Garrison Wynn was the keynote speaker for AAMA’s fall conference.
Garrison Wynn was the keynote speaker for AAMA’s fall conference.

More than 250 fenestration professionals from across North America and beyond gathered in Savannah, Ga., last week for the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) 2016 National Fall Conference. In addition to important committee work on standards by AAMA members, speakers at the event covered topics ranging from workplace leadership to an economic overview of the door and window industry.

On Monday, keynote speaker Garrison Wynn shared the ways in which top performers in the workplace harness the power of their influence by stressing the importance of making those around them feel heard.

Wynn’s advice centered around ways to work with difficult people, as well as the importance of taking responsibility for one’s own behavior. He also talked about how valuable the education of others is.

“Everyone knows something you don’t,” Wynn said.

Wynn shared how to build trust by listening carefully to others and empathizing with their needs.

“When someone feels heard, they feel trust in that moment,” Wynn said. “It’s a chemical brain response. It’s why people fall in love.”

It’s also why people stay in jobs, he added.

Working with those who are talented, but harder to manage, will help a company keep top talent, Wynn said.

“Those in the top 1 percent in our research were willing to work with difficult people,” said Wynn, adding that they were also able to take a hard look at their own actions. “The minute they’re willing to look at the roles they might play in someone else’s bad behavior, that animosity decreases. Take ownership for what you could be contributing to a situation. Address that person and talk things out with them. Ask how you can work with them better. Communicate. Do you want to be right or do you want to be effective?”

Taking this kind of responsibility can make a world of difference, said Wynn.

“We play a giant role in most of our issues and most people won’t even look at that,” he said. “It’s not easy to do. If problems are always about somebody else, it means you have no control over your destiny. You can change people, but only if you’re willing to change your behavior.”

Making those in the workplace feel heard and valued will go a long way toward retaining them and working better together, said Wynn. He also recommended framing changes to processes as additional information added to old processes rather than completely new ways of doing things for a smoother transition.

“Show how someone’s existing knowledge will help someone [work] a new way, and allow them to apply that knowledge,” Wynn said. “‘Brand new’ is scary. Similarities first, differences second.”

State of the Industry

On Tuesday, Michael Collins, partner and managing director of Building Industry Advisors (and a blogger for USGlass’ sister publication, DWM magazine), gave an economic overview and outlook for the door and window industry.

His presentation covered merger and acquisition transactions and plant expansions, as well as plant closings and bankruptcies. Collins also discussed current industry trends, the state of residential and commercial real estate markets, and a review of capital markets and private equity investing as they pertain to the door and window industry.

When it comes to lending standards, loans to businesses over the past year or so have become more difficult to obtain, Collins observed. On the other hand, consumer credit is a little easier for remodeling projects. He also noted that consumer spending is still growing, though it is doing so at a decreasing rate.

“We were falling off a cliff in 2009, but things are picking up and have been [since then],” said Collins. “Things could be worse.”

Collins’ company watches construction job openings closely, and they see unfilled jobs rising. More skilled labor is needed. In a related observation, Collins said that average hiring is just short of a key level. Job creation of 200,000 per month shows a self-sustaining recovery, he said. However, the good news is that unemployment has dropped sharply, and that affects the fenestration industry.

“We’re seeing a tie between employment levels and multifamily homes,” Collins explained.

These factors play into the commercial market as well.

“The commercial market is generally so much higher than we were before[due to] consumer spending,” said Collins. “Retail sales are increasingly strong. Construction spending is growing.”

The average yearly growth of household formations has doubled and there has been serious growth in the number of renter households.

“This is the first generation to question the wisdom of home ownership, so we are seeing that drop,” he said. “But it’s also why multifamily is going so strong. It’s helped save the market.”

There’s now a unique opportunity for multifamily construction. Collins advised those at the conference to call on existing units that now seem outdated in their areas.

“Those doors and windows need upgraded in order for owners to compete within the rental market.”

Collins went on to discuss some current trends, which include glass and labor shortages — not just on the construction side, but also internally for window and door manufacturers.

In terms of capital market activity, Collins said that after a bounce in 2015, total window and door activity has dropped again in 2016. There were 98 plant expansions between 2006-2014 and 88 total closures in that same period.

“This is indicative of ongoing recovery,” Collins concluded.

WELL Building Standard, Air Quality Testing

The AAMA Sustainability Steering Committee hosted two speakers who stressed the importance of wellness in buildings. Lauren Wallace of the Epsten Group focused on the WELL Building Standard and the Living Building Challenge, followed by UL’s Elliott Horner, who discussed indoor air quality testing and its merits.

“When we think of sustainability, we often think of environmental impact,” said Mark Silverberg of Technoform, chair of the AAMA Sustainability Steering Committee. “But 92 percent of costs are employee-related, instead of maintenance and operation. We can help reduce depression, a leading cost of lost time. Glass and glazing have a major opportunity of making this net positive contribution.”

Wallace went over the WELL Building Standard, the first standard to focus solely on the health and wellness of the people in the buildings.

“We spend 90 percent of our time indoors, and we have potential to reshape public health and make a positive impact on well-being,” said Wallace, adding, “Sitting is the new smoking.”

The seven concepts of the WELL Building Standard are air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. Obviously, Wallace said, the fenestration industry can contribute to the light concept. The light feature involves daylight and glazing, plus things like lighting fixtures.

“All light, not just sunlight, contributes to our biological circadian rhythm, which dictates our sleep or wakefulness,” said Wallace. “Throughout the day, light offers a cue that triggers reactions within the body directed to alertness, digestion and sleep.”

Existing buildings can be WELL Buildings, too, said Wallace. There are new and existing core and shell compliance guidelines, plus renovation certification available.

Other fenestration aspects of the light concept in the WELL Building Standard include solar glare control, low-glare workstations and daylight modeling. In these areas, consider window shading and daylight management options. The WELL Building seeks specific glazing with visible transmittance of 60 percent or more and vision glass with a Visible Light Transmittance of 50 percent or more.

“For daylighting fenestration, uniform color transmittance is important, too,” concluded Wallace.

Horner’s presentation focused on the impacts of materials on environments.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality in and around buildings and structures as it relates to health of occupants, explained Horner. Air pollutants are two to five times higher indoors than outdoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Indoor air pollution leads to asthma, allergies, respiratory disease, neurological disease, cancer and others.

“Poor indoor air quality is seen by EPA as one of the greatest modern risks to human health,” said Horner.

Better IAQ means source control (like banning indoor smoking) plus improved ventilation.

IAQ tests scan for things like Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), inorganic and organic particulates, formaldehydes, mold and mildew. The product emissions testing process involves predicting exposure levels from screening test results using proprietary decay models. Toxic substances are identified, and an exposure model is developed, followed by comparing predicted exposure to health benchmarks.

The benefits of product emissions testing include reaching new customer markets, product differentiation through certification, reducing the risk of lawsuits, plus research and development to improve products.

“The cost of poor indoor air quality is great, including $20 billion per year in workers’ comp and healthcare,” concluded Horner.

World Vision Helps Schoolchildren

During the AAMA Fall Conference, volunteers filled backpacks with school supplies to benefit children at a local Title I elementary school in the Savannah area. A total of 500 backpacks were filled and distributed during the event at East Broad Street K-8 School on Monday as part of AAMA’s partnership with World Vision, a humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities to help them reach their full potential. World Vision does this by tackling the root causes of poverty and injustice.

After including notes of encouragement for the current academic year, volunteers traveled to the school to distribute the backpacks in person.

“Education continues to be an extremely important part of AAMA’s core values,” says Rich Walker, AAMA’s president and CEO. “We have supported World Vision’s mission since 2012, and we’re thankful for our volunteers who worked hard to help children in the Savannah area.”