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What Does Sustainability Look Like For A Small Business

In the same way considered interior design can transform the inside of your orangery, the surrounding landscaping can do the same for the exterior. From the foliage and flower colour, to the geometry and scale of the leaves, even the smallest of details can enhance the aesthetic.

Style and Aesthetic

From Green Washing to Intent without Impact, how does a business such as Westbury genuinely make a difference when it comes to the environment, whilst still giving customers the product they want?

Let’s face it, most consumers and businesses want to be sustainable. It’s an incredibly pressing and current subject, but the reality is that when it comes to true sustainability, it is hard and expensive to implement, so how many of us are genuinely taking actions to change our business operations and practices.

The intent may be there but are our actions genuinely making a difference.

Also, how do we continue to give our customers the best products, whilst ensuring we are doing the best thing for the environment.

In a recent article written about this subject (Bridging the Sustainability Gap: From Intent to Impact (linkedin.com), Author Karen Balbi discusses whether the actual investment needed in game-changing technologies is taking a back seat in favour of marketing campaigns touting green credentials.

So, with Earth Day approaching, this prompted us to think about our supply chain, products and processes and whether we are doing everything we can. Yes, many of our choices are profit and brand driven, of course they are, but are we also making the best decisions and taking responsibility for the impact of our business? Have a read and tell us what you think.

Following is an honest breakdown of Westbury’s efforts to be more sustainable. (We have omitted recycling, electric charging points and so on, as surely this is a given in 2024?!)

Raw Products And Renewable Sourcing

Accoya: Our products are made of timber. Specifically a product called Accoya which is manufactured from FSC® or PEFC™ certified tree species such as Radiata Pine (https://fsc.org/en).

Radiata Pine, or Monterey Pine as it is also known, is a fast-growing coniferous tree and is one of the most widely planted tree species in the world (https://www.euforgen.org/species/pinus-radiata/).
In order to manufacture Accoya the pine undergoes a proprietary acetylation process. This process involves the modification of the wood at a cellular level, where the wood is treated with acetic anhydride to alter its chemical structure. This modification makes the wood more dimensionally stable, more durable, and resistant to rot, decay, and insect attacks compared to untreated wood. Acetyls are naturally present in wood, helping to protect it from the effects of water which can make it warp and rot. Accoya use acetic anhydride to enhance this effect, boosting it by changing water-loving hydroxyl groups into water-repelling acetyl groups. This makes the timber a perfect solution for our products in terms of strength and durability.

Carbon Neutral Production: Accoya production involves a closed-loop process where any chemicals used are recycled or neutralised. Additionally, the acetylation process significantly reduces the wood’s carbon footprint by replacing less environmentally friendly preservatives and treatments.

New Zealand: It is important for us to be open and honest – our Accoya comes from New Zealand and that does mean it has to travel a long distance. We are going to leave this to the experts to explain exactly what this means in terms of impact, and why Accoya is still a better choice. How can Accoya be sustainable if it uses wood from New Zealand?

Hardwood: For functional reasons, we must still use some hardwoods but we are proud to say that just 3% of the timber we use at Westbury is hardwood and we continually strive to reduce this figure by sourcing new and innovative products. We also ensure our hardwood is sourced in Europe.

uPVC Versus Timber: Westbury are a designer, manufacturer and supplier of timber products. uPVC is not a product we would sell or advocate the use of because this is simply not the function of our business. However, it is an alternative product which can be used in the manufacture of a garden room or conservatory, so it is not without significance that WWF are specifically campaigning for a reduction in the use of this material.

Below are just a few of the reasons they are advocating this change. You can read the full report here – Window of opportunity (wwf.org.uk)

  • A product that uses a non-renewable resource cannot be sustainable: oil makes up 43 per cent of the raw material required to make PVC.
  • PVC windows generate 43 per cent more waste than timber windows: 82 per cent of total PVC waste goes to landfill, 15 per cent is incinerated. Only 3 per cent is recycled.
  • It takes eight times more energy to manufacture a PVC window than an equivalent timber frame.
  • Throughout the use and disposal of the product, the overall environmental burden is significantly less for timber windows than for PVC windows; and hazardous chemicals are released into the environment during the incineration process of PVC.

Manufacturing And Offices

New Technologies: For Westbury, the adoption of new technologies has meant we use virtually every inch of our timber. In fact you may be surprised just how little waste our factory produces.

Our saw is a state-of-the-art machine which triangulates all the timber lengths required in a project and ensures each length is divided to leave the smallest amount of waste possible. The digital inputs ensure the timber is cut with millimeter precision, meaning very small amounts of timber are discarded.

Whilst this clearly means a financial benefit to us, it also means we require less raw material, and create less waste.

Transport: We manufacture the majority of our joinery on-site and over the years have refined this process to ensure this is done precisely every time. Our machinery allows us to precision manufacture and pre-fabricate every element of a project and these perfectly slot together on site. This means there is very little waste that needs to be removed from site and that the majority of our projects require no revisit, lowering the miles we travel, and consequently our emission’s.

Biomass Boiler: During the winter our offices and workshop are heated by a biomass boiler system which burns briquettes created from the timber off-cuts, to eliminate wastage and make the process of heating our premises carbon-neutral.

Offices: As a business that prides itself on innovation and intelligent design it will come as no surprise that our founder designed and positioned the windows in the building in such a way to optimise air flow for effective circulation, and cooling. Whilst this may seem like a ‘greenwashing’ statement it is quite the opposite – hot countries around the world use this design philosophy in much of their architecture (https://www.archdaily.com/963706/back-to-basics-natural-ventilation-and-its-use-in-different-contexts). This cross and stack-ventilation layout coupled with our own insulated windows ensure the offices remain cool in summer, without the need for AC.

Longevity

Extended Lifespan: Whilst using a product derived from a fast-growing timber clearly has a sustainable benefit at the beginning of the manufacturing process, the same can be said for this choice of product after it has left our facility.

The acetylation process Radiata Pine undergoes increases its life span to beyond 50 years. So where other timbers may deteriorate and need replacing, Accoya’s lifespan is much greater, meaning our joinery products will not hit the recycling industry for over half a century. That is two generations of Radiata Pine in the future.

Sustainability By Design: As a business we place great emphasis on the principles of good design. Good, classical design does not date and this comes from fluency in the language of architecture. Anybody can draft the drawings for a garden room, but it takes real understanding of classical architecture principles to design something which is timeless and does not date aesthetically.

You will not find very modern short-lived styles at Westbury and this means that a garden room or piece of joinery which we install today, will still appeal to owners in decades to come. Therefore ensuring longevity and avoiding throw-away architecture.

Using Other Materials When The Time Is Right: In some of our products, using solely timber isn’t the right thing to do because the area in question is subject to extreme weather variations or is not easily accessible for maintenance. This is the case with our roof lanterns.

In this instance, we use composite materials such as aluminium and resin externally, using timber internally. Whilst this is a less sustainable option with regards to raw materials, it is a more sensible option to give the entire project greater longevity and making it easier to maintain for our customers.

Choosing The Right Ancillary Products: All our doors and windows are treated with a three-coat, spray-applied microporous paint system by Teknos (https://www.teknos.com/en-GB/). This Accoya and paint system enhances the longevity of the timber, as due to its physical stability the timber has limited movement, which ordinarily would be the cause of the paint cracking. Additionally, the paint is made up of a water and plastic combination and after application the water evaporates, leaving a highly durable, protective skin. This means it doesn’t need to be repainted for up to 12 years.

Additionally, with the paint being solvent free, there is no concern regarding chemicals ending up in the drainage system

Innovation: If one thing can be said about Westbury, it is our ability, driven by the business owner, to constantly strive for better ways of manufacturing and designing our products to make them last longer.
Timber degrades. Fact. But there are so many small design modifications we have made, and continue to make, that extend the life of our joinery further. We like to think we do the small details, however tiny they may be, in the right way.

From the position and depth of our drip grooves, or throating, to prevent water from creeping back under the sill and causing leaks, to the positioning of our door seals to ensure effective water run-off, we consider every functional and aesthetic design element to the millimeter.

Sustainability In Our Customer’s Homes

Insulation: We have talked about our sustainable choice of raw products and their longevity. However there is one phase we haven’t covered and that is how our joinery products help our customers be more sustainable in their own homes.

The insulation levels of doors and windows are measured using a U-Value and this value takes in to account the properties of the glass, timber and seals.

Westbury windows and doors are designed to have a 68mm width as standard – this dimension originates from Scandinavia and is thicker than the average door or window, from a British supplier.

A thicker timber profile means the cavity in the glazing can be thicker (4mm-20mm-4mm) and therefore offer a greater level of insulation. In fact the glazing is so effective it is more insulated than the timber itself!

That being said, Accoya actually offers greater levels of insulation than other timbers, up to 8% more than softwoods and 30% more than hardwoods (Sustainable Building Materials – Accoya Wood).

Westbury And Sustainability

So there you have it, a frank and honest breakdown of the steps Westbury have taken to be more sustainable.

As a business we are always looking to be more sustainable. Whether that is through our raw products, supply chain or manufacturing processes, all the while balancing this with creating products that our customers want, keeping our workforce paid and the business profitable.

It is not easy, in fact it is really hard, but we will continue to make small changes because they are realistically achievable for us.