Volume 47, Issue 1 - January/February 2008

In the News

Atrium Closes Branches
Atrium Cos. Inc., manufacturer of Atrium Windows and Doors-branded products, is shifting its business model in Florida from a builder-direct to a traditional distribution channel strategy. As a result, the company plans to close five of its six sales and distribution branches between now and the end of first quarter 2008. The company will maintain its Davie, Fla., operation and continue to operate its Atrium Shutters business out of that location.

“With housing starts in Florida dropping by 70 percent in the last two years, we believe our long-term reach to the market is best served by focusing sales efforts through independent distribution,” says Bob Burns, chief operating officer of Atrium Cos. Inc. “Challenging market conditions across the [United States], and particularly in Florida, have required us to make adjustments to our current business model. With this change to our Florida infrastructure we are well positioned to meet short- and long-term sales plans moving forward.” 

Ft. Myers, Vero and Orlando will close first, followed by Tampa and Jacksonville.

The realignment will affect the current workforce. “While this decision is necessary to keep in line with the company’s operational strategy and continuous need to address a shifting market, we regret it anytime when operational adjustments result in displacing employees,” Burns says. www.atrium.com 

USGBC Launches LEED for Homes
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) launched its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-for-Homes program at the organization’s annual Greenbuild conference in Chicago. A nearly two-year pilot program to adapt the LEED rating system to residential building ended this spring, but USGBC says it waited until Greenbuild for its official debut, so the program could be balloted with the organization’s full membership.

It will incorporate results from the LEED for Homes pilot program that began in 2005 and will be expanding into more areas of the country. During the pilot phase alone, more than 8,000 homes across the United States have been part of the program, with more than 300 gaining certification.

Housing represents a significant new market sector for USGBC and, despite the current construction slowdown, one in which it believes that urgent action is needed. The group estimates that residential buildings contribute 21 percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions. McGraw-Hill SmartMarket reports that only 2 percent of American houses are built green; there were more than 1.8 million new single-family construction starts in 2006, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. LEED-for-Homes provides a framework for homeowners and developers who want to improve that ratio, according to USGBC.

Approximately 336 houses have earned LEED certification since USGBC began piloting the residential ratings program in August 2005, and 8,000 more are in the pipeline. “Obviously the growth is wonderful,” says Emily Mitchell, the LEED-for-Homes assistant program manager. “The numbers have exceeded our expectations. Twelve houses so far have achieved LEED Platinum, the highest ranking.” www.usgbc.org

Bay Area Distributor Opens “Green” Showroom
Longtime Bay Area wood products distributor EarthSource Forest Products/Plywood and Lumber Sales Inc. recently announced it has opened a one-of-a-kind showroom for a range of sustainable and environmentally healthy exotic wood products.

Called The Urban Jungle, EarthSource’s new 2,200-square-foot showroom features exotic flooring, outdoor furniture, decking, wall panels, custom cabinetry and millwork, most of which are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). All products are manufactured with low-emitting adhesives and finishes, and some are comprised of salvaged raw materials.

Even though EarthSource is a wholesaler, The Urban Jungle is open to the public. “Consumers in the Bay Area and all over the West Coast are becoming more aware of the concepts of sustainability and environmental health,” says EarthSource president Jeff Hunt.

The showroom features a wide array of exotic flooring, from Smith & Fong Plyboo’s Neapolitan Strand Bamboo to FSC-certified Guatemalan Ramon Blanco. A focal point upon entry is a large table made by custom woodworkers William Guba Associates from salvaged Claro walnut. Formaldehyde-free kitchen cabinetry by Silver Walker Studios is displayed alongside FSC-certified drawers from Quality Custom Components.

Adorning the walls throughout are FSC-certified Spanish cedar and crotch mahogany panels from Columbia Forest Products. Decking is made of various FSC species sourced from throughout Central America and marketed under the EarthSource brand.

EarthSource is an equity partner in a teak plantation located in Rio Dolce, Guatemala, which supplies the raw materials for its own line of outdoor furniture.

The Urban Jungle is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is located at 1618 28th Street in Oakland, Calif. www.earthsourcewood.com 

Do it Best CEO Emphasizes Commitment to Co-Op Model
Bob Taylor, president and chief executive officer of Do it Best Corp., was very clear when he spoke to shareholders during his annual address at the 2007 Do it Best October Market.

“So, while others might look to move away from a co-op structure,” Taylor said, “we embrace it and see it as the perfect way to align the interests of Do it Best Corp. with those of our members and keep our team focused on our number one goal … helping members grow.”

Taylor went on to say that growth must be built on a solid foundation. “There is no higher priority at Do it Best Corp. than the fiduciary obligation we have to our members … to be good stewards of your investment,” Taylor said. 

He emphasized that Do it Best Corp. continues to enjoy the highest credit rating in the industry and continues to be the only one with zero long-term debt. “That doesn’t happen by accident,” he said, “but rather with a dedication to conservative principles, candid and open review, and a culture of accountability.”

Taylor also pointed out that despite the negatives experienced and seen in the headlines this year—regional economies, continued high fuel prices, dramatic deflation in the prices of lumber and panel products—the Do it Best Corp. team and the member-owners turned in the most positive bottom-line performance in the company’s 62-year history. 

84 Lumber Co. has announced it will be terminating and eliminating approximately 40 positions at the corporate level. The Eighty Four, Pa.-based materials and services provider is attributing these cuts to a “continued slump” in the housing market. Cuts are primarily being made in the company’s human resources and development departments … Smith & Fong Plyboo has started converting its plants in Taiwan and China to urea formaldehyde (UF)-free manufacturing processes. This enables architects and specifiers to achieve credits through the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards …The president of the Florida Building Materials Association (FBMA), Bill Tucker, and the executive director of the American Pre-Hung Door Association (APHDA), Georgia Smith, have formed a strategic alliance that they believe will greatly benefit and strengthen both associations … 

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