The latest Palmer Report suggest that the conservatory market is once again returning to growth after 11 years of decline. Jason McCabe, commercial director of Clayton Glass highlights current conservatory design and convention and outlines his vision for the future.

Much has been discussed about the plight of the conservatory sector and at it’s peak a good proportion of the 300,000 installations were small, polycarbonate glazed designs. They proved to be cheap additions for homeowners looking to add valuable extended living space into what is in comparison to our European neighbours, a very small footprint.

But today’s conservatory is very much different in terms of specification and design and so is now attracting new types of consumers. There are those that will be second or even third time conservatory buyers who like the light and airy nature of a conservatory, yet want to benefit from the latest value added accessories.

But the sector is also attracting first time buyers, who now like the appeal of these new accessories, but also the new foiled finishes and they even fully embrace the latest glass technologies, such as those found in our unparalleled SMARTGLASS range.  Glass is at the very heart of these latest conservatory designs and polycarbonate as a roofing material has fallen away at the same rate as the conservatory sector, with glass now accounting for around 80% of all installations, with this proportion increasing year on year.

But what does the modern day conservatory look like? The definition isn’t so clear cut with a number of add-ons available, including the latest internal perimeter ceilings as conservatory design morphs into that of the traditional single story extension market and so the builders market and that of the typical conservatory installer, moves every closer.

These new internal perimeter ceilings are a perfect means to add spotlights and they also add a degree of insulation at the eaves. When combined with the new fashion for brick piers and the adoption of a gutter shroud, the humble PVCu conservatory looks more like cleverly engineered, design-led additional living space. In addition to brick piers we have also seen the emergence of Loggia, which is a range of insulated corner posts in a range of colours, adopts architectural design and supports the desire from consumers for more colour.

The market for rooflights has also grown strongly in recent years from a very niche market to one in which most of the major systems companies are now fully engaged, with some manufacturers now boasting over one hundred each and every week. Many kitchen extensions now for example incorporate a rooflight and a large set of bi-folding doors, the clearest indication yet that we are as obsessed about the back of our houses as the front.

We have also seen the emergence of the tiled roof sector, which those involved in their manufacture and specification will claim that their sales will surpass those of conservatories, something that I’m not sure will happen. I believe hybrid roofs are the next obvious step combining the solid feel of a tiled roof with the opportunity for glazing apertures in key locations in the roof.

Indeed, I have heard a number of instances where installation companies have followed up enquiries for these new solid, tiled roofs only to sell them a value added and feature rich conservatory. This all goes to suggest that consumers love the appeal of glass, after all it’s our link to the world outside. The latest research from Velux, global leaders in roof windows, further emphasizes this proposition, stating that 68 per cent of UK residents rate the amount of daylight entering a property as ‘important’ or ‘very important’ when looking for a new home.

While our SMARTGLASS range has become a market leader in the sector, we are still looking to push the boundaries in what we can achieve in glass. SMARTGLASS-W is the first ever dedicated range of glass for conservatory doors and windows and has been designed to minimize solar heat gain in stark contrast to the glass used in ‘A’ rated windows for example. We’ve even been able to incorporate all of the features from our specialist roof glass, to help make for a single glazing solution throughout the entire conservatory.

But for those of you that want a sneak preview of the glazing for the future, you should visit our stand at the FIT Show in the Innovation Zone on stand A30. We’ll be launching SMARTGLASS Dynamic, powered by SageGlass, the industry’s first commercially viable switchable glass for rooflights.

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