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Volume 7   Issue 4               April 2006

The 79th WDMA Annual Meeting in Review
Taking Action in the Year Ahead
by Megan Headley

From February 18-22, members of the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) left behind coworkers in colder climates to come together at the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort in Indian Wells, Calif. The resort hosted the association’s 79th Annual Meeting, and WDMA members took full advantage of the poolside vistas and sprawling golf course for extensive networking with colleagues. The two-day meeting had as much to offer as the Esmeralda itself, with motivational speakers and a general overview to motivate all of the attendees during the first day, and a second day split between the window and door divisions’ specific concerns. 

Refocusing for the Future

Chris Simpson, WDMA chairperson, led the afternoon’s session with a few remarks about the year just past. 

“The last year has been one of change,” says Simpson. “It’s time to retool and refocus our energy.”

Simpson noted some of the goals toward which WDMA will move in the year ahead. The association hopes to emphasize to its members a material-neutral, performance-based approach to manufacturing. 

“We’ve got to be process-focused all of the time,” says Simpson. 

In addition, the association is now finalizing specific actions plans with each strategic committee to lead the association forward.

Simpson also notes that the board members have decided that they will hire a permanent staff president. Jeffrey Lowinski, acting president, will return to the position of technical director for the group. The association will also bolster its staff with other additions. 

Another key focus for the association is its member growth, and more active participation from its members. In that regard, Lowinski stated during his address to the association, that participation within WDMA’s Hallmark Certification program has also increased over the past year. Lowinski noted that the association is looking at expanding the role of Hallmark Certification into other areas. 

However, Lowinski added, “The most active area the association has probably been in the area of technology leadership.”

When One Door Closes ...

Unavoidably a hot topic at the meeting was the end to the consolidation talks with the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) and the effect that this would have on WDMA’s focus for the year ahead.

For any member who might have last doubts or remaining arguments about how the WDMA and AAMA consolidation stands, Simpson clarified, “The formal consolidation efforts are over.”

Simpson suggested that it was not the right time for the merging of the two cultures. He says there were many differences, from how work gets done, to association norms and behavior.

Lowinski noted that WDMA’s cooperation with AAMA would continue on many levels. One such level is the associations’ Joint Document Management Committee, which is currently working on the next addition of AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S. 2/A440 “Standard Specification for Windows, Doors and Unit Skylights.” 

WDMA is also working with AAMA in revising AAMA 450, a rating specification method for window mullions. 

“There is no doubt that we think the industry would be better served with a consolidated unified industry association,” said Simpson. 

But WDMA is making a clear effort toward moving forward on its own.

Motivating a Commitment to Advocacy

Moving away from the WDMA’s past business, the Monday afternoon session turned toward motivating members’ commitment to advocacy leadership. 

“From an association perspective it’s very important that we look at the customers we’re serving,” Mark Mikkelson with Andersen Corp., moderator of the session, reminded the audience at the start of that session. 

The session speakers offered the viewpoints of regulators, builders, supplier members and insurance professionals.

Frank Hodge, the director of building and fire codes for Hilton Head Island, S.C., and a past president of the International Code Council (ICC), opened the discussion with information on the benefits to adopting the I-Codes. 

“Code adoption can result in lower insurance rates and enhance community development,” Hodge says. 

Jeff Inks, the assistant staff vice president for codes and standards for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), followed Hodge with an introduction to the NAHB and a discussion of its role as an advocate. 

Next, Jim Larsen, the director of technology and marketing for Cardinal Glass Industries, touched on window and energy codes. 

According to Larsen, the codes have been simplified in two main categories: the North, a heating environment, requires a low U-factor from its windows, while in the South, a cooling-load dominated region, there is need for low solar heat gain.

Larsen also says that local amendments to codes can reduce window stringency. For example, he notes that Pennsylvania allows air-leakage trade-offs, Florida allows for trade-offs with air conditioning equipment and Arkansas did not adopt solar heat gain requirements along with the codes. 

Larsen adds that local code adoption and enforcement lags behind model code updates. Some states don’t have codes, although large cities within those states might choose to adopt them. 

Charlie Reese, the committee director of the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), talked about the institute’s mission and how it works to reduce losses through research, advocacy and leadership.

According to Reese, officials with IBHS appreciate disasters like Katrina in the sense that it allows them to see what went wrong with devastated buildings and how it can be made better. Unfortunately, as Reese notes, it’s not until after a devastating event that many code changes are successful. 

Reese also discussed a recent IBHS study concerning the 2004 hurricanes that struck Florida. 

“Houses built to new building codes worked substantially better than houses built before Andrew,” Reese notes. In other words, the study showed that the codes help.

Sessions on Sustainability and Safety 

Tuesday’s general session opened with a discussion on environmental certification and stewardship. According to Robert Hrubes, senior vice president of the Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), many companies are now looking for certification labels as proof that the information they are provided about product benefits is accurate and credible. 

He mentioned several certification and rating programs available today, including the U.S. Green Building Council; the non-profit Green Building Initiative; the Green Globes rating tool; ASTM E2129; and the Healthy Building Network.

“This environment-driven expectation of wood manufacturers is clearly a rapidly growing arena,” says Hrubes.

He adds that this is one trend to which manufacturers should pay attention. Already there is concern from consumers over product content, Hrubes says. Consumers are interested in whether a product contains material that is recycled, sustainable or organic, locally-sourced (especially now that rising oil prices are affecting transportation costs) and low-emitting.

Because of this interest, Hrubes recommends looking into creating standards on environmentally-sound doors and windows somewhere down the road.

Following Hrubes, Randy Udall, the director of the Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE), made an argument for the importance of energy-efficient products by discussing America’s energy challenges and the trend toward rising energy prices. 

“We’re consuming our body weight (approximately 140 pounds) per person per week,” says Udall as an illustration of the energy crisis, also emphasizing dwindling supplies of oil and sky high prices. 

Udall brought the problem to door and window manufacturers and how they can aid in lowering energy costs by emphasizing the production of energy-efficient units. 

“Really good windows are absolutely critical,” Udall says.

He adds that the costs of oil will also impact manufacturers in their production in a variety of ways. 

“I would look very closely at my plant costs,” he says. 

Whether through production or through a more efficient end-product, Udall charged door and window manufacturers with the goal of improving energy efficiency.

“We’re going to recognize that we’re really in a bind and that improving efficiency is the answer,” Udall says. 

Next, Kathleen Almand, P.E. FSFPE, executive director for the Fire Protection Research Foundation, discussed the foundation’s current window safety research. 

The foundation plans to study emergency escape and rescue window dimensions, children’s falls from windows and minimum window dimensions and sill heights.

According to Almand, the minimum window sizes found today in the building codes are based on a 1970s ad hoc study with no supporting documentation as to how those sizes were determined to be appropriate. She pointed out that there have been changes in firefighters’ clothing, breathing equipment and fire rescue techniques, as well as new window technology, since the 1970s, each of which should be reason enough to revisit the size requirements. The study is expected to include benchmark historical foundation, behavior studies and architecture studies. 

Windows of Opportunity 

Following the morning session, attendees split up into sessions that focused specifically on doors or windows. 

Larsen opened up the window division meeting with his presentation “Glazing and Windows and Codes, Oh My!”

Larsen began by noting a design hierarchy when it comes to manufacturing windows according to codes. Life safety requirements and structural stability are the top characteristics that manufacturers address, with energy codes coming up second, according to Larsen. Following the hierarchy, he notes that manufacturers may ask what they can do with their window to make sure they have enough variability to meet market expectations.

In addition, Larsen says that when designing by codes, there has to be an awareness that codes change continually. In particular, codes typically change following a catastrophic event—which Hurricane Katrina most recently provided. 

Larsen asked his audience, “If we’re using the codes as a design template, we’ve got to ask ourselves what happens if they change tomorrow.”

Next Mike Fischer, the director of codes and regulatory compliance for WDMA, addressed the window division (he later spoke on the same topic to 
the door industry) on “The State of the States.” 

Fischer began by noting key changes in the 2006 I-codes. 

“The biggest thing for our industry is movement toward 101/I.S.2/A440,” Fischer says.

Fischer also touched on state and local factors with regards to codes. 

“The local jurisdiction has the final say,” Fischer says. He adds, “Every state has its own version of the code.”

One example of codes that might have a nationwide impact comes from California. He notes that Title 24 Chapter 6 of the California Code of Regulations provides new energy efficiency standards. New prescriptions are built solely around peak cooling energy demands, rather than overall energy demands. This could lead to potential trade-offs for low solar gain glazing products, according to Fischer. 

With regard to the ramifications of Hurricane Katrina (which will eventually put into motion work on new codes) Fischer related how he had spent a week viewing damage from the storm. He says that he saw no cases of failure by certified window products, and notes only one instance of failure by a custom entry door. The key issue, he says, was typically the age of the building. The oldest buildings, built using old “quality” methods, typically survived. Buildings built in the recent past, when value engineering was the rage, did poorly. Those built in the most recent years in accordance with new code standards did particularly well.

Fischer says the IBHS update of ICC SSTD-10, “Standard for Hurricane-Resistant Construction” is a direct result of Katrina. Fischer says the update has already been adopted by Louisiana, with Mississippi and Alabama soon to follow.

One trend Fischer predicts coming about as a result of the recent hurricane damage involves shutters. In particular, Fischer predicts a requirement for the certification of shutters or a requirement for permanent fasteners for plywood if there are no shutters.

Inks next returned to the podium with further information from NAHB. For his audience of window manufacturers, Inks added that NAHB shares many common goals with WDMA, including energy conservation, green building and proper window installation, notably flashing and sealing. 

“We very much want to see good window installation guidance,” Inks says. He adds, “It’s not just about having the availability of guidance, but the skilled labor able to do installation.”

NAHB also is weighing in on the proposed requirements for integral escape devices, such as ladders built into windows. Inks says he has been unpleasantly surprised at the number of manufacturers supporting these requirements. 

He also says that NAHB opposes the 24-inch minimum sill height requirement due to a lack of good data on the requirement. He adds, even if there is good data, available egress requirements and accessibility still need to be addressed as an emerging issue.

Inside the Door Division Meeting

Meanwhile, in the door division meeting Michael Chambers, FAIA FCSA CCS, the principal of MCA Specifications, discussed effectively marketing I.S.1-A on architectural wood flush doors to design professionals.

According to Chambers, there exists confusion between the AIA Master Specification systems and the in-house specification systems typically found on architects’ shelves. What’s needed, Chambers says, is a specification guide from WDMA or, at the very least, encouragement for consistency in individual member guide specifications.

Chambers also recommends that WDMA members be able to link back to the association website for a general Specification Guide. In the meantime, Chambers notes that www.4specs.com is a significant resource for specifiers, and that WDMA should be listed on it. 

In the next session, Jerry Heppes, Sr., CAE, chief executive officer of the Door and Hardware Institute (DHI), discussed recent codes changes.

According to Heppes, the 2000 and 2003 IBC contain codes that sacrifice balanced construction by allowing an increase in sprinklers to replace compartmentation for which fire doors and hardware are specified. Heppes says that manufacturers should not fight the addition of sprinklers, even though there is a high failure rate with non-passive systems. Rather, he says, there should be a push for redundancy.

Heppes also says that DHI is moving to be proactive to influence codes and to tout life safety. The Door Safety Council has asked DHI to expand its efforts into an industry-coordinated strategy. The goal is to develop a network that can share information on active versus passive protection systems. The association also plans to do computer modeling on compartmentation.

Future steps include further research on fire protection, national legislation opportunities, and introduction of a Balanced Construction Study Group within the ICC Code Technology Council.

To advance safety issues, Heppes recommends that the door division push WDMA to support the Door Safety Council. It is not just a money issue, Heppes says, but a life safety issue.

The next chance for WDMA members to meet will be October 28-31, at the JW Marriott Resort and Spa in Las Vegas, for the combined fall meeting and technical conference.

Megan Headley is an assistant editor of DWM magazine. 

© Copyright 2006 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.