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Style opens many doors

The test of a good product is the way it turns heads and wins clients, and for Total Glass its stylish communal entrance doors have certainly done that

Today social housing, tomorrow the world one might say, as Total Glass has enjoyed such a good reception for its stylish aluminium communal doors that it’s started to attract interest from overseas.

The original concept was devised at the request of Liverpool Mutual Homes (LMH) and City West Housing Trust. The challenge was to come up with a product that was “more ‘Urban Splash’ then social housing”.

Pulling that off was not perhaps as easy as it sounds; not only did the doors have to present an appealing aesthetic – one that escaped the somewhat bleak look of traditional systems – it also had to meet some tough securiaty standards. Working with the two social landlords, Total Glass pulled it off – to create a door system that is attractive and appealing whilst at the same rugged and secure.

With that, the Knowlsey-based company had created a winning product and secured itself the contract to supply LMH with some 1,200 doors and 1,000 for City West. It is fair to say that Total Glass hasn’t looked back since then.

Last year, the company displayed a further aluminium communal entrance door option at the CIH conference and exhibition in Harrogate – where it went down a storm with visitors. The model displayed was an expansion of the original theme, less rugged than its LMH and City West predecessor as it was designed for less tough environments, but the same ethos applied: more than tough enough to handle the demands expected of it but good-looking with it.

“The reaction we get from clients is that they love the appearance,” said Total Glass’s managing director Julian Wetherall. “The key points to the door are the aesthetics; people can’t tell if it’s a social housing or a private development. So it’s more contemporary. The doors allow light into communal areas, so it brightens the environment and it also reduces the problems of youths gathering in those locations: they can be seen.”

There’s the rugged aspect too – by now a proven quality too – as Wetherall explains: “It achieved Secured by Design without any problem at all. I ndeed it exceeds the standards. And it has undergone rigorous testing.

Aside from all the tests you can do in a laboratory, the fact that we’ve had thousands of these doors out in the market now, where they’ve been subject to the abuse they would get in some of the tough locations in the UK , the doors have stood up well. The customers we’ve got are still ordering from us – so that tells me something.”

Since first creating the original product, Total Glass has continued to develop the doors and expand the range. The reception the products have received in the housing sector has also seen the company grow by some 40 per cent over the last 18 months. In this time, interest in the doors has seen Total Glass expand its market out of the North West and across the country.

Recently, it has been installing “hundreds” of the doors in London and across the South on behalf of Riverside, for instance. As a quick estimate, Wetherall says that around 100 of these doors are being made in a week at its manufacturing facilities in Knowlsey, Merseyside. It now employs some 200 people and its turnover was £18.5 million last year. The company’s performance isn’t solely based on the doors, of course – or its other aluminium products – as it also produces composite doors and uPVC windows (its original business) but the product certainly accounts for a sizeable share of its boosted fortunes. In business terms, it’s the value of a good product that fits its clients’ needs like a glove.

“Our business when we first started was uPVC only but we have subsequently developed the business and now it has a separate aluminium division,” said W etherall. “The security doors are just one part of what we offer in the aluminium section. We can also supply curtain walling, entrance screens: and a full range of aluminium products as well as composite doors.

What this has allowed us to do is offer new solutions for clients where historically we’ve supplied on the uPVC – now we can offer a full range of products that solve their problems effectively.”

The company has expanded the range of the communal doors, but broadly speaking they are made of heavy gauge aluminium and stainless steel hardware. The thermally efficient glazing (Total Glass offers A-rated windows as standard on its uPVC range) can also be tailored to the client’s image. In terms of locking mechanisms and other features, the doors offer solenoid or maglock locking systems, and security features such as cameras can all be incorporated into the design. “We’ve continued to work with our systems company SAPA and our own in-house technical team to develop the doors with a wider range of options for a high security installation,” Wetherall added.

There’s actually more to the door’s product appeal than its aesthetics and rugged qualities; there’s also its ‘green’ element in terms of recycling. Both aluminium and stainless steel can be recovered and re-used, of course, and as well as offering a recycling service to its clients – recovering waste materials, be that metal or uPVC, it also offers a facility whereby the communal doors can be manufactured from recycled aluminium and steel – along with the product’s thermal performance while in service, it’s an added boon for the environment.

Total Glass doesn’t restrict itself to just manufacturing the doors; it also offers an installation service if that’s what the client wants. If the client chooses to ‘go it alone’ as it were, the company offers full training on the fitting and maintenance of the doors at its manufacturing site. Otherwise, it is geared up to provide installation services anywhere in the country.

“We work with all the main door entry system people. We partner with them. So we can do a supply only service or a supply and fit. If they choose the supply and fit route, we have an in-house project management team in the commercial side of our business,” said Wetherall. “A project manager will be assigned who will work with the clients and any architects and other partners to put together a programme, get the doors surveyed and measured, and manufacture the doors once the design has been approved, then our installers can go out and fit them.”

The company has such faith – and a quiet but nevertheless evident pride – in the communal doors that it is happy to supply a door system free of charge to a new client so that they can see for themselves how it performs.

In terms of after care the doors come with the full technical support of the top branded products that go into the doors with manufacturers such as Assa Abloy, which owns Yale, so there are “proven components” going into the doors.

“The product requires very little maintenance on an ongoing basis, apart from lubrication and minor adjustment once a year it really doesn’t need anything more than that,” said Wetherall.

Total Glass might have created the communal door system at the request of a social housing client, but as the product has found ever-wider favour across the sector, it has also been turning heads – and winning use – in other sectors such as in commercial and retail settings.

Now the company is on the verge of going global; early days yet, but it has received expressions of interest from commercial and residential bodies overseas. And it all started in Liverpool.

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