Doors, windows, and saving energy

We interviewed Renato Chiaramonte, CEO of Schüco PWS Italia, a leading manufacturer of system solutions for windows and doors made of PVC, a versatile, high-performance material that in recent years has become increasingly popular in the European market.

Doors and windows are the point of contact between the outdoors and the indoors. They allow light and air to enter living spaces while providing safety and thermal performance, reducing heat loss in the winter and keeping rooms cool in the summer, optimising the environmental impact of buildings and enhancing the appearance of the building envelope. We talked with Renato Chiaramonte, CEO of Schüco PWS Italia, about the evolution of materials, doors and windows, and why technology is a valuable tool for improving the performance of opening and locking systems, also in terms of energy efficiency.

How have these pandemic years gone? 
It was an extremely complex period, both for social reasons and also for our company. Later, when the situation recovered, the immediate rebound in Europe complicated things even more, because it was very difficult to find raw materials, and this has been a source of great stress for companies. The number of orders increased dramatically, along with the inability to fulfill them. Thanks mainly to the government’s initiatives, all activities in the construction sector profited from it. In 2021 we doubled our turnover compared to the previous year. Today, we are experiencing a slight downturn, which we predicted, brought about by the assignments of claim. We hope that the government will take action on this issue by the end of the year.

Which strategic changes are you planning?
At a time when, as I said, we expect a downturn, we have decided to invest. We have added new high-performance, low-emission, environmentally well-balanced machinery. We are focusing on sustainability, as it is an essential issue from the design of our systems to the organisation of the company.

Speaking of sustainability, is installing efficient windows and doors beneficial in both winter and summer?
When it comes to windows and doors, the evolution of PVC has taken place over the last 15 years, and now it is a particularly performing product. From the point of view of thermal insulation, over the years we have taken huge steps forward, and today we can offer extremely efficient solutions. Over the entire life cycle of a window, Global Warming Performance indicates that PVC releases as much as 600 kg less CO2 than an aluminium window frame. This was shown by research carried out in 2008 by PVC Forum and Studio LCE of Livorno. To achieve the same degree of thermal insulation as PVC, aluminium window frames must be supported by other materials, specifically a polyamide profile, as aluminium is a conductive material. PVC, on the other hand, is an insulating material and is characterised by great durability. It can last up to 30 or 50 years.

How much have your products changed in recent years and what role has technological innovation played in this?
PVC has been used since the 1950s, but it entered the Italian market much later, partly because technicians and insiders were sceptical about it. Things have changed, and today, in Italy PVC is the most used material for window and door systems. The compounds used in the past were less reliable than those used now - 30 years ago, for example, products containing lead were used, which is no longer the case now. In the past, a PVC window frame could weigh around 20 kilos, while today it weighs 10 kilos and is even more efficient. Technology has helped a lot in terms of sustainability, from discarded window frames to new products. Today, on average, the extrusions of Schüco PWS Italia profiles are made up of 30 to 50 percent recycled materials. Thanks to less energy-intensive machines and virtuous production processes, we make profiles whose core is made from recycled materials and whose outer surface is made of virgin materials. Our PVC can also be recycled up to 7 times. In addition to being a sustainable material, Schüco PVC is perfectly suitable for creating healthy environments, as certified by Biosafe certification. The certification authority has tested and certified the total safety of the products, given the absence of heavy metals, radioactive substances and their low emissions. And I would like to point out that we are the only ones in our field who can boast such certification.

To what extent does Schüco PWS Italia manage to combine aesthetics and performance? Is it a matter of reaching a compromise or is it possible to work simultaneously on these two aspects? 
They are two aspects that can absolutely be combined without the need to find a compromise. In general, our PVC products have taken on very high levels of performance and attractiveness. Forget the old PVC windows and doors. The versatility of this material allows for multiple aesthetic solutions, and in the future, this market will be more and more oriented towards achieving ever higher degrees of performance - by reducing, for example, the visible sections of the profiles, to favour natural light and reduce energy consumption.

What trends and developments will we see in the next few years within the window, door and sliding system sector?
As anticipated, we will carry out more reaserch on how to obtain ever more thermally and acoustically efficient products. In terms of architecture, on the other hand, Schüco PWS Italia, for example, already offers products - until recently non-existent - with zero-millimetre thresholds, i.e. no obstacles between the internal and external floor. These are remarkable solutions from an aesthetic and design point of view and at the same time, they’re fundamental for facilitating people with disabilities. And then there is room for new automated solutions to facilitate the movement of large sliding openings, but also combinations of PVC, aluminium and wooden frames.

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