More Insights on 2012

 

Robert Schindler

 

Associated Materials

 

As Window & Door prepared its annual forecast issue, industry executives shared their thoughts and predictions for the coming year in much more depth than could be gathered together in one article. In "More Insights on 2012," we present their detailed answers to questions about the coming year.

 

What do you expect 2012? Will 2012 finally be “the year” we start seeing some turnaround, or is recovery further off than that?

Our industry, residential exterior building products, is directly tied to consumer confidence.  A recovery will require a lowering of the unemployment rate followed by stability in the job market. This will enable homeowners to feel confident to invest money in their home, whether for a remodeling project or new construction.

What do you expect the biggest challenges for the industry will be in 2012?

From the manufacturing side, I think it will be anticipating and adopting changes in the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code and Energy Star requirements. While focusing on new programs and code requirements, we also must continue to provide homeowners with energy-efficient products at an affordable.

What does new construction look like in 2012?

We believe that 2012 will be the beginning of the “new normal.” The economy, and certainly the new construction boom, won’t go back to the way they were in mid-2000s, but we predict that there will be an improvement. However, we along with a lot of other people have been awaiting that improvement for several years, so there is no certainty.

What about remodeling/replacement work? What is likely to drive business in this segment?

Further distance from the unprecedented “buy it forward” effect of the 2010 tax credit, combined with an increased return to age-in-place lifestyle (based partially on the current “can’t sell my home” circumstance) should help increase remodeling/replacement projects. Obviously, a strengthening of the Energy Tax Credit for energy-efficient home improvements would be a great driver.

What’s going to be happening with energy efficiency in the coming year? Is the industry focus on ramped-up Energy Star requirements?

 We believe our industry is awaiting the new U-value and SHGC numbers with somewhat bated breath. Based on those proposed numbers, the industry is ready to respond. Many manufacturers will be maintaining their existing products while others will be required to add enhanced glass packages or improved window designs to their product families.

Are retail channels gaining traction with “whole home performance” efforts?

Certainly they are gaining traction either directly by incorporating new disciplines, products and services into their business, or indirectly by cooperative-sales and marketing efforts. The good news is that consumers have historically viewed energy efficiency in a holistic manner often utilizing a hierarchy of return to prioritize their home improvement projects.

Is the industry chasing triple panes and other means of better energy performance numbers?

Yes, however there is a plurality of opinion on which performance-enhancing approach is best.  New glass coatings that allow fourth surface low-e coating and advancements in sash and mainframe insulations are both proving to be promising alternatives to triple-pane. The most cost-effective solutions for consumers may be realized differently with some manufacturers adopting triple-pane solutions, while others focus on dual-pane enhancements.

Do you see any particular product segments or geographic regions outperforming the industry as a whole?

While the industry has seen a slight shift to increased “partial projects” and better category purchases, the products/programs that provide both retailers and homeowners with the best overall solutions will perform best in the marketplace.  

How much of an impact does lending (or lack thereof) have on the business? The National Association of Home Builders is making financing-related discussions one of its top priorities this year—are they on the mark?

The NAHB is on the mark. The frustrations with the tightening of requirements and lack of financing availability have especially impacted smaller home improvement companies. Sound financing programs with availability to a broad cross-section of home improvement companies is, at the end of the day, good for consumers.
 
For those who are buying, what window and door products are they selecting? What features are important?

Energy efficiency, beauty and maintenance freedom remain the drivers of replacement windows, even in a cost-conscious environment.  
 

 

Window & Door's "More Insights on 2012" also features questions and answers about the coming year from the following people: