Volume 7 Issue 1 January 2006
WDMA Opens Up
Standards and Certification
Lifeline to Success
by Jeffrey Lowinski
With rising oil and gas prices and a continuation of the volatile hurricane season pattern confirmed by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration for next year and beyond, the economy may be in for a tough go of it.
We’ve been spoiled the last several years with record growth in housing starts and an equally impressive replacement and remodeling market. While the overall construction industry expects 2006 to be a good year, housing starts are expected to finally decline and may have already began to do so in 2005.
According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), new housing starts were expected to be down about five percent for 2005 from 2004 numbers and down about the same in 2006. With an NAHB forecast for total starts at 1.9 million and existing home sales at 5.7 million, the market is still strong and the door and window industry expects growth, especially in energy-efficient and impact-resistant products. The long-term outlook for the home improvement market, according to statistics by The Home Improvement Research Institute, remains strong. Total market growth in 2008 to 2010 is projected to average 4.6 percent per year in constant dollars.
Headed for Decline?
In spite of all this, indicators are beginning to show that we may be on or nearing a long-term downturn in the market. Interest rates are on the rise, and so is the consumer price index. Will the glory days be over soon? No one knows for sure. But with rising oil and gas prices and a continuation of the volatile hurricane season pattern confirmed by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration for next year and beyond, the economy may be in for a tough go of it. We are also beginning to see the onset of a tougher cycle in new construction.
When competition gets keen, the industry tends to turn to and rely more on the rigors of standards and product certification. Manufacturers place more emphasis on standards compliance and on improved performance grades as a means to distinguish themselves from the competition. Their products may meet and often exceed certain standards in an effort to set themselves apart. Certification becomes the tool that distinguishes amongst manufacturers who can meet the rigors of compliance to a standard as well as from those who cannot.
As we move into the next economic cycle in the construction industry, we need to be conscious of the standards in place and how they help contribute to a better-installed product in the industry.
The 2006 edition of the I-Codes (International Code Council’s International Building Code) requires doors, windows and skylights to comply with the newly completed AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2/A440-05 Standard/ Specification for Windows, Doors and Unit Skylights. Older editions of the I-Codes still reference the 2002 and 1997 editions of the standard. However, as code jurisdictions adopt the 2006 code and older versions are phased out, building specifications will increasingly reference the new standard which now includes side-hinged exterior door systems. Finally, it applies to the United States and Canada, so the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) is looking across the border and even globally, to help manufacturers and distributors cross-market product.
The Standards Harmonization Task Group, a joint committee between WDMA, the American Architectural Manufacturers Assoc-iation and the Canadian Standards Association, has already begun structuring the next edition. The task group envisions both short and long-term efforts. Short term, the idea is to process select revisions for the standard in time for the 2009 edition of the International Codes. Long-term, the desire is to have a revised standard available for the publication of the 2012 edition of the I-Codes.
In these still healthy times, standards and certification are important. But during slower growth or recession, they provide an even stronger means for delivering the best product to the marketplace.
Jeffrey F. Lowinski serves as acting president of the WDMA based in Des Plaines, Ill.
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