Archive | November, 2012

The Evolution of the Window

30 Nov

Here at FENSA we are all about Double Glazing. In fact, we recently wrote a blog post on how a double glazed window is made and so decided for this blog post, we would go back in time and investigate: The Evolution of the Window….

As you can imagine, the earliest windows were just holes in a wall. This of course was very unsatisfactory, letting in the wind and the rain, so they became covered with animal hide, cloth, or wood to keep out the weather.

Not content with that, windows were vastly improved when wooden shutters were added that could be opened and closed. These windows, however, were either open or shut and when shut all the incoming light was lost. To alleviate this problem, windows were developed that kept the weather out but let the light in.

These included; paper windows, flattened pieces of translucent animal horn, and even plates of thinly sliced marble. Pretty inventive!

However, as you probably suspected, it was the Romans who were the first to use glass for windows in the mid first century. Whereas in England, it wasn’t until the late 17th century that glass became affordable enough to appear in the windows on a universal scale. This led to all sorts of windows being designed. The sash, casement, awning, tilt and turn, transom, louvered and skylight to name but a few!


shutterstock_105467810 window with forest



The windows we know today are only possible because of the modern way of making glass. This means they can be glazed with one large sheet of glass. Before this windows had to be glazed with smaller panes separated by glazing bars or “muntins” as they were not able to make large pieces of glass.

So from a very humble beginning as a hole in a wall, windows have evolved in to the wonderful double glazed windows of today that we take for granted in our homes and offices!

If you would like to know a double glazed window is made, just take a look at our previous blog

Building Blocks Series 2: Crystal Palace

22 Nov

What could have been more amazing than the creation of a building of colossal size, made entirely of plate glass and cast-iron? Even in this day and age it would have been a spectacle worth viewing but we are talking about the 1850s. This is exactly what was built in Hyde Park.

Designed by Joseph Paxton, the building some 41m high, with 71,794.0 m2 on the ground floor alone, was composed of the largest amount of glass ever seen in one place. People were so astonished to find during the day it needed no interior lighting and as it appeared made of ‘crystal’, the name Crystal Palace was born.

So why was it built? Although most of you will be familiar with the name Crystal Palace; the reason it was built may not be so familiar.

It was built as a show piece to house the Great Exhibition of 1851, when more than 14,000 exhibitors from around the world, came to display examples of the latest technology of the day.

Source Wikipedia

The design had to depend on the size of the panes of glass that were available at that time, which was 10 inches by 4 ft. These identical panes were used for the whole building, a massive 900,000square feet. Paxton was a very ingenious person and designed a ridge-and-furrow roof, to prevent the panes of glass shattering under the weight of excess rain. But he could not beat the good old British weather entirely and in the rain the building leaked in over a thousand places!

The Crystal Palace was built by 5,000 workmen with as many as 2,000 on site at any one time –  a health and safety nightmare!

From design to its completion took less than a year, and it was finished on schedule and on budget. What an accolade to the tenacity of Joseph Paxton.  All that effort for the building to stand for just six months, after which time it had to be removed and Hyde Park returned to its former status.

Paxton fought to keep the building as a ‘Winter Park and Garden under Glass’ but he didn’t win and it was dismantled and a new building was constructed at Penge Place using most of the parts of the original Crystal Palace. Paxton took this opportunity to enhance the building but it was dogged by bad luck and in November 1936, the Crystal Palace was totally destroyed by fire, the cause of which has never been ascertained. Brunel’s water towers were spared, but were to stand for just four more years before being demolished during the Second World War.

What a tragedy for us today and a great loss of our heritage. We now have to satisfy ourselves with just black and white photos of this magnificent, beautiful building, lost forever.

Health and Safety series: Health and Safety for our FENSA Fitters

2 Nov

Health and safety is an expression we hear almost every day, and one which comes in for a lot of criticism. However, in our industry it should be embraced and acted upon, as without doubt, good health and safety procedures save lives.

In this blog we are going to look at two aspects of health and safety that are particularly important in our industry.

It is a shocking fact that the biggest cause of fatal injury in Britain’s workplaces is due to falls. On top of that, over 4,000 injuries, such as broken bones and skull fractures are reported to the HSE every year by the construction industry. Obviously this is a major issue for our FENSA fitters who spend a lot of their busy day working at height!

So, how can you make sure you are doing everything possible to make your working environment safe for your customers and yourself?
Well you have to assess the risks that can occur from working at height and devise a plan so the work is carried out safely. If you are undertaking work on private homes, you have the sole responsibility for site health and safety, not the home owner. However, if you are working on a small business project you share the site safety responsibilities with your client.
One of the main areas of concern is when you are using ladders. Although the use of ladders is not banned, they should only be used for low-risk, short duration work. Working from Ladders is one of the main reasons you can be involved in a fall from height and account for more than a quarter of all falls. You can find more about the use of ladders here

Another important issue for our fitters is coming across asbestos in areas where they are working, particularly if you are working on a house built before 2000. There could be undiscovered asbestos in the building and not always where you would expect to find it.
The important question here is; do you know how to recognise asbestos?
It can be difficult to spot the presence of asbestos, so even if you just suspect asbestos is present, do not disturb the area; asbestos only becomes a risk when it is released into the air and breathed in. The diseases caused by inhaling the asbestos fibres can be very serious.
So, what to do if you suspect asbestos? Stop work immediately.
The material will need to be analysed and until the results are obtained, you should not proceed with any work, in case the area gets disturbed and releases asbestos fibres. If it proves to be asbestos, it may need to be removed by a HSE licenced contractor
So we hope that this blog demonstrates to some extent the importance of good health and safety procedures, as your safety and that of your customers is paramount…