Glazing firms dispute change of window hinges with Housing Executive

A NUMBER of glazing firms in the local area have ewarned that proposed changes to the type of hinges used by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive will lead to more than one hundred job losses across the glazing sector.

The DSD Minister is recommending that the current ‘reversible’ hinge is replaced by a ‘Casement’ hinge in the ongoing rollout of the double glazing programme throughout the NIHE properties. The Casement hinge was in use until 2006 when the NIHE switched to the reversible hinge according to the concerned glazing firms.

According to the NIHE the change will result in a saving of ‘up to £500,000’, a figure disputed by the glazing companies involved.

Window firms and glazing manufacturers including McIlhattons in Ballymoney, Western Build in Coalisland and Superseal in Castledawson have stressed to the DSD Minister Nelson McCausland the potential impact of the change in specification.

Ken Taylor, Managing Director of Superseal said: “Our companies have invested well over £1m in machinery and manpower to install the reversible hinge which has a solid track record and is basically the same cost as the alternative hinge. The reversible hinge has been in use since 2006 and so far there has not been one maintenance call out to attend to a broken or faulty hinge.

“The current hinge also has a 25 year guarantee. The Casement hinge is going to have a guarantee of somewhere between 1 and 10 years, and only if it is checked on annual basis, which will add more cost.

“The most frustrating thing is that we simply cannot get a rationale from the Department, the Minister or the Housing Executive as to why they are pushing this change through. Nelson McCausland says the new hinge can be installed without the need for a redecoration grant but we can show that the reversible hinge can also be installed from the outside of the house, doing away with redecoration payments.”

“If this change goes through the Executive will be using an untested product, which saves very little money and has no guarantee that manufacturers will stand over. On top of all of that approximately 110 jobs will go across our sites. It is baffling and, so far, unexplained,” he added.

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Housing Executive told the MAIL: “The Housing Executive is required to improve the thermal efficiency of all its properties by 2014/15 through the provision of double glazing. We must also ensure that the double glazing programme delivers value for money for our tenants and the tax payers of Northern Ireland.

“We carried out a review of the specification for the supply and fitting of double glazing which also included hinges and handles as the specification for these was much higher than the industry standards for domestic properties.

“As a result of that review, estimated considerable savings have been realised which can be used in other priority areas, such as new kitchens and heating schemes.

“Specifically with regard to hinges, our preferred option now is to use casement type hinges, in our low to medium rise stock, and estimate that the associated savings could be as much as £500k or even higher.”

Installation of reversible hinges has not been stopped totally and will continue to be used in medium and high rise dwellings (4-20 storeys). The traditional stock/low rise (1-3 storeys) will move to casement style windows — the usual style opening window,” she added.