Custom Carterton doormaker Renalldoors has just dropped $1.5 million on a state-of-the-art manufacturing gizmo from Germany – the only one to be found in the southern hemisphere – that it says will enable the company to move into exporting and expand into window manufacture.
This machine, known as the Weinig Conturex, is designed to manufacture European-style double and triple glazed exterior wooden joinery and Renalldoors will soon be the first company in New Zealand to own one.
Renalldoors owner Cameron Shaw reckons it’s a major coup for New Zealand because there is no other manufacturer with this technology (outside of Europe) and anticipates huge demand for such doors by architects, home owners, and builders who currently have to import from Europe, giving Renalldoors the opportunity to move into exporting.
The new technology will also enable Renalldoors to improve its productivity and expand its range by moving into window manufacturing. Shaw says the Weinig Conturex is “basically limitless” in the number of tools it can carry. A piece of wood goes in and emerges finished, and doesn’t require anyone to feed it in – freeing up some of its 13-strong staff to do other tasks such as glazing, fitting and painting.
Investing in wooden technology is a long-term strategy for Renalldoors. While the vast majority of New Zealand houses (Shaw hazards an estimate of around 95 percent, which is in line with building research firm BRANZ’s figures) use aluminium windows, he says timber is the holy grail.
Aluminium, he says, is costing the country in energy use, money and the environment. “Everybody knows how much of a burden on the national grid it is. It’s a hugely energy demanding product to produce … It is a good conductor of energy so while aluminium windows weep with condensation, timber doesn’t.” And that’s why, according to Shaw, wood is absolutely the “primo” product.
“Double glazed joinery is the European standard,” he says. And increasingly, in New Zealand we’re cottoning on too as double-glazing has become virtually mandatory.
“There is a demand out there for timber. It’s warm to the touch, and it’s got this wonderful sustainability beyond question and wonderful thermal properties.
“It beats everything else in the market – the only other thing that comes close is plastic. Plastic windows are a significant part of the European market but it has significant issue with UV ray degradation.”
Is there a big cost difference? Shaw doesn’t know for sure just yet but thinks that question will soon answer itself. But the people currently interested in solid wood aren’t motivated by price.
In Europe, windows are rated for thermal conductivity and ones that don’t make the cut have to be replaced (and aluminium windows inevitably fail to meet the grade, says Shaw, as they can’t meet the minimum rating).
While similar legislation hasn’t been suggested here, it’s a possibility.
“Every year that goes by the expectations of the government with respect to insulation of houses is raised higher and higher. While it hasn’t come to legislation at this time there’s certainly a lot of debate,” he says.
And as the Christchurch rebuild gets underway, he says, there’ll be a huge number of single-glazed dwellings that will need to comply with current regulations – “which will almost certainly involve double glazing”.
“I’m not saying everyone will want wooden double glazed windows. But a reasonable percentage will."