better option" says Mr Khan.

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It seems that spreading awareness is much required to ensure our built environments benefit from these multifaceted door and window systems. Certainly something the hospital by the railway station should consider for the comfort of its patients.

In the case of the noisy hospital room mentioned this choice would have ideal.