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Stuart Judge, president of The Steel Window Association, discusses the world of steel fenestration in 2021

2020 was certainly the year of challenge, surprise and determination as the primary markets for Steel Window Association members initially came to a very abrupt halt. This engendered a lot of uncertainty not only about the present but also the future. However, it seemed as though those fears fell away quite quickly as the domestic market for fenestration products began to focus on home improvements and not foreign holidays and, as the commercial sector adjusted to new and adapted ways of safer working, projects started to roll out again. For the rest of the year and continuing into 2021, demand remained and still remains extraordinarily high. This trend does bring new and different challenges which SWA members need to embrace - for example, pressures on raw material supply in Europe and worldwide, demand driving real and opportunistic price rises and capacities being stretched bringing about a double negative pressure on gross margins in raw material and labour costs.

Despite this, and speaking to SWA members generally, the industry seems to have weathered this perfect storm with the predominance of members reporting solid order books and higher levels of optimism for the coming twelve months. Other challenges may bite, however. Example of "ifs" are - increased pressure from the supply chains; demand pushing against installed capacities; the risk and potential for other companies and customers to create pockets of debt; the lack of new blood and talent coming into the industry; the impending changes to the building regulations.

For the next twelve months, the core focus of the SWA will be to continue to support the membership in the development of the association, the delivery of enhanced solutions such as the Fire Testing, Part Q and Part L product development and the ever-increasing demands from new technologies such as thermally broken products. Other areas for emphasis will be a concerted market-driven communications programme and a revised social media focus to drive new enquiries and opportunities to member companies. A new website, planned for October, will inform and drive benefits to members and the wider market. There will also, as ever, be a drive to increase membership and new ideas for this forward-thinking, established trade association.

Stuart Judge, president of The Steel Window Association, discusses the world of steel fenestration in 2021