glassblog

Monday, February 7, 2011

What a wild week. We had a major deal break last Tuesday and a presidential mandate at the end of the week. So, let's break it down. On the deal: Quanex Building Products Corp. acquired Edgetech IG. I believe that deal caught everyone napping. In any case, it still needs to be approved by the FTC, but once it passes that hurdle, the interesting thing will be how the market accepts it. Edgetech was a very visible entity in our world, a very large presence at places like GlassBuild America, and also extremely active at the trade group level. How will the change affect those things, and more importantly, their ability to continue to service and work with their customers? Also, does this deal open the door for smaller and hungrier manufacturers to jump into areas that may be vacated by Edgetech? It really will be a fascinating angle to watch for sure. And yes, I know that in the initial releases everyone said all will be well, but that's what every release like this always says.

Later in the week, President Obama announced his "Better Building Initiative," and the news did surely send a jolt of energy through the industry. I have talked for years about the European Energy Passport program and how it would be awesome to have it here; this surely is a start in that direction. This program--if it doesn't get mushed up by special interests along the way--has the potential for amazing things for our industry, including the ability for us to show off our newest technologies and prove to the world we are not the weak link some people say we are. In any case, I remain optimistic. But again, I have to stress: Let's hope that this process can be implemented fast and without detriments that serve the wrong people.

And on that note, if you missed the National Glass Association's take on the initiative, it's here and it is worth the read.

Elsewhere...

  • Guess what's back? Yep, I have to mention the good ole NFRC... Jim Benney had a blog here last week, and Greg Carney offered a wonderful comment on it. Greg's comment:

    As you consider the issue of a National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) daylighting rating and respond to the National Glass Association (NGA) weekly survey, please keep in mind that every NFRC rating and/or certification adds cost to the fenestration contract. I can't help but wonder if the money would be better spent on today's product technology in the form of advanced low-emissivity coatings, dynamic glazing, and warm-edge spacers in lieu of the bureaucracy of NFRC?

    Bravo Greg. Folks seriously, the CMA adventure was one thing, but if you let this organization get deeper into our world, you will regret it.
  • And one last code sort of item. Don't forget Glass Week and BEC are coming... I looked at the BEC agenda and saw some really interesting pieces. To me, anytime you can hear Dr. Tom Culp speak, you need to be there. The guy knows his stuff and truly has his finger on the pulse of the code world. And like I have noted many times, Dr. Culp is respected by all sides in these issues because he's tremendously fair. So for that alone, you want to be there. I'll have more tidbits on BEC as it gets closer and I plan on doing the same to get you ready for the Glazing Executives Forum and GlassBuild America coming in September. These are all events that you should be looking too, and they are spread out enough that you can swing it.
  • Health update... A few months back, I wrote about a friend and coworker Dan Luna as he battled some serious health issues. Well, I am absolutely thrilled to say that Mr. Luna is feeling better and on the positive road to recovery. I'm very happy for Dan, his family, friends and coworkers. Keep staying healthy my friend!
  • The weather... I swear I write about the weather every year but this year does have to be the worst yet doesn't it?
  • OK, and finally this week: the Super Bowl (I will cover the best and worst commercials next week). Well, it figures that my ability to "mush" the picks ends with the biggest game of the year. A major congrats to the Packer fans out there... many of whom I am good friends with. I am happy for you, but also sad for the Steeler fans in my life (and bummed personally too actually) and since I am now out of my mother's good graces, anyone who wants to adopt me, I am available. Seriously though, enjoy it Wisconsin! (On the plus side, I have spending money waiting for me for BEC- still doesn't feel good.)

    Oh and a terrible night too for Christina Aguilera as she flubbed the national anthem... I'm sure that will be everywhere this week.

 
Read on for links and video of the week...

Max Perilstein is chief marketing officer for Vitro America, Memphis. Write him at mperilstein@vitro.com.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, January 31, 2011

Last week, in e-glass weekly, there was a link to a story about possible growth in 2011 via a report from the Associated General Contractors of America. The report and story was very interesting, but one paragraph jumped out at me, and basically got the juices flowing.

"Bid levels will remain very competitive this year. According to the survey results, 29 percent of firms report they plan to lower bid levels in 2011. That follows a year when 74 percent of firms reported lowering bid levels, including 7 percent who reported lowering bid levels to the point they lost money performing the work."

So you wonder: Last year, three quarters of the GC's lowered their pricing, but this year only a little more than a quarter "plan" to. So, is this optimism? Or, when this poll comes out in 2012, will it show that everyone dropped again? I also think the poll is goofy. I mean, do you ever PLAN on dropping your number? Isn't that kind of hokey? I also believe that the 7 percent listed that lost money on lowered bid levels is woefully low. When you have more GC's than ever bidding a job, you know there's more than 7 percent  that are dropping below the Mendoza line. Anyway, the moral of the story is while things are seemingly on pace to improve, there's still lingering issues hanging out there.

Elsewhere...

  • Really, really sad news this week as I just heard about the mid-January passing of Mark Bond of WA Wilson. Mark was a tremendous man, and his passing leaves a big hole in the hearts of many folks at Wilson and everyone that dealt with Mark on a daily basis. When I was growing up in the industry, I dealt with Mark (my company sold to Wilson and if/when we messed up, it was Mark we/I dealt with) and he schooled me. I learned a ton from him and respected him beyond belief. He had beaten some serious health scares over the years, so when I heard he passed  I was shocked because I really thought he could overcome anything. A good man and huge loss. Condolences go out to everyone at Wilson and Mark's family. He'll truly be missed.
  • Last week's blog by fellow e-glass weekly blogger Bill Evans was super. No doubt Bill is a guy who can inspire. That entry is the type that should be sent around the office because it really hits home....
  • Speaking of fellow bloggers, I wonder if Chris Mammen will be hanging out at the Super Bowl this weekend....
  • Interesting article here on how one power company looks to cash in on solar... but unfortunately on the backs of the adopters! This was bound to happen, that is for sure.

Last... and certainly not least... the Super Bowl is this weekend. If you have followed this blog (and thank you for following), you know I am on an epic picking streak... I am always wrong. So I think you can assume what my pick will be this week. So here goes: I am picking the Packers to win... and not just because my picking a team makes the other team win and I am a Steeler fan. No, here are the reasons why:

1. I like the Packers, love Rodgers and think the GB D is good. And the Steelers without their starting center will have issues.

2. Can Pittsburgh really win its 3rd title in 6 years? That's Scott Surma-like success there.

3. The MGM took in a MILLION dollar bet on the Packers. WOW. Story is here if you want to read more.

4. Most importantly, my Mom demands I pick the Packers and by doing so I move up on her list and could crack the top 20 of people she likes. (Loooong way to go to get to the rarified air my brother and sister hang out in with my Mom)

So to make this even more wild... When I was in Las Vegas this week I put money down on the Packers to win outright. So if the Pack wins, I win some cash and folks in Wisconsin won't hate me. If the Steelers win, I'm happy, family is happy and I will have amazingly gotten every playoff pick wrong- which you have to admit is impressive. Anyway hope it's a good game and also let's have some good commercials this year too! 

 Read on for links and clip of the week...

Max Perilstein is chief marketing officer for Vitro America, Memphis. Write him at mperilstein@vitro.com.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors. 

 

 

Monday, January 31, 2011

Daylighting gets a lot of attention in green building circles these days,and deservingly so. Studies have shown that increased daylighting levels provide benefits such as reduced absenteeism in schools, increased worker productivity, faster healing in hospitals, increased spending in stores, and more. Who doesn’t desire an office with a window; or even greater – the corner office? We all would rather read the morning paper under the light of day, than the harsh light of fluorescence. There is even a proven mood change due to the lack of natural light: Seasonal Affective Disorder. 

Of course, many of these benefits cannot be measured. The one attribute that can be quantified is energy savings. Providing independent and accurate daylighting ratings would offer a more complete picture of fenestration’s role in buildings, particularly its effect on reducing electricity consumption associated with indoor lighting.

NFRC’s Daylighting Rating Task Group held its first in-person meeting last fall in San Francisco. The task group’s scope is to create a rating system for daylighting potential using the existing NFRC visible transmittance rating combined with known, bright day incident illuminance values. The task group formed a working group to explore bright sky illuminance and to determine the best way to begin developing a rating.

The working group’s first assignment is to determine the type of sky needed to use in developing the rating, i.e., clear or diffuse. The working group is expected to present its recommendations at NFRC’s Spring 2011 Committee Week in Las Vegas, which will take place March 28-30.

The daylighting rating effort is in a preliminary stage. At this time, NFRC is exploring how to proceed. If NFRC pursues daylighting ratings, we will need to decide whether to create a complex model that takes into account the angle of the sun, orientation of the building, and other factors, or a simpler method that measures daylighting potential. Then, decisions would need to be made about whether to use an index or letter rating system, whether to integrate it with visible transmittance, etc.

It can take years to develop new rating procedures, and it requires the input of all interested stakeholders to ensure those procedures will be independent and credible. We invite you to learn more about NFRC’s exploration of daylighting ratings and to participate in the process.

--Jim Benney is the National Fenestration Rating Council’s chief executive officer. He has been involved in developing product and performance standards for the window and glass industry for more than 25 years. He can be reached at jbenney@nfrc.org.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

Monday, January 24, 2011

January and February are naturally depressing. The holidays are over; it's cold; our cars are dirty; everything is a shade of gray; work is scarce; days are short. Forget business, negative media, competition, the economy, health care and rising gas prices. This time of year stinks (and "stinks" is not my word of choice).

It reminds me of the hills I encounter when I run. How I deal with hills can impact the quality of the race. How we deal with January and February can impact the rest of the year. At my company, I encourage people to search for positive news to report during our weekly office meetings. We encourage each other to look to the future (warm weather, lots of work, cookouts) and quit focusing on our present conditions. It's all about our attitude. When encountering a hill or obstacle, our attitude is the main propellant that gets us over it.

When encountering a hill, some people stop. Some look for a way to go around it. Some slow their pace to conserve energy. Some keep a steady pace. Some attack it.

Personally, I love hills! My wife and I often run together. We have watches that tell us our pace, distance, calories burned, etc. We always encounter several hills during each run. I initially believed that she would slow her pace at each hill because I would beat her to the top. After several runs, I questioned her about slowing her pace. She showed me, using the data stored in her watch, that her pace had been consistent. She examined my watch and noticed that my pace increased during most ascents.

Both of us get to the top of each hill, but differently. Neither one of us, however, stops or looks for a way around it or slows down. My wife is steady. She leans into the hill, but controls her pace. I also lean into the hill, but I accelerate. I want to conquer that obstacle as quickly as possible. I know I will be fatigued at the top, but it feels good to know it's behind me.

Those people that stop, slow down, or waste time trying to circumnavigate the hill will be left behind. Those that maintain a steady pace or accelerate through the hill will lead.

Are you a leader? 

—Bill Evans, president, Evans Glass Co., Nashville   

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

Monday, January 24, 2011

No doubt the big news of the week was the announcement that the chairman and CEO of Apogee, Russ Huffer, intends to retire once his successor is named. In what could be the first of a few very high-profile retirements in 2011, Huffer's announcement caught many off guard, including me quite frankly. In any case, this is a tremendous unsettling of the industry, and we'll have to see who Apogee puts in to fill some very large shoes. Huffer was a very active industry participant, speaking at many events and really pushing the proper gospel that put our world in a positive light. Russ also never went with the masses. When everyone was pushing solar, Russ steadfastly held to his data that the material was not ready for prime time. I believe his stance on that forced people to go back to the drawing board, and when solar matures, I think Russ will be one of the folks to thank. All in all, this is a seismic change and I hope that Russ stays involved in our world in some capacity, because we really do need it.

Elsewhere...

  • Speaking of an Apogee company, last week I noted Viracon's amazing influence to get politicians into their plants. Afterwards, I got an e mail that asked me why I always prop Viracon while dinging "everyone else." So on that note: I believe I give Viracon the props they deserve. They have some of the best people in our world and they truly try to be a good and active industry player. And really--with the exception of a few cases that I am emotionally involved in--I have become a kinder, gentler blogger.
  • Another good month for the Architectural Billings Index... Even the West is starting to show signs of life. No doubt it is promising, but even the analysts are urging caution since December can be pretty funky. So we will see, but if this holds, then the predictions of an improved second half of 2011 will be dead on.
  • Meanwhile, in current times, January looks bleak thanks to the brutal weather. Quite simply, when glaziers in the East and Southeast are losing entire WEEKS to bad weather, well that is just not good. Oh, and then I ran across this story where scientists think a "Super Storm" may hit California. Wow. Wonder when the new codes to guard against a "Super Storm" are coming.
  • PPG capped a great year with record sales in the fourth quarter. It's nice to see this on a few levels... hopefully that health will run downstream to more of the industry (and remember, PPG is much more than just glass these days). There are some fantastic talents within PPG that work very hard to reach the heights those numbers showed. I'm happy for them.
  • Solutia introduced a new logo recently and I love it. (see kindler, gentler... when Kawneer broke out the big red K I panned it or when Visteon brought us Versalux). Seriously though, kudos to all at Solutia who worked on it--great colors, great look and style.
  • Last and not least... my ability to NOT pick teams reached a new high... and honestly I am thrilled. The Steelers are back in the Super Bowl.... and I did seriously think the Jets (and the Bears for that matter) would win. I am glad I am not a sports better for a living... but I'd love to be anyone who goes against my picks... they have to be making a ton of money. So two weeks... two great franchises.. the Pack and the Steelers. I think you know right now I am all over the Packers to win....LOL (And note, the game wasn't over 5 minutes before my Mom e-mailed and said "PLEASE, PLEASE pick the Packers to win).

Read on for links and clip of the week...

Max Perilstein is chief marketing officer for Vitro America, Memphis. Write him at mperilstein@vitro.com.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I love a good story, especially if it makes me laugh, so I thought I'd share a few I heard recently.

Good mood glass
"A customer comes in and says, 'I heard that a specific ray of light makes you feel better in the winter. I want you to sell me a piece of glass that lets that ray of light come through my porch window so I can sit on my porch in the winter and not get depressed.' Now, our salesman is walking around and telling everyone he's selling 'good mood glass'."

The key is under the mat
"We have a ton of funny pet stories in customers' homes. Like the one where the woman said the key was under the mat. As soon as the sales guy entered the home, the alarm went off, but it wasn't the alarm. After a few moments of waiting for the alarm service to call, the fellow realized it was a parrot that had been trained to make that sound. When he went over to observe closer, the bird bit him."

The little Jeep that could (not)
"Just yesterday, we had a customer who had ordered a medium-sized mirror [come in]. She thought our installation price was too high and said she would pick it up and her husband would install it (you know what's coming). She showed up in a little Jeep and then gave our shop manager all kinds of grief because the mirror wouldn't fit into her vehicle. She said we should have had a 'case or wood rack' built and ready for her. I guess then we would have had to bolt it onto her Jeep..."

Measurement dilemma
"More than once, a customer has called with this dilemma: 'I just picked up my window glass order and it is cut wrong. I ordered a 24-inch by 36-inch and you cut it 36 inches by 24 inches. It's too wide.' I try not to make the customer feel too silly when I suggest they could turn the glass the other way, but you can hear it in their voice ... they just had a lights OUT moment."

Why so many doors?
"When I am doing a home show, at least 10 times a day, people will look at my shower door display and ask why they would need so many doors in one shower. Or, they will ask if we provide the steel frame for it as well."

Do you have a funny story to share? If so, we'd love to hear it. Please leave a comment here (if you'd prefer to remain anonymous, that's ok) or shoot me an email.

The author is editor of Glass Magazine. Write her at jchase@glass.org.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mother Nature showed her strength last week with the brutal storms in the Southeast and the combo storms in the Northeast. Add to that the rain out West, and we have had some awful weather recipes lately. It's pretty wild that so many things have an effect on our world, including the weather. Every day, it seems like there's something new and different that hits all of us more than other trades. Anyway, I wonder if any of the analysts who develop future economic forecasts take weather into account. After all, a rough run of terrible conditions can surely be a negative driver. Hopefully Mother Nature has it out of her system!

Elsewhere...

  • This week, the FTC stepped up and ended the "Tested Green" certifications after finding the products were not tested or even "green". The release from the FTC is pretty interesting actually, and it's good that it happened. The whole greenwash gig is not good for any upstanding group, so having actions like this are a step in the right direction.
  • Didn't get a ton of time at the Builders' Show this past week... still some thoughts: The show was smaller than traditionally. One vendor used the word "slim," which kinda sounded right. Not sure how the bad weather up North affected it, but it probably did somewhat. Actually though, I think this show has been "right sized".... It was way too big and way too crazy, and now it's the way it should be. The happy days of midget Elvis performers in booths are long gone, that's for sure. The overall attitude was also leaning toward the negative, which surprised me since so many studies are showing positives for 2011. I guess we'll see.
  • Speaking of reports, there were a few more good ones about 2014 and so on with loose ties to our world. Not sure what the metrics are, but these reports sure are keeping people pumped up.
  • I saw that Senator Al Franken visited the gang at Viracon... I swear Viracon is becoming like the Iowa of the glass world. You know how when someone wants to run for President they have to go hang out in Iowa? Well, I think if a political figure wants to hang around glass, they go to Viracon. Congrats to those guys for attracting these folks and getting in their ears about the issues that are really affecting our industry.
  • Congrats to my friends from Walker Glass on their remodeled headquarters. All I can say is if that place looks as good as all of those guys dress... it is probably a showstopper!
  • Glass Magazine had a piece on glass developed that's stronger than steel... It sounds pretty great, but supposedly it's really expensive...
  • Last, yep I can't pick games. People who have been reading this blog since 2005 know that... and Oregon added to that pain. Anyway, my mom says to me tonight, "So who do you like in next week's game, the Steelers or the Jets?" and before I could answer she jumped in and said "PLEASE DON'T PICK THE STEELERS! You're always wrong!" Yep, my picks have hit home now, when my own Mom is aware her son is pure "Mush" when it comes to the picks. That said, I do actually think the Jets will beat the Steelers. If the Steelers played the Pats, it would be different, but I think Rex Ryan and the Jets are a team of destiny, and in the Super Bowl, they'll play the other team of destiny: the Bears. (The Bears have been getting breaks since week 1; it's their year).

Read on for links and video of the week...

Max Perilstein is chief marketing officer for Vitro America, Memphis. Write him at mperilstein@vitro.com.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

As I was compiling industry news this morning, I noticed at least four articles on falls through skylights. Skylights in this country go through rigorous testing, and meet and exceed the minimum AAMA and ASTM guidelines before hitting the market. So, why so many accidents?

Product engineering of skylights demands that proper fall prevention glazing materials be used in the skylights to prevent people from falling through the skylights when they decide to walk on them, says Ron Palombo, president, Acurlite Structural Skylights, Berwick, Pa.   

The skylight accidents happening today are mainly from skylights that are either old or simply outdated, Palombo says. Skylights built in the late '50s through the '60s utilized glazing materials such as wired glass in an attempt to prevent fallout in case the glass broke. In most cases, annealed wired glass was used. "Many of the accidents you read about today are of skylights that were not designed to carry an active load or that [suffered a] catastrophic collapse due to inadequate engineering and/or poor installation practices," he says. "It is very rare that a report of someone falling through a modern engineered monolithic or insulated glass type skylight occurs today."

Product testing does not focus on the ability of the skylight to prevent fall through but focuses on long-term structural integrity and performance, Palombo says. "Our building code is very clear as to what loading requirements the skylight must be capable of withstanding," he says.  "Practically all building codes require that the skylight take a 250-pound concentrated load at any framing member that produces the most stress. Further, the code is now requiring that a glazing analysis be completed with the structural analysis to assure the glass is capable of taking the specified loads and transferring them back to their supporting members without breakage or failure," he says.

To avoid accidents, Palombo says:

  • Factory pre-assembling or unitizing of the main skylight components/frame definitely assures that no short cuts will be taken in the field during erection.
  • Transporting assembled components on a dedicated carrier is the only way to assure the assembled frames and material will arrive safely and intact. "Manufacturing the material, packaging it and sending it via a common carrier is suicidal."
  • Having factory trained erectors who are dedicated to erecting the structures correctly is monumental to the long-term stability, integrity and performance of the skylight unit. "You can cover all your bases, have a state-of-the-art skylight system with state-of-the-art engineering and manufacturing, but if you don't have the right erectors putting it together ...  what are you left with?"

What are your thoughts on the issue?

Sahely Mukerji is senior editor of Glass Magazine. Write her at smukerji@glass.org.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Happy New Year to one and all. Now, will it really be a "happy" new year for our industry? Personally and professionally, I do think by year end, we will look back and note that things have turned the corner. However, there are a few landmines that have popped up recently ... that could affect the positivity. Silver: it just hit a 30-year high, and predictions are that it will keep going higher. In fact, I have seen stories talking about silver going up to anywhere from 60 to even 86... (It's sitting now at 28/29). Silver is a pretty important player in a lot of what our industry provides, so a massive price increase will have effects.

In addition, the cost of lumber has been growing as well. I think everyone would love to get materials on returnable and reusable steel racks, but sometimes that's not possible. Major increases in wood also will take a toll. And last on my doomsday opener here: gas. Yep, I have been whining about gas prices for years... and now the predictions are $4 and $5 per gallon gas in the future. Yikes. All in all though I am still positive... it's a great new year ahead and we'll work through all the landmines thrown at us.

Elsewhere...

  • If you missed my year in review, you can find it here.
  • Also, if you missed it, the ABI did have a nice finish to the end of the year. Congrats to those of you in the Northeast; man, it looks pretty promising your way.
  • This week is the International Builders Show. I am hoping to get there for one quick day. As always, it will be interesting to see the attitude on the floor. That show sometimes can be a pretty decent indicator of the year ahead.
  • Did you happen to see the article on China Glass Holdings' expectations that their energy-related products will make up half of their sales by 2012? Right now, that segment is only 10 percent of their work... so of course my thought is at least China is getting and grasping the need for value-added, energy-related products. Also in that article, a very ominous line: "I'm a little worried about new supply in the glass market in 2011. Glass prices will be under pressure this year, although perhaps demand will help keep the falls capped," said Haitong International Securities analyst Zheng Zhihao. Wow, when the Chinese are worried about capacity... that really makes the mind race.
  • The fine folks from the Window and Door Dealers Alliance put out a piece here explaining the new tax credit rules for residential windows. I know most people who read this blog are commercial folks, but this question does sometimes cross over, and heck, it's good just to know.
  • Also for 2011, I started yet another phase of a lifestyle change... otherwise known as a diet. Since I am now bigger than most offensive linemen in the NFL, and more importantly, I am running out of clothes that fit, I had to get back on the wagon. So much fun just eating like crazy.... Oh well. So with that news, if you have stock in Domino's or M&M Mars, you may want to sell... because their biggest customer is now off the market for awhile.
  • Registration is open for Glass Week and BEC. Some very good pieces yet again on tap for that event. If you have never gone or haven't been in a few years, give it a go. It is worth it on several levels.
  • Funniest thing I saw during the holidays? When I was in L.A., I saw a van advertising a local plumber. His motto was in all seriousness: "The Smell Good Plumber."  I never, ever associated my need for a plumber with the smell he might leave behind.
  • By the time many of you read this, the BCS National Championship will have passed... but so I am on record... I am going with Oregon.... I think it's a close first half, but Oregon wears 'em down in the second. Final score: Oregon 41, Auburn 24. 

Read on for links and video of the week... 

Max Perilstein is chief marketing officer for Vitro America, Memphis. Write him at mperilstein@vitro.com.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

In anticipation of the coming year, I polished my crystal ball, hoping for a clear picture of what 2011 would bring personally and professionally. Unfortunately, the picture was a bit blurry, clouded by a stagnant economy and cautiousness among forecasters regarding the year ahead. While most agreed the economy would grow, few completely ruled out the possibility of a "double-dip" recession. While they said total construction starts would rise, they also cited a number of variables that could affect those predictions. Overall, I got the distinct impression that everyone was hedging their bets in regards to 2011. It seemed the only sure thing was that recovery would be slow, for the economy, the construction market and, consequently, our industry. 

In times like these, it would be great if economists could tell us exactly what to expect so that we could prepare. Wishful thinking aside, we do have the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the economic and construction forecasts, and prepare for the future in the way we're most comfortable. With that in mind, the January 2011 issue of Glass Magazine features articles on the overall economy; the nonresidential, housing and remodeling markets; as well as the fabrication segment.

Some highs and lows for the year ahead:

First, the good news. For the construction industry, "the worst is over," according to Keith Fox, president, McGraw-Hill Construction, New York. Following four years of decline, total construction starts are expected to move in a positive direction in 2011, increasing eight percent over 2010 to $446 billion. See "The slow climb."

The bad news: Both nonresidential and residential construction starts will remain far below pre-recession peaks this year, leaving the construction segment with a long way to go before we can rest easy. There is also the lag time between construction starts and spending to consider. Construction starts typically lead construction spending by at least a year, explains Gary Danowski, vice president, PPG Industries, Pittsburgh. "Because glass is one of the later expenditures in the construction cycle, it will take a while for expected growth to positively impact the glazing industry," he says.

The good news: For retailers, the remodeling market shows potential in 2011, with homeowner spending expected to increase 12.8 percent this year, according to Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies. The recovery began in fourth quarter 2010 and should pick up steam going into 2011, buoyed by low financing costs and a wave of previously foreclosed homes coming back on the market and in need of renovation, according to Kermit Baker, director of the JCHS Remodeling Futures Program. See "Delayed reaction."

The bad news: For those offering window replacement services, tax credits—or the lack thereof— could affect business this year. On Dec. 4, 2010, the U.S. Senate rejected a proposal by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) that sought to extend and modify the existing home retrofit tax credit for windows that qualify toward energy-efficient home improvements, according to a release from the American Architectural Manufacturers Association.

The good news: Fabricators are taking advantage of slow market conditions to reevaluate their business plans and product mix, according to Glass Magazine's informal survey. Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed said future expansion plans included adding new products. That said, a significant percentage of fabricators are taking a “wait and see” approach to 2011, with 25 percent of those surveyed reporting they had no expansion plans in place.

 

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