by Mark Schield
As the end of 1999 approaches, everyone is talking about one of two
things: Y2K; or where theyll be spending New Years Eve to welcome in the next
century. The focus is clearly on looking ahead to the future.
In our industry were also eager to embrace all the newness that the year 2000 will bring. And, although there are no crystal balls with magic powers available to us, we can make certain educated guesses and predictions that will help make the transition into the next century a little easier.
First of all, were already feeling increased pressure in the window and door industry to provide more resilient products to handle severe weather. This will continue in the immediate future. Just look at the hurricane season that just passed. During one week in late August there were three major storms backed up in the Atlantic ... with frantic homeowners boarding up their windows from as far south as Miami all the way up through the Carolinas. And in September, Hurricane Floyd wreaked havoc in the Carolinas and all along the Eastern seaboard.
Impact resistant glass and low maintenance coastal products are already in high demand from builders, remodelers and homeowners. This need will increase steadily in the years to come as weather patterns become more unpredictable and wider spread geographical areas are affected by the potential of severe weather.
Impact-resistant glass gives homeowners a passive, non-worry way to secure their homes from impending storms. The options and availability of impact-resistant glass have grown dramatically in recent years. As a result, homeowners are embracing the idea that even during a severe storm, the contents of their home will not be harmed by flying glass and water damage. We easily see increased positive reaction from architects, builders and homeowners to specifying and installing impact-resistant glass in future projects.
A second major prediction were making for 2000 is the usage of more
high-end mulled window units with advanced structural integrity. The window package has
become increasingly important for homeowners who want to capture views and bring the
outside indoors. As a result, builders nationwide are becoming more demanding on the
structural needs of windows for luxury homes. To meet this need, window manufacturers, our
company included, are introducing upgraded products to meet these needs.
Architects are definitely designing more walls of windows with multiple window configurations for luxury homes. Builders want to construct these complex walls with confidence. That means they need mulled window units that can withstand excessive pressure tests and severe weather. Manufacturers who offer these upgraded window units will see positive sales results.
Overall, the housing industry has been riding a wave of strong numbers and
success for the past several years. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)
predicts that housing starts in 1999 will equal those in 1998. The number of 1.6 million
housing starts has been achieved due to low interest rates and a solid economy. For 2000,
NAHB predicts that number will drop to 1.5 million starts because of an expected slow down
in the economy and slightly increasing interest rates.
But, although housing starts may be dropping, the news is not all bad. NAHB also predicts that 1.3 million of those starts will be single-family dwellings, which require more windows than multiple-unit dwellings. This trend towards single-family units has been rising slowly during the past several years and should keep window and door manufacturers very busy in the foreseeable future.
What window products will be most popular with homeowners and builders in
If 1999 is any indication, wood windows are high on the list. Demand for wood windows has been exceptional this year. Weve seen immediate interest in our Legacy Series introduction and advancing interest in the low maintenance ProShield line of vinyl-clad exterior, wood interior windows. The intensity of orders for these two product lines alone signals that the wood window market will remain strong in 2000.
While it may level off, some expect to also see the vinyl window market continue its steady growth patterns in the next century. I believe vinyl windows will continue to find its niche in middle- to low-range homes nationwide. There are also distinct regional trends emerging for high-end vinyl windows, especially in the West and Southeast. Traditional shop-built windows are declining in those markets. Were finding out that homeowners are becoming more savvy and demanding quality, brand name windows.
And, what about the remodeling industry? Our 1999 prediction for increases in the remodeling market was right on target and we forecast that this market will continue to soar. The boom seems never-ending for remodeling and replacement windows.
Throughout New England and much of the Midwest, we feel the trend towards historic restoration and renovation projects will continue to escalate into the next century. Theres a continued push towards re-use of older buildings in this country. Were constantly getting involved with projects that take old factories and convert them to condo units, offices or retail operations.
People associated with these ingenious plans are eager to keep the historical accuracy of the windows and buildings as part of the renovation. These are typically projects where our HR175 and Custom Shield replacement window series have been very popular. We have every indication that these examples of light commercial preservation projects will grow steadily in the next several years.
Theres no doubt that the building industry is entering the next century on a high note. The exciting element is that window and door manufacturers are meeting the challenge of producing higher quality products that can perform even better in the 21st century than they did in the 20th century.
Mark Schield is vice president of Weather Shield Windows & Doors, based in Medford, WI.
While two companies ventured their predictions for what the year 2000 and
beyond holds in terms of window and door industry trends, an international research
company makes some predictions as well. The Freedonia Group, based in Cleveland, OH,
publishes more than 100 studies annually and recently completed the study, Windows and
Doors. Following are some excerpts.
Demand for windows and doors associated with residential buildings is expected to grow slightly under one percent through 2003 to $15.6 billion.
Repair and improvement expenditures will drive advances in demand, offsetting an outright decline in housing starts during the period.
Vinyl and other plastic materials will continue to make gains at the expense of wood and metal products, especially for windows, thanks to their durability, low maintenance requirements and lower cost.
Increases in the size of dwelling units will help demand for windows and doors, as window demand generally increases with higher exterior wall area and larger garages require bigger (or more) garage doors.
Demand by Material
In 1989, wood products accounted for nearly three-fifths of the value of U.S. demand for windows and doors. By 1998, that fraction fell below half, and the downward trend is forecast to continue into the beginning of the 21st century. Through 2003, residential demand for windows and doors is expected to shrink more than one percent per year to $6.8 billion.
Vinyl replacement windows have eclipsed wood in unit terms (although not in dollar value) and steel doors have surpassed wood in applications demanding security, such as entrance doors and garages. Still, wood will remain the most prominent material in terms of dollar value through 2003.
Metal windows and doors will suffer incremental declines in residential demand to $4.9 billion in 2003. The weakness in new housing construction will impede opportunities for entrance and garage doorstwo of the larger residential product segments.
Vinyl and other plastic windows and doors will post advances of 7.5 percent per year through 2003 in residential markets reaching $3.9 billion. Plastics will benefit from the development of higher-valued composite
materials that offer design flexibility similar to wood, improved thermal performance, recyclability and low maintenance.
Demand by End Use
New housing. Demand for windows and doors for use in new residences is forecast to decline just under one percent per year through 2003 to $8.7 billion. While housing starts will be declining, inflation-adjusted expenditures on new housing will rise, indicating that higher-valued, specialty products such as window walls or combinations of patio doors and windows could see increased sales.
New residential construction. Wood will remain the largest material segment for windows and doors through 2003, but demand for these products will fall to $4.1 billion with annual declines of 2.5 percent. Vinyl and other plastic materials will make gains at the expense of wood and metal products, with demand rising 6.5 percent annually through 2003 to $1.5 billion.
Repair and Improvements. Demand for windows and doors in residential repair and improvement applications is forecast to advance 3.3 percent per annum through 2003 to $7 billion. Concerns about improving efficiency of energy usage will spur upgrades of windows to newer, insulated glass products.
The survey, Windows & Doors, is available for $3,500.
© Copyright 1999 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.