September 11, 2020
High Performance Windows for a Housing Market on the Rise
by Eric Thompson
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Amidst the turmoil of 2020, there’s one thing that has emerged with some certainty: The single-family home construction market is on the upswing.
I have recently seen estimates of single-family home starts up by over 7% year-over-year and nearing a 14-year high. Homebuilder sentiment is said to be at the highest level in over 20 years. Based on conversations with customers and homebuilders, it seems there’s no shortage of work on the residential side of the market right now.
With this in mind, residential window and door manufacturers need to be ready to deliver on rising demand with quality, innovative products. How to do it? Here are a few things I’ve been thinking about recently:
Delivering on modern desires. Diversified color options have become an expectation. Much of today’s new home design emphasizes clean lines, sleek profiles and—sincreasingly popular these days—black or bronze framing. My colleague Erin Johnson has noted how this style is integral to the popular “modern farmhouse” aesthetic, but black and bronze frames is applicable to just about any cutting edge home style.
Meanwhile, larger sized windows have continued to grow in prominence as homebuilders seek to let more of the outside in. And though the immediate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will eventually fade, these trends are likely to continue. Carrie Scheetz noted earlier this summer that larger format windows may only grow in desirability as folks spend more time at home. Operability may increase in importance, as it’s been shown that natural ventilation can contribute to healthier indoor spaces—and to that end, we could also see an increased interest in high-quality, functional window screens.
As is always the case, manufacturers must be able to balance delivering on these needs with cost—a compelling value proposition always plays a part in closing the deal. The challenge here is to provide price-competitive products with desired features and aesthetic benefits.
High performance is an expectation. It was long the case that higher thermal performance in window and doors was a value-add. But today, it has transformed into a baseline customer expectation. It’s part of the reason why vinyl windows have come to such prominence in the residential space. They’re typically cost effective, and are inherently more energy efficient than comparable non-thermally broken aluminum windows.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to differentiate, because not all vinyl is created equal. Specifically, PVC compounds for fenestration products, formulated and produced in the United States are often designed and tested to ensure long-term durability in the diverse and regionally harsh North American climate. Some emerging formulations coming into the U.S. from Europe and elsewhere aren’t always necessarily robust enough to stand the test of time in North America.
For those reasons, it’s important to ensure your vinyl extrusions carry a strong certification. Organizations like the Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance (FGIA, formerly known as AAMA) certifies extrusion suppliers based on a battery of standardized tests. The certification program is voluntary, and provides manufacturers, contractors, architects and end users some comfort and security through the unbiased, third-party certification criteria.
Driving manufacturing efficiency in a challenging time. Successfully delivering on these demands profitably, means staying efficient—and that may be the biggest challenge faced by manufacturers right now.
The labor situation has only become more challenging in 2020, and manufacturers need solutions. Deploying automation may now be more impactful than ever before. Beyond automated equipment, manufacturers can eek out more efficiency by eliminating steps wherever possible from the fabrication process. For example, if you’re looking to add a color variety to your product lineup, utilizing a color technology which is thermally fused instead of painting or laminating frames in-house can be effective. Elsewhere, outsourcing a low value component like screens to a trustworthy vendor can help you eliminate some production headaches while freeing up plant floor real estate for higher-value activities—space for some new automated equipment, perhaps.
As residential housing heats up, window and door manufacturers need to be prepared with the right strategies and the right technologies to deliver on demand. These are just some of the ways that might be beneficial.
Questions or comments? Contact me directly at Eric.Thompson@Quanex.com, and head on over to our GlassBuild Connect hub for more content from our experts.
September 11, 2020 by Eric Thompson
Filed under: housing