From Forecasts to Mold Updates,
the WDMA’s Annual Meeting Offered it All
by Alan Campbell
Mold issues, harmful legislation in California and valuable industry statistics were just some of the topics discussed at the Window & Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) 76th annual meeting. Attendees left Florida’s Bal Harbour Beach Resort with a wealth of information (and maybe a bit of a tan).
Boosting the strongest attendance in four years (328 people were at the event), the annual meeting was a blend of association reports, committee meetings, education and motivational presentations and social activities. Following are some meeting highlights.
New Alliances, New Standards and Legislation
The WDMA announced a new relationship with the National Sunroom Association (NSA). The WDMA has negotiated a cooperative services agreement with NSA and will assist the association in technical activities with the primary focus being placed on codes and standards development.
The WDMA also announced a closer alliance with the National Sash and Door Jobbers Association (NSDJA). Association president George Lorenz suggested a cross fertilization of committees between the NSDJA and WDMA that would allow for a better understanding of each association’s goals and member concerns.
In the standards area, the following updates were provided:
• ANSI recognition of 101/I.S.-2/NAFS-02.
• Side-hinged exterior door specification has been rolled into 101/I.S.-2/A440 standard and will be balloted as part of that standard.
• 101/I.S.-2/A440 draft is now up for public comment on the WDMA website.
• I.S.1-A, the Architectural Flush Door Standard, should be ready for balloting in a few months.
There was also much discussion about Senate Bill 800, which was passed last year by the California state legislature. This legislation strikes at the heart of product liability issues and building product manufacturers.
The WDMA is launching a multi-fold response on behalf of the industry. Assembling a war chest, the association has retained the services of a lobbyist in California, is working with the American Architectural Manufacturers Association and its lobbyist has drafted corrective language and will soon file a revised bill in Sacramento.
Always of interest to door and window manufacturers are trends concerning materials and supplies. Therefore, the annual meeting featured a panel on material supply trends.
Richard Morgan, director of marketing for Mikron Industries, discussed vinyl and thermoplastic composites. Morgan told manufacturers to look for slower rigid PVC growth and rapid expansion of related thermoplastic frame material types.
“Cellular PVC products should be gaining acceptance,” he said.
He also said to look for the emergence of composite thermoplastic (wood/polymer) frame materials.
“Blends of wood fiber and PVC, polyethylene or polypropylene resins are finding acceptance in decking and other ‘plastic wood’ use,” Morgan said. “Many of these new composites for windows and doors utilize patented technology.”
Additionally, composite share growth is expected to come from current rigid PVC, wood and clad-wood categories, according to Morgan. The forecast is that the end-use market will be flat to slightly up overall and that PVC/thermoplastic stocks will be available.
“Trends continue to favor thermoplastics,” said Morgan. “Expect more variety and more hybrid
Rand Baldwin, CAE and president of the Aluminum Extruders Council, spoke regarding aluminum fenestration trends. He pointed out that in 2002 aluminum extrusion shipments in the United States and Canada totaled 3.5 billion pounds (35 percent went into building and construction). The forecast is for shipments of 3.7 billion pounds in 2003, said Baldwin.
Phil Wake of Omniglass offered some trends regarding pultruded fiberglass.
“Within 15 years, half of all windows in the United States will be made of fiberglass,” Wake said.
Mike Dobson, manager of sales and marketing for industrial lumber, Boise Cascade Corp., offered statistics on supply and demand of softwood lumber. While production was at 53.9 million board feet in the 2000-2002 period, Dobson said to expect a modest increase in production in 2003-2004.
E.T. Altman, president of the Hardwood Plywood and Veneer Association, concluded the panel by giving an outlook on hardwood veneer.
Sliced veneer production totaled 5.58 billion square feet in 2001, down 6 percent from the previous year. The total included cherry (30 percent), white oak (24 percent), red oak (17 percent), hard maple (16 percent) and walnut (6 percent).
While Altman said that cherry and red oak are most popular, cherry represents only 2 percent of forest growth (red oak represents 23 percent), so Altman warned that the price of cherry will rise.
Thin rotary production totaled 2.68 billion square feet in 2001, down 5 percent from the previous year. This total included birch (42 percent), hard maple (30 percent) and red oak (25 percent). Altman said to expect a growth of imports in some markets and continued popularity of natural finishes.
While the featured speakers discussed a variety of topics, one was of particular interest.
Thomas “Chip” Munro, a partner in Foley & Lardner’s West Palm Beach office, chair of the firm’s national Construction Practice Group and a member of its litigation department, discussed legal issues concerning mold.
Munro pointed out that the issue of toxic mold has attracted substantial attention from environmental and health agencies, building material manufacturers, contractors, insurance companies, property owners, news media and plaintiffs’ lawyers.
“There have been a number of high-profile claims,” he said. “The litigation awards of multi millions have generally been reduced dramatically on appeal, but are still noteworthy. In addition to property-damage claims, the risk of personal-injury claims is substantial.”
If you think all types of mold are alike, think again. According to Munro, there are more than 100,000 species of mold. Mold particularly flourishes when wet building materials are used in the construction of a building.
“It has been suggested that today’s airtight structures have created a uniquely receptive environment for the development of mold,” Munro said.
He added that there are no legal standards for an unacceptable amount of mold in a home or work environment. Only one state, California, has passed a law directing its Department of Health Services to establish permissible exposure limits for mold in commercial and residential structures. A progress report is required by July 1, 2003.
Earlier this year, Congressman John Conyers of Michigan reintroduced, without substantial change, the United States Toxic Mold Protection Act, which was first introduced in 2002. The U.S. Department of Labor also has identified mold as a significant indoor air-quality concern.
The absence of regulatory standards has not prevented claims against anyone and everyone. Most insurance policies presently seek to exclude coverage for mold and fungus.
“Contractors should be vigilant by employing strict construction practices to reduce the incidence of construction with wet building materials,” Munro said. “Skilled technical advice is important. The best consultant is one who has experience in industrial hygiene, mold sampling and mold remediation.”
He also urged manufacturers to remember that the causal link between mold and serious illnesses has not yet been conclusively established.
The WDMA’s next meeting will be its annual technical conference to be held May 13-15 in Chicago.
Alan Cambell is president of the Window and Door Manufacturers Association based in Des Plaines, Ill.
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