In my 25 years in the fenestration industry, I cannot recall seeing this much change in such a short period of time. We are seeing significant changes in three key areas: “What to Build, How to Build it, and How to Install It. You name it. Every aspect of the fenestration industry is changing at a very fast pace!

What to Build?

Manufacturers are striving to build the most energy-efficient windows for the dollar. Driven by the tax credit program and R5 Volume Purchase Program, window manufacturers are analyzing glass, frame and spacer technologies like never before in an effort to stay one step ahead of the competition. High performance low-E glass, foam-filled frames, polymer spacers and noble gases. All are enjoying market share gains as a greater percentage of fabricators gravitate toward these technologies.

How to Build it?

The new national Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) requirement for third- party certification testing has forced door and window manufacturers to step up quality assurance practices to a whole new level. If you don’t give serious attention to every detail of the window fabrication process, workmanship problems can haunt your business and seriously deflate your sales. Failure to pass the industry certification tests for insulating glass durability and argon retention can compromise the marketability of your product lineup, especially if you have to limit your IG offerings perhaps because you cannot pass with triples or argon. Or worse yet, what if you cannot pass at all? This can mean no NFRC label which can drop you to the “not such a bargain” basement category in the eyes of the savvy window consumer.

Challenges posed by “How to Build” will cause many window fabricators to invest in additional employee training and perhaps automation. In order to pass the stringent durability standards required to pass third-party certification, many fabricators are being forced to significantly change the way they are fabricating windows from a process and quality assurance standpoint. These changes will enable fabricators to reduce workmanship problems while enabling the production of higher quality windows in a more cost efficient manner. Investments in higher quality personnel and more capital intensive equipment do raise the break even bar. This will translate to a more aggressive marketing campaign as the thirst is felt for greater profit margins and revenue streams to compensate.

How to Install

Lastly there is even change in “How to Install.” It is spelled LEAD. By implementing new safety rules designed to protect homeowners from lead-based paint which may become airborne during the window installation process, the EPA is raising the installed cost of windows in pre-1978 built homes. I have talked to quite a few contractors about this and they fall into one of three categories: 1) those who have already obtained certification and are informing their customers of the new requirements; 2) those who have not yet certified and are hoping that the EPA will change its mind or grant a reprieve; and 3) those who, believe it or not, just became aware of the situation when I brought up the topic! It doesn’t look like this issue is going away, so the companies that will come out ahead are those that: A) Do the best job of informing and educating the consumer so that the added cost is accepted; and B) Come up with a novel way of meeting the requirements at the least possible cost to the consumer while maintaining profit margins.

Some think change is a pain, but for those that make the right moves, change can also lead to GAIN!

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