Aluminium or PVCu – which is best for your Local Authority project?

Leading window and door manufacturer Shelforce is Birmingham City Council’s chosen manufacturer of choice for local authority building projects, specialising in social housing, education and the new build sector. With extensive experience in delivering window projects on time and in budget, Shelforce’s Business Manager Howard Trotter tackles one of the age-old debates when it comes to windows – which are better for your local authority project, aluminium or PVCu windows?

When a debate is as longstanding as which material is better when it comes to windows, aluminium or PVCu, it’s usually a sign that it’s almost impossible to answer.

Historically, aluminium was the material of choice for windows in the 60s and 70s, but due to poor thermal efficiency and quality, PVCu took over the mantle and has proved the most popular choice for window frames since the 80s thanks to its affordability.

Aluminium windows, however, have come a long way over the past decade in terms of affordability, durability, and thermal efficiency.

While aluminium is a firm favourite with architects and commercial entities, housing associations tend to lean more towards PVCu.

But what it really comes down to is budget and the kind of project being undertaken.

Strong, stylish and sleek

The surge in popularity of aluminium windows can be traced to the stylish look they offer, with sleeker frames and slimmer sightlines creating a clean and modern look.

Slimmer window frames allow for a bigger pane of glass meaning a better view and more natural light coming in.

Aluminium is fantastic for curtain walling, shop fronts and commercial entrances due to its durability and strength, while it’s also the best product for achieving stringent wind load calculations.

Thanks to advances in technology, aluminium windows are now among the best-insulated on the market due to an innovative polyamide thermal break within the frame which prevents too much heat from being conducted.

And because aluminium is a highly durable metal that doesn’t rust, the frames are practically maintenance-free and can last up to 45 years

Significant advances – and still good value

The popularity of PVCu windows is down to their affordability thanks to material costs and being much quicker to manufacture.

But there have also been significant advances in the PVCu market with respect to design and PVCu systems have been introduced that replicate both aluminium colours and sight lines, as well as more traditional finishes, such as flush sashes for traditional timber alternatives.

Thanks to the new PVCu designs and colour options, more cost-effective solutions to aluminium are available which now provide the aesthetics called for by architects.

PVCu is also resistant to rot which means they require little maintenance and provides good insulation ability, while a PVCu window has a lifespan of 35 years and as a hugely sustainable material it can be recycled 10 times, meaning PVCu can offer up to 350 years of service.

Multi-chambered PVCu frame profiles can also help reduce noise and are also warp-free, which means there will be no distortion in the frame which can seriously reduce the effectiveness of the seal.

Application is everything

It’s clear that aluminium windows have developed over the past 10 years but there will always be a place for PVCu thanks to its affordability and the significant advances in the PVCu market.

But as to which one is better, it comes down to application.

For curtain walling or wide span projects, aluminium should be favourite. When it comes to affordable housing, however, PVCu is the material to consider.

Founded in 1839, Shelforce has been involved in a whole host of local authority building projects including, most recently, Birmingham Council’s first ever ‘ModPod’ and a revamp of a 20-storey tower block in Aston to help homeless families. For more information call Shelforce on 0121 603 5262 or visit