Is "Steel Casement" Demand Growing?

John G. Swanson
November 29, 2010
THE TALK... | Aesthetics & Style, Markets & Trends

The use of steel casement windows in both new construction and renovation projects is growing in New York City, according to an article in the New York Times.  Chosen for their historic and/or authentic look, the windows meet the demands of people who are “sensitive to the design” of the buildings they want to live in, suggests the architect credited with spurring at least some of the new casement demand.

Pointing to the “very subtle details” of these products, the architect says, “Either you don’t get it and it’s meaningless to you, or you can’t live without it.” My immediate thought was it wouldn't it be nice to have more “can’t live without it” type customers for our industry.  Is that happening at all?

We can’t all sell steel casements for multi-million apartments, of course, but we all serve our own spectrum of customers. At one end are those people who look at a product’s design as an afterthought and at the other end are those who want a certain style or certain features and can’t live without them. Which end of the spectrum is growing at your business?

That’s our poll question of the week. Are more people asking you for a certain color or a new wood species option? Or are people focused almost entirely on energy efficiency, low maintenance or price? As usual, I’d like to hear your thoughts. Specifically, I'd love to hear about other “steel casements” out there. Are you selling any products or options that design-sensitive people “can’t live without” in your market? Post a comment or email me and let me know what you see happening.

Survey Results as of 12/05/2010:

Are your customers getting more discriminating when it comes to the look and design of windows and doors?

No, other issues resonate much more.




No, there's been no change among our customers.




Yes, more are focused at style and aesthetic issues.




This week's poll results–and the lack of many responses–are,  quite frankly, a bit of a disappointment to me.  Personally, I do think more window and door customers are paying attention to the particulars of how their products look. If not, we wouldn't see more vinyl window manufacturers offering additional paint and laminate finish options. If not, we wouldn't see wood window manufacturers adding new species options.  We wouldn't see an expanding array of fiberglass door designs, not to mention an ever-increasing number of glass design options.

All these product developments over the past few years don't seem to jive with our poll results. None of this comes as a huge surprise to me, however, as I think "other issues resonate much more" with many of us in the industry.  I am thinking of energy performance in particular.  I don't want to downplay the continued progress our industry makes on that front, but I also think sometimes we get too caught up selling Energy Star or R-5. We forget to tell people how much better their homes could look if they went for best instead of better or if they went for an SDL package versus grids between the glass.

Or maybe we should try to sell more steel casements.  By the way, I heard from Dan Hunter, president of Universal Window & Door LLC. His company makes a steel replica series of windows that include awnings, casements, and fixed windows, which, he reports, has been very popular. A winner of a 2009 Crystal Achievement Award from Glass Magazine (our sister publication), the aluminum product line has also achieved National Park Service approval on projects in New England, New York and the Washington, D.C. area.




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I can understand your disappointment in the findings of this survey but I think they are accurate.  Homeowners & builders are trying to get the most value out of their purchases due to the uncertainty of the economy.  Many of the new offerings from manufacturers that you have mentioned come from the marketing departments of these companies.  Their job is to bring out new products and options that will enable their company to either be the leader in innovation or to be the one that says "we have that too".  I certainly wish that more people would get what they want instead of just what they need.  Upselling is very important to the profit of most companies but in todays market simply selling is a challenge.

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