AMD to Oppose Door Certification in ICC Hearings

November 1, 2007
Codes & Standards

The Association of Millwork Distributors discussed efforts to block proposed requirements for swing door testing and certification in the 2009 International Codes at its annual convention and exhibition here last week. In other business, AMD voted to change its bylaws to give supplier members a greater voice in the organization.

The event featured a full day of educational presentations, examining topics ranging from lean and green to the industry outlook, as well as a trade show.

Photo of roundtable discussion at AMD

A roundtable discussion at the AMD convention allowed distributors to better understand the implications of new exterior door certification requirements.

Door certification discussions began during the educational program, when Mark Fortun of Endura Products, reviewed the evolution of the International Codes, as well as the AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2/A440 window and door standard referenced in those codes. That standard and its previous editions, developed by manufacturers of windows and sliding glass doors, have long required such products to be tested and certified for air, water and structural performance, he explained. The last edition of the standard also incorporated similar language for side-hinged exterior doors, but an exception was written into the International Codes excluding those types of doors from certification requirements. AMD had lobbied for that exclusion because such doors often combine components from multiple suppliers put together by the pre-hanger and testing and certifying all the potential combinations would be cost-prohibitive.

Despite the exclusion from the 2006 code requirements, many see a need for building inspectors to assess side-hinge door performance, Fortun continued, pointing to coastal areas in particular. As a result, an AMD task group has been working with the American Architectural Manufacturers Association to develop a program that would allow a pre-hanger to produce a certified door system by mixing and matching certified components. Such a program has been developed, but is still in the testing phase.

Despite the fact that the component substitution program is not in place, the Window & Door Manufacturers Association and more recently, AAMA, have decided to go ahead and push for inclusion of door certification requirements in the 2009 International Codes, explained Peter McIlwee of McIlwee Millwork, who heads up the group’s industry standard’s committee, speaking at AMD’s general business meeting. Noting that hearings to update those codes begin in February 2008, he urged members and attendees to get involved, suggesting that such a step “would prevent many of our jobber members from supplying exterior doors.”

“We’ve been blindsided by these associations,” added Jeff Johnson of Western Pacific Building Materials, pointing to the work AMD has done to date to resolve the door certification issue. “You need to contact your suppliers and your customers,” he said. “For years, we’ve been talking about this, and writing about this, but our membership has not been engaged to the point they should be.”

Meanwhile, the new door certification requirements are being pushed by window manufacturers and door system suppliers, including AMD members, McIlwee noted. He also urged more action. “Let your customers know how much door pricing could change, let your local home builders association know. It’s going to come to a head pretty quickly.”

Noting that it’s been a very busy year for AMD, Don Houghton of Reeb Millwork discussed efforts of the group’s strategic planning committee, which include two bylaw changes that were approved by membership in Denver. The first change clarified eligibility requirements for distributor members, as the group continues to evolve to reflect the changes within the industry itself. Second, AMD voted to expand the voice of associate members. Two seats on its board of directors are now open to suppliers, and one associate will be elected to serve on AMD’s executive board.

In addition to the seminar reviewing changes in door standards, AMD’s convention featured a full slate of sessions on the opening Friday. Among the most encouraging for many attendees may have been Greg Brooks’ review of trends in the building supply industry that included predictions for increased opportunities for independents in the years ahead. Looking at the housing market in general, the consultant and former editor of ProSales suggested first, “I don’t know when it will happen, but when it does come back, it’s going to come back in a big way.” This is largely due to demographics, he said, pointing to higher household growth rates over the next 10 years than the past 10 years.

The reason the immediate future holds more opportunities for independents is the fact that the current housing market has soured investors. “Red ink at the big builders means Wall Street will be turned off on this market for awhile.” Additionally, he noted, evidence that bigger companies can develop a competitive advantage through economies of scale has been scant. Pointing to declines in same store sales, Brooks also noted that consumers are less convinced that big names necessarily translate into better deals and better quality.

The needs and concerns of aging baby boomers and the new generation X and Y homebuyers will produce three major trends in the market, he continued. First, homes will continue to shrink as the physical constraints of baby boomers and the time constraints of Gen X and Y buyers limit the appearance of larger homes. Higher quality will be in demand as older buyers look for a home where they can age in place and younger buyers think about “cocooning.” Finally, green building will continue to rise as a priority, with boomers concerned about utility bills and younger generations thinking about global warming.

Ron Jones, editor of Green Builder Magazine, was also on the agenda, urging attendees—”no matter what your personal feelings”—to take the green building movement seriously and position their businesses accordingly. The housing industry was “on the wrong side” of the issue when the spotted owl was in the news, and it’s important that not happen again, he argued.

Pointing to the particular issues millwork producers should be aware of, Jones suggested that water is becoming an increasingly critical resource. Companies need to make sure they are using it as efficiently as possible in their own operations. On the demand side, he suggested the concept of whole house integration will become the norm to meet higher performance requirements.

Another element of green building Jones urged attendees not to ignore is indoor air quality. Pointing to statistics that 40 percent of children born today will suffer some form of respiratory disease, he said that products that contain no formaldehyde or give off any VOCs are going to become more critical. Products that potentially do harm indoor air quality, he added, are going to become the “low-hanging fruit” in a new wave of lawsuits.

The green building seminar, like most of the others on the AMD agenda, attracted strong attendance. “It’s fantastic for our association to see these full rooms,” noted Carl Detering of The Detering Co., introducing one of the sessions.

AMD’s next convention and exhibition is scheduled for October 11 to 16, 2008 in Kissimmee, FL.