Energy Efficiency Takes Center Stage at Fensterbau

Event also reflects global trend toward larger openings
John G. Swanson
March 27, 2010
Meetings & Events | Segments
Roto highlighted the global trend toward larger openings showing this window fitted with its hardware.

Nuremberg, Germany—European windows and doors may be very different than North American products, but the two markets share common trends, including energy efficiency requirements that are being ratcheted upward and growing popularity for large door openings. Those two trends were evident at last week’s Fensterbau/Frontale, the world’s largest window and door industry show held here at the Nürnberg Messe.

Filling 10 halls of the exhibition complex, this year’s event featured more than 760 exhibitors from around the world. Of note, exhibitors from Poland outnumbered exhibitors from every country but Germany this year, followed by Italy, Austria and Turkey. After several years of growth in international attendance, this year’s event appeared to enjoy a particularly strong turnout from Germany itself. That may reflect what many exhibitors noted—the relative strength of the German window and door market compared to the markets in other countries, particularly those of Eastern Europe.

Energy Efficiency
As noted last week, triple-glazed windows are not new in the European market or at Fensterbau, but they appeared to be more prevalent in the booths of window and door manufacturers at this year’s show. More companies, including manufacturers and profile suppliers, were touting U-values and products for “passivehaus” designs as well, both being spurred by German government programs at this time.

Stürtz used translucent profiles to show the insulating foam pellets being inserted using its new welder.

On the energy efficiency front, Stürtz Machinery introduced a new technology for its welders that could help enhance the performance of vinyl windows. The supplier was showing a new four-point welder equipped with devices to inject foam insulating pellets into the vinyl just prior to welding. Developed for Veka in Europe, Stürtz’s Mike Biffl suggested it could have some potential in North America, although he noted many vinyl fabricators get their profiles foam-filled by their extruder.

Also of interest on the energy efficiency front were several wood windows on display incorporating thermal improvements in the frame. Unilux AG, for example, was featuring a new Ultratherm clad line incorporating a two-component composite core to deliver U-values as low as .12. Holz-Schiller, a German supplier of wood components, was featuring its Airolite system components, which includes hollows in the wood to provide enhanced performance while maintaining the environmental benefits of all-wood construction. It also offered versions incorporating environmentally-friendly insulating materials.

Thermally-improved wood components were shown by Holz-Schiller.

While most windows on display at the event appeared to be using metal spacer systems, Gerhardt Reichert of Glasslam NGI reported that foam spacers are enjoying increased market penetration in Europe as manufacturers look to boost U-values. The company, a first-time exhibitor at Fensterbau this year, was touting its Air Tight warm-edge foam spacer at the show, but Reichert also noted the company was also enjoying strong interest in its Decopane doorlite system, combining a molded plastic sheet with the supplier’s resin laminate to create a decorative glass panel. The product is extremely cost competitive with commodity doorlite designs, he said, while also delivering the benefits of laminated glass.

Rehau introduced a new lift-and-slide door system at this year's event. The line uses fiber-reinforced vinyl profiles.

Big openings
Large door systems, as well as large windows, are not new at Fensterbau, but they appeared to be more prevalent this year as well. Various lift-and-slide, bi-folding and tilt-and-slide door systems were featured not only by door and window manufacturers, but by hardware and profile suppliers as well. One notable example was Centor Architectural, the supplier of bi-fold door hardware, which featured a door system built by La Cantina Doors based in Vista, Calif., in addition to European-made doors using its hardware.

European hardware for these types of doors is seeing growing demand in the U.S., reported Axel Husen of Interlock USA, which represents the European hardware producer Siegenia-Aubi in North America. That company was showcasing a variety of hardware for large doors, as was G-U, Maco, Winkhaus, AGB and perhaps nearly 100 other hardware suppliers. Roto AG was featuring a lift-and-slide hardware package that lifts the door gasket, not the door panel itself, easing operation of the unit, officials noted. The supplier was also attracting attention with a huge window to highlight not its hardware’s capabilities to handle large sash sizes, and the growing international trend it sees toward larger openings.

Veka AG introduced a new lift-and-slide system that is likely to make its way to the North American market, reported the extruder’s Kevin Seiling, who noted that the U.S.-based operation is seeing growing interest in such doors, as well as tilt-and-turn windows, from vinyl fabricators looking at opportunities in the commercial market. Offering a similar observation was Tony Pauly of Ventana U.S. He was at Fensterbau not only because Ventana’s European parent was exhibiting, but the his operation is looking at adding lift-and-slide doors, among other products, to serve U.S. fabricators. 

Paddock Fabrications, a British supplier of multipoint hardware that recently entered the U.S. market, made its Fensterbau debut, introducing a new line for the European market.

With more than 760 exhibitors, Fensterbau featured a wide variety of other developments. Among the many equipment suppliers exhibiting, Urban Machinery was showing two new machines that may make their way to North America, reported the company’s Volker Lamprecht. A new four-point welder that indexes cut profiles from the inner corner prior to welding rather than the outer corner, he explained, accommodates the welding of profiles of different dimensions, such as a door unit with a wide rail at the bottom. A new automated two-point corner cleaner featured tools that turn, eliminating the need to send the unit to a carousel after two corners are cleaned, speeding processing considerably, he added.

EDTM, the U.S.-based supplier of glass measurement devices, made its Fensterbau debut, exhibiting with CRL Europe. EDTM’s Mark Imbrock reported a busy event, noting considerable interest in the company’s line. Returning to Fensterbau for the second time, AquaSurtech OEM from Canada, was beginning to enjoy some success in Europe, reported the company’s Michael Brauel. The supplier of vinyl coatings was featuring its new line offering a woodgrain look.

Germany-based Hoppe AG was exhibiting at the event, showing a new line of snapfit trim for its handles. Jeff Shihalis, president of Hoppe’s North American unit, said the product simplifies assembly operations and eliminates occasional problems associated with set screws. The company was also featuring a new electronic system it is developing. Using power generated by operation of the handle to eliminate the need for wiring, the hardware is designed to send signals to home security systems, enabling homeowners to monitor whether windows or doors are open or closed and locked.

Fensterbau/Frontale is held in conjunction with Holz-Handwerk, a woodworking equipment show.  Together, the two events attracted nearly 103,000 attendees, matching 2008 totals despite the weakened economic climate in many countries, organizers note.  Fensterbau returns to the Nürnberg Messe in 2012, when it is scheduled for March 21-24.