Certified windows: safety, reliability and comfort

An Air, Water and Wind test in the Windows and Glazing laboratories of the CSTB. Photo: Florence Joubert

Windows are increasingly technical products. Just a few years ago, they were still assembled on the construction site, but over the past decade they have become a sophisticated construction system integrating a high level of technology and ever greater efficiency.

Combining high-tech product design with custom installation, the window industry has struck a good balance between factory production and on-site assembly.

This unusual combination has proven its worth economically. After growth of 6% in 2017 and 3% in 2018, the window market in France grew 1.5% in 2019. Over 10 million windows were installed in 2019. Renovation is now the main market driver, representing 70%.

In addition to the usual requirements of environmental performance, comfort (specifically acoustic comfort), durability and waterproofing, end customers and users of the products are now seeking other features.

This has resulted in the diversification of the product ranges, with the emergence over the past few years of colored PVC windows and composite windows, to provide great visual quality and optimal efficiency.

Likewise, since the overwhelming majority of burglaries are committed through doors and windows, safety concerns are increasingly important factors for customers when they choose their products.

Consumers also now want products designed to meet the challenges of the environmental and energy transitions, integrating aspects such as the reduction of the carbon footprint and the circular economy. This means people want energy-efficient products that also incorporate recycled materials, so as to limit resource utilization and greenhouse gas emissions.

In this context, with such promising fundamentals, there are still a few areas needing improvement.

First and foremost is the problem of poorly executed installation, which clients no longer accept. In order to help solve this problem, for the past few years, the CSTB has been offering training in window installation, combining theoretical training with hands-on practice so installers can learn the right techniques and identify poor workmanship. The CSTB has also decided to mobilize its scientific and technical capacities to develop quality control tools to be used when the installation has been completed. The first prototypes should be available in 2021.

Next, a general decision-making tool is needed to help navigate the complex process of choosing the right product (out of hundreds of products and the multiplicity of technically complex performance levels), which meets the customer’s own requirements. This is one of the major challenges that the CSTB wants to meet for the products it certifies.