Volume 12, Issue 9 - November/December 2011

feature


Growth Opportunity
Code Changes Could Bring New Opportunities for Hurricane-Mitigating, Decorative Products
by Ellen Rogers

Sure, South Florida offers a big opportunity for hurricane-resistant doors and windows; the codes make it such. South Florida is also a big opportunity for decorative glass entry doors, which are almost synonymous to luxury homes, something else of which South Florida has plenty. With that in mind, it’s safe to say that impact-resistant products such as decorative glass doors, sidelites and transoms, have meant big business for much of the Florida market. Now, though, an upcoming code change could very well mean an even greater opportunity for impact decorative glass doors and related products. According to Rick De La Guardia, president of DLG Engineering in South Miami, Fla., there are two main changes to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 7-10 standard, Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures that bode well for the door industry.

De La Guardia says that instead of categorizing the buildings by occupancy as in the 2005 code, the 2010 code categorizes them by risk category. The other change, he notes, is that instead of using only one wind speed per map for a particular region as in the 2005 version, the 2010 standard uses three different maps and wind speeds depending on risk categories, regardless of region.

“Depending on the risk category of the building in question, it is possible to have three different wind speeds and different wind-borne debris protection requirements for buildings of different risk categories located in the same neighborhood,” he says.

And these new maps could also mean a new business opportunity for the fenestration industry, as almost half of Southern Florida will soon require impact-rated products, including decorative door products, among others. ASCE 7-10 has been referenced by both the 2012 International Codes as well as the 2010 Florida Building Code, which takes effect in March 2012, making Florida the first state to adopt the new ASCE requirements.

Hurricane
Do’s and Don’ts for Businesses
While the 2011 hurricane season is now past, it’s not too early to start thinking about and preparing for 2012. After all, June 1, the start of hurricane season, really isn’t that far off. Is your business ready for next year? According to Business News Daily, there are a number of last-minute actions that can help business owners minimize the damage and protect their livelihoods.

Take inventory. If a hurricane’s path is making its way to your area, have a recent account of your inventory to provide the insurer. Make several copies, both physical and electronic, and keep all pertinent documents in different locations, including a water-tight box.

Review your insurance policy.
It can be helpful to know in advance what is and isn’t included in your plan.

Stage a drill.
Every person should know his or her role, where water, electrical and gas shutoffs are and emergency contact numbers. Keep all employee contact information up to date with both cell phone and email information.

Have your camera ready with batteries. One helpful thing you can do right after disaster strikes is photograph the damage—once safe to do so. Photograph everything, including floodwater levels, roof damage, structural damage, and downed power lines and trees.

Back up vital computer data. The information on a computer is often more important than the computer itself.

As for the don’ts? If you don’t already have impact-resistant windows, don’t delay putting up plywood just because you don’t want customers to think you’re already closed. Instead hang a “We’re Open!” sign.

The larger market can be both a challenge and an opportunity for the decorative door products industry—one that many say they are ready to tackle.

Product Preparedness
For many companies, this code change is one for which they have been preparing. Take, for example, Therma-Tru in Maumee, Ohio. Donna Contat, glass product manager, says her company has taken steps to ready for what could very well lead to an increase in business. The company has expanded its available portfolio of impact products.

“Previously we had four or five designs for this market, but we’ve increased our design offerings in recognition that there are more homeowners wanting impact certified products who are demanding more variety,” she says. “[This had been] a niche market, but recent extreme weather occurrences have pushed this market into the mainstream. So we’ve expanded our impact rated products and we expect this will help us prepare for the increase in demand.”

Steve Jasperson, code and regulatory compliance manager with Therma-Tru, also expects the change to bring opportunities for a number of reasons, particularly with the number of expensive homes in Florida. Of these homes, he says many of them are very traditional in design and he’s seeing a lot of decorative glass used.

“Homeowners don’t want ugly shutters on expensive homes,” says Jasperson. “There are also significant insurance company discounts for impact products. All of this equals a good market for decorative/leaded impact glass. It’s an opportunity to reach more customers.”

Signature Door based in Altoona, Pa., is unique in that it not only manufactures doors, but its decorative glass as well. According to Denny Nixon, Jr., national sales manager, they are also prepared for any market changes that may come as a result of the new code requirements.

“[Once] the codes are enforced it will likely benefit us,” says Nixon. “We were one of the first custom wood door manufacturers to have Miami-Dade certification and we did so as a company early. We found the toughest code and built our products to meet or exceed it and that’s still Miami-Dade.”

Nixon explains that the major wind-speed zones are mostly based on Miami-Dade requirements, which, are also stricter as far as product substitution allowances.

“Per Miami-Dade, if you change a component from one you have tested to one you haven’t, you no longer have a fully tested and proven system,” says Nixon.
Scott Spence, senior product manager with ODL in Zeeland, Mich., agrees and his company is also prepared for the upcoming changes.

“I think this could bring increased opportunities,” says Spence, noting that while the wind-borne debris region has increased to cover new areas, there are other areas, such as the panhandle region, that have reduced this requirement.

“We’re well positioned with our current product, and I think most of our customers are as well. As the codes have been adjusted we now have more historic data on hurricanes to define what each region of Florida needs,” Spence says. “So we see that the code requirements have been strengthened in some areas and lessened in others. The code has more actual data now by which to set the requirements.”

He adds, “Overall I think it’s a net win and an opportunity.”

Others agree, including Dolores Juarez, senior product manager/ glass, with Masonite.

“As a result of the code change this means we will be marketing to a broader region,” says Juarez. “We will also be working with our customers to make sure they are aware of the changes and have the products they will need.”

Meeting Demand
As with any change, there will likely be some challenges and obstacles to overcome. While the new ASCE requirements are not necessarily any more stringent, there may be some confusion about them.

Jasperson explains, “[the code has] gone from stress design to strength design, but there is an allowed conversion factor to get back to stress design so the end result stays about the same. Design pressures will stay about the same, or in some cases slightly lower, but I think there will be some confusion at first.”

Making sure the dealers, distributors and customers in the new regions are aware of the changes will be critical.
“Customers will have to pay attention to the market, what they are selling and where they are selling, as well as the needs of the consumers,” says Contat. “With the increasing demand, manufacturers will have to stay ahead of the curve; you don’t want to miss an opportunity.”

Jasperson adds, “It’s also important for manufacturers to make sure they have the correct Florida product approvals in place.” The process otherwise, he notes, can be costly and time-consuming. “Plus, if a company does not have someone on staff actively engaged in regulatory compliance, they might not even be aware of the changes that are coming.”

“It’s really about educating the dealer and distributor,” says Spence. “Code language can be [challenging] to read, write and understand. You have to dissect what it’s saying and how it will affect customers in this particular region of the country.”

Nixon agrees there could also be challenges for those companies selling in regions that had been non-impact, but are becoming impact zones.

Masonite is also working to make sure its customers are aware of the upcoming change.

“We provide our customers with materials to share with consumers and builders that will help them understand [the products] in all the areas now covered,” says Juarez, who adds that there could be some product availability challenges at first. “We’re aware of the fact that certain shapes may not be available [right away] given the broadening of the area. However we’re working to expand our product range,” she says, explaining that her company is working to make more products, sizes and shapes available for the impact market.

And while there are dealers and distributors who are familiar with the changes and well-versed with impact products, there are also those who are not. Builders Choice Supply in LaBelle, Fla., for example, is a distributorship well aware of the upcoming changes. Currently the company is in a non-impact region, but will require such products once the new code takes effect.

While the decorative products Builders Choice Supply offers are special order only, Evelyn Esquivel, manager, says they are aware and familiar with the expected changes. She says they feel ready and prepared for what’s to come.

“Like decorative, many impact products are also special order and our suppliers are able to provide us with those,” says Esquivel.

Her company sells to both builders and retailers and she says her suppliers have provided helpful information, such as brochures and emails, about the upcoming requirements.

“We feel ready for the changes,” she says.

Passing the Test
As door manufacturers and decorative glass companies prepare for what could mean a business surge, there are a number of steps they are taking to ensure their readiness. For the most part, though, when it comes to getting products in line, this step should require little extra time and effort, particularly since decorative products are tested and constructed in a fashion not unlike traditional/ clear glass hurricane products.

“Typically an impact product has one tempered lite of glass and one laminated lite of glass. The laminated lite provides the protection,” explains Jasperson. “It’s the same construction for both clear and decorative, though for decorative/leaded you have the decorative panel in the airspace. The testing is the same for both. You also have to have the whole door system tested, not just the glass.”

Jasperson stresses, “We’re not saying that a unit certified as meeting the code requirements will prevent the unit from breaking in a high impact situation because it is possible that a certified unit will suffer broken or cracked glass; the key distinction that allows such a unit to earn its compliance certification is that the damaged unit did not allow the 2x4 test projectile to penetrate through it.”

Nixon adds, “The stopping power of the glass is in the outer laminated lite. That’s what maintains the envelope of the structure. The decorative lite has no stopping power. The laminated lite provides the structural support; the decorative is just that—decorative.”

While door manufacturers must have their entire assembly tested, it’s a different scenario for companies such as ODL, which manufacturer and sell only the decorative glass. So, how do they ensure compliance?

“We test our product in a range of doors from different manufacturers,” says Spence. “We test the units for impact in four to six major manufacturers’ doors … and we work with the code agencies to show the performance compliance in the same doors.”

Further Down the Line
While there may be a few challenges to start, manufacturers and suppliers agree that the increased region will certainly provide future opportunities.

“I can see [this concept] being adopted by other states as well,” says Spence. “[Code bodies] could look to Florida to help out other coastal areas.”

And Juarez adds, “The increasing range is really an opportunity for dealer and distributors to partner with the builders and make them aware of the product availability.”


DWM

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