uPVC is now the standard material for windows in many countries because it is more durable than timber window frames. Before uPVC window frames were made of wood. In cold and wet weather timber frames rot and in hot weather the timber in the frames warp and crack. Having timber window frames is high maintenance and costly. With uPVC window frames with a little care and attention they can last over 25 years. Because of the strength of uPVC frames they are more secure than timber frames. Often they come with locking systems as standard which are much more difficult to overcome for burglars than standard timber frame locks.

uPVC stands for 'unplasticised Poly Vinyl Chloride'. It is sometimes called 'Rigid PVC'. It is particularly popular in Europe, Canada and the United States where it is often referred to as vinyl siding. It is growing in popularity as the window frame material of choice for a lot of new buildings in the humid climates of southern and southern eastern Asian countries.

For many people uPVC is the only choice for window frames. uPVC patio doors are also very popular. uPVC has replaced wood for doors and windows for many new buildings; especially now it comes in a variety of colours including a photo-effect wood finish that is hard to distinguish from real wood. uPVC is cheap, strong and low-maintenance. It is easy to install. uPVC window frames are much more secure than timber frames and it is a very flexible material. Double or triple glazing is easy with uPVC. Also you can get uPVC sash windows and bay windows. Basically uPVC can be made to fit into any architectural scenario without compromising the aesthetics of a building.

As the world grows more environmentally conscious there are growing concerns with the eco credentials of uPVC. The issue boils down to the emission of dioxins by PVC products. uPVC, in situ, as part of your house does not leech carcinogenic chemicals into the atmosphere that is risking the health of your family. Rather the concern is that uPVC and other PVC products that are not disposed of correctly are harmful to the environment. It is not a good idea to have your kid sucking on a PVC toy. But your kid is unlikely to be sucking on his or her window frame late at night. The greatest risk is if there is a fire. However, the gas emitted from uPVC during a fire is no better or worse for you than many other natural materials and the fact that uPVC windows have been shown in tests to be more fire resistant than wood makes uPVC a safer window material in the event of a fire.

The real issue that environmental groups have with uPVC is recycling. It is a petroleum product that like most plastics are hard to effectively recycle so as to be re-used in a cost effective manner. Advances in technology are changing this. The process called thermal depolymerization can break down PVC materials into fuel and minerals. Changing World Technologies have already built their first plant that can turn any carbon based product to crude oil in Missouri, USA. Thermal depolymerization is not a red herring like powering your car on water. The technology is there, patented and in commercial use. Another process for PVC recycling has been pioneered by Texiloop in Europe. Japan with their Vinyloop system are doing something very similar. Both the Texiloop and Vinyloop systems are 'closed', which means that no greenhouse gases are emitted in the recycling process. In essence these processes involve extracting new useable PVC plastic through precipitation and dissolution. Another breakthrough has been made by Veka in Germany. They now have a plant that makes new uPVC windows from recycled uPVC. The company has started a policy of collecting unwanted uPVC items from customers as well as other uPVC fabricators and uPVC window producers. You can see the video by Veka explaining what they do in the blog section of this site.

In the context of uPVC window frames this means that uPVC window frames need not be considered environmentally unfriendly. The PVC in uPVC does not off-gas like volatile organic compounds and is no more harmful than other materials natural and man-made when burnt. Furthermore, timber frames obviously involve chopping down trees which are the lynchpin in the world climate for recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen. There is nothing especially green about having to chop down a tree every ten years or so to replace your window frames. The alternative is to use reclaimed hardwood or uPVC. uPVC with proper maintenance can last 25 years. A product's longevity is a vital consideration when considering a product's green credentials.

Another interesting environmentally friendly aspect of uPVC windows is that they are crucial to the idea of the Passive House - a type of green house that uses the best insulation to make it unnecessary for the house to need heating, instead heat is generated from the human inhabitants and from electrical appliances such as fridges, washing machines and light bulbs. A Passive House works like a sleeping bag to trap heat in a house. This would not be possible without uPVC windows.