It is no secret that the volume market for traditional conservatories industry has been declining over recent years, and so it has never been more important for manufacturers to work hard to help to both revitalise the existing market for traditional conservatories, as well as explore and open up new opportunities and markets by introducing cross-over and other home improvement products. We spoke to Iain Thomson, Managing Director at Ultraframe about the company’s new positioning, new product developments and plans for the next 12 months.
Hi Iain. Could you please tell us, what are Ultraframe’s plans for the rest of this year?
2011 has been a big year for Ultraframe as we are in the process of repositioning the brand from being a specialist conservatory roof manufacturer to a company that offers a much wider portfolio of home improvement products, everything from composite doors and windows, roof lights and bi-fold doors, through to contemporary glazed extensions and orangeries.
Tell us more about your new company positioning, ‘Transforming Light and Space’?
Having always been known as the leading manufacturer of conservatory roofs, we needed to mark our transition. The new company positioning is to be recognised as an innovative provider of light and space solutions. The revised logo and strap line ‘transforming light and space’ reflects this move and demonstrates the company’s commitment to becoming the number one provider into this market sector. We are passionate about transforming light and space!
What does this mean for Ultraframe and also for the industry?
As well as being able to engage a wider range of new customers, we are also able to offer existing customers even more selection when looking to expand their own businesses.
Who is Ray and what does he represent?
Ray, as in a ray of light, is Ultraframe’s new fun and interactive character. He will be part of the Ultraframe image change and we will be using him to present things in a whole new light. He will be working to provide help and guidance on the web, in brochures and ads, to communicate key messages to both the trade and consumer.
What’s happening with new products?
We are energetically promoting ‘crossover’ products such as orangeries and glass extension verandas which blur the outside/inside and garden/home interface. Using our well developed engineering capabilities we have developed the Ultraframe orangery, a new take on the traditional atrium-style conservatory, which bridges the gap between a traditional conservatory and an extension. It is designed to be a versatile and stylish living space which can be used all year round and to provide more privacy than a traditional conservatory due to distinguishing brick pillars. The interior height of the Ultraframe Orangery roof provides a focal point through which light can flood into the home, allowing a view of the sky above.
Furthermore, later this year we will also be launching a new light-weight version of the orangery extension, so watch this space!
The Ultraframe glass extension veranda featuring glazing bars in the roof which oversail and carry the glass to form an additional covered area, allows the consumer to sit outside, protected from the elements. In addition, by installing large in line sliders or bi-folds, this new conservatory creates the perception of a much larger integrated living space. Moreover, the veranda can be mono or duo pitch and the protected open sided ‘cocoon’ can be to the front or the side elevations.
As well as acting as an integral gutter, an aluminium powder coated half round beam provides structural support to the oversailing glazing and glazing bars. This integral gutter also features stop end spigots that seal the gutter at one end and are then ‘spliced’ onto an oak post to support the open side of the Veranda conservatory.
Sounds great, do you also have any ‘green’ developments on the cards?
Yes, we have recently launched the Utopia roof. Ever-tightening Building Regulations and the forthcoming Green Deal have resulted in homeowners looking for products that will make their homes more thermally efficient and it’s not surprising that they want to achieve the same levels of efficiency in their conservatories too. As such, we developed a brand new roof that can be used on traditional conservatories, both on newly built and when upgrading existing ones. The Utopia roof provides outstanding thermal efficiency as well as dramatically increasing the all year round usability of any conservatory.
The Passivhaus Institute – which provides eco design guidance to Europe’s home builders - sets a U-Value target figure of 0.8 for wall glazing. However, the typical U-value of a conservatory roof is in the range 1.1 to 1.7 and in winter the consumer often combats the colder temperatures by turning up the heating. With ever increasing fuel costs, the homeowner is leaving themselves open to large utility bills.
Traditionally, those homeowners who have looked to achieve better thermal efficiency, and all year round usage, have only ever considered traditional solid, tiled roof, brick extension. But building an extension, rather than a conservatory, will often mean doubling the cost, having months of disruption in the house, and then there is council red tape and Building Regulation approvals to consider. Perhaps just as important, the homeowner loses light in the adjacent room, a benefit that can only effectively be provided by fitting a glazed roof extension /conservatory.
We developed our Utopia roof to provide a more cost effective and thermally efficient alternative to solid roofs, which escapes local authority ‘red tape’. The double layer polycarbonate system also provides an additional barrier to external noise transmission, allowing for a quieter and more peaceful internal environment.
And lets not forget Classic Plus with it’s integrated tracks which accept our in-house manufactured fabric and wood weave Shades, just one more example of an Ultraframe ‘first’!
What do you think the future of the conservatory industry looks like? What are your predictions for 2012?
Market conditions remain tough, but in order to keep momentum we must innovate. Whilst some of this innovation will be ‘value add ‘ improvements, we believe the best way to thrive is through developing new categories of products, like the veranda glass extension which can be developed into so many contemporary designs.
With a long pedigree in glazed roof engineering, Ultraframe wants to continue to build deeper links with existing users and is currently re-aligning its sales and marketing priorities to do this. We will shape our developments through joint consultation with customers, with a key driver being to speed up future product and service introductions.