When I first joined the glass and glazing press in 1996, there was something experienced that I can only call a ‘culture shock’.
Firstly, there was no culture as such but there was much that was shocking. Having joined the building press in 1983, I had experience of the builders’ merchant sector, followed by heating and plumbing that lasted until 1991. Nothing quite prepared me for the sight at Glassex of an industry that seemed to be miles behind in terms of attitude and grasping the issues that were coming to the fore.
This was especially true of the environmental aspect. In the heating sector the question of emissions from boilers was being recognised and tackled by manufacturers, particularly in Germany.
It took some years for the penny to drop in the UK as far as the fenestration sector was concerned, particularly for PVC. If you combined that with the general public’s perception of the double glazing individual (who appeared to have traits that made convicted felons seem like the knights of Camelot), the struggle seemed to be a never ending one.
But even then there were signs of hope. In 1996, for instance, Network VEKA was founded and has proved to be a resounding success, both in terms of raising standards and being commercially viable. VEKA claims that last year business growth for members of the scheme was more than double the rate for the rest of the market in 2014.
The role of the Glass and Glazing Federation (GGF) has also to be taken into account during this period. Like all trade associations, it has its critics and the usual gripes relate to decision making by committee and alleged disproportionate influence by the ‘big boys’.
But it would be churlish to ignore the GGF’s contribution to raising the benchmark in the industry. Its role in the creation of FENSA, acquiring the British Fenestration Ratings Council (BFRC) and full support of TrustMark, along with a concerted parliamentary lobbying policy, are just some positive examples.
Neither should we forget the individuals within the Federation that have played their part. Retirement from dealing with complaints could be looked upon as a blessing but in leaving after 26 years as Conciliation Manager, Alan Barnard can have a great deal of satisfaction with what he achieved.
In what could be argued as a behind the scenes role, he helped resolve thousands of disputes between homeowners and GGF members as well as being a secretary for several technical groups and still found time to co-ordinate the GGF’s technical consultancy and expert witness service. It’s no wonder that the GGF’s Chief Executive, Nigel Rees, was fulsome in his praise at Alan Barnard’s farewell. “It’s hard to believe but in the last 10 years only a few out of over a thousand disputes between GGF members and homeowners have gone to arbitration.”
Certainly every organisation has to keep up with the times as well; the GGF has just published figures showing visits to its website have increased by 25% over the year. But we should always remember that trade associations are made up of individuals who can make an enormous difference and should be valued as such.
Caption Didn’t he do well? Alan Barnard (right) has ended his career after 26 years with the GGF as its Conciliation Manager. He was described by Nigel Rees (left) as a “huge asset” at his leaving party.