Mr Shawn Winn SBE0002
Written evidence from Mr Shawn Winn
I am Shawn Winn, a joinery designer and construction detailer in Devon. The bespoke joinery industry is in rapid decline. Doors, windows, porches, conservatories, etc. (e.g., the external manifestations of bespoke joinery) are now purchased from the online catalogues of large, highly mechanised and digitalised suppliers. However high-performance (some of) these pieces are manufactured to be, inappropriate specifications, poor detailing and poor fitting on site soon render them damaging to buildings and a waste of money and resources. Visit any recycling centre (or fly-tipping site) and you’ll see plastic, composite and aluminium doors and windows piled as high as discarded home electronics.
It wasn’t always so. Locally sourced timber joinery, after stimulating local economies in its design and manufacture, endured in-situ for hundreds of years, all the while enhancing the aesthetic character of the built environment. When it’s useful life was finally over it quickly composted into useful soil. This model should be the measure of sustainability in the built environment. Updating the model will include accoya timber, not yet locally sourced, but it could be. Given its long shelf life, however, it’s a perfect candidate to arrive to us via clipper ship rather than by engine (fossil fuel powered or otherwise). Double glazing systems in timber need more work, but suppliers like Hodgson Sealants are making excellent progress. Weatherstrips, the best of which are simple co-extrusions of (sadly) thermoplastics, are not manufactured in the UK, but they should be. Just as, in time, they should cease to be plastic. The best quality weatherstrips, are however, readily available to anyone. These and a few other modifications considered, the traditional model of bespoke joinery is still our best option. Availability of materials is no immediate obstacle, and need not be a future obstacle with some attention given to their procurement and/or manufacture. Availability of design expertise is a bigger obstacle, but if this area of the industry was suddenly made vibrant there would soon be many more designers. Our biggest obstacle is our deep-rooted commitment to standardisation and scale in manufacturing as if doors and windows were cars or computers. The few small joinery manufacturers left are, in the confusion, deliberately de-skilling in their craft and investing their meagre capital in too much digitalisation and mechanisation. They will soon be gone.
The ‘way back’ for joinery and, in turn, the ‘way forward’ for sustainability in the built environment should not be complicated or expensive. Seismic, however, will be the narrative shift that turns the consumer’s attention from IKEA to the local joinery shop. Government could push the narrative by commissioning best examples of high performance, vernacular, bespoke joinery in its own buildings and in council housing. Government can also help by allowing light manufacturing in any otherwise redundant garage, shed, barn, etc. without a ‘Change of Use’ Planning Application (notional ‘industrial estates’ are unnerving places and bad for business and morale). Further, Government should abolish certification-ridden Approved Document Q, itself a seeming attempt to abolish small manufacturing. Approved Document L1B, meanwhile, as well as being more method-driven and better enforced, needs to be less friendly to the chemical industry and much more encouraging of natural materials.
I am always available for questions or further clarification.