What Doesn’t Go Together? A PVB Shortage and an Active Hurricane Season

By Ellen Rogers

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) is expecting an active Atlantic hurricane season. While that may spur some contractors or homeowners to consider a swift upgrade to impact windows, they probably shouldn’t count on that happening. Jeff Rigot, Viracon’s Florida sales representative, says there is so much delay getting those goods to market, “If [impact windows] were not ordered six months ago, it’s not going to happen … residential impact windows are out months where it used to be weeks.”

Over the past few months, the supply of polyvinyl butyral (PVB), the interlayer material used to fabricate laminated glass, has been limited due to various issues such as a shortage of raw materials. It’s this supply shortage that has led to limited supply and price increases for glass companies across the country.

“It’s schedule-challenging,” says Rigot. “For impact windows the lead times—not only for the supply of raw materials, but also production capacity—is difficult to source availability.”

Rigot says his company primarily serves large commercial glazing projects, so most of their projects are planned years in advance of needing products delivered to a jobsite. He says this helps ensure they are prepared with the materials and supplies they need ahead of time.

“We have sight of our projects months in advance and we plan production capacity and lock in materials early and that helps, because we forecast those requirements ahead of time with our vendors … but even with that forecasting, we still have material shortcomings from our suppliers, particularly interlayers at present.”

And while they may be prepared for anticipated projects, that may not be the case for unanticipated ones.

“If there is a series of large storms, replacement glass is hard to predict and that’s where the challenge is greatest,” he says. “In those cases, raw materials are even more in jeopardy.”

Wyatt Castellvi, president of Rhyno Glass in Tampa, Fla., says that given the current environment, managing customers’ expectations is more important than ever.

“Having full transparency with the challenges we are facing with our supply chain is critical. Educating our customers on all the moving parts of the process is key,” he says. “After all, if it impacts us it will impact them. So sharing memos, correspondence and important information, highlights the fact that we are a trusted partner. This will allow them to manage their communication upstream. With all things considered, it’s imperative to the project schedule we get brought in during the earlier stages of the project, so we can plan and mitigate disruption in material procurement.”

Material and supply shortages will likely continue for some time. It’s important for companies to start planning now for their future needs.

“I think right now the most important advice for anyone buying impact windows is don’t wait. Order them as quickly as possible. Order the windows off the drawings, even ahead of groundbreaking, so you can get in the window manufacturer’s queue as soon as possible. You can’t afford to wait, and this is going to continue for some time,” says Rigot. “Also, be diligent following up with vendor purchase orders to ensure schedule/delivery commitments are on time …”

He adds, “From a manufacturer/testing perspective, the other thing is to be flexible and versatile with what you’re testing and don’t narrow yourself to just one type of [material/brand] so you can pull from whichever vendor provides the best possible lead time.”

NOAA’s forecasters predict a 60% chance of an above-normal season, a 30% chance of a near-normal season, and a 10% chance of a below-normal season. Experts do not anticipate the historic level of storm activity seen in 2020. For 2021, a likely range of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which six to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including three to five major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher) is expected.

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