WDMA to Step Up Advocacy Efforts
Cambridge, Md.—The Window & Door Manufacturers Association unveiled a new strategic plan encompassing stepped up advocacy efforts at its summer meeting, which concluded here last week. The event also featured speakers covering a variety of topics, including new research designed to provide better understanding of the effects of hurricanes on windows.
Discussing strategic changes within the organization, Joel Hoiland, WDMA president, reviewed a new committee structure, separating technical committees charged with standards and the organization’s Hallmark certification program and advocacy committees, including an already active environmental stewardship group, as well as its code monitoring groups. As noted in our report in last week’s WDweekly, a panel discussion examining how individual companies and the association as a whole can respond more proactively to the green building movement highlighted the agenda of the meeting.
Other steps outlined by Hoiland included plans for a “CEO summit” in September—designed to gather input from WDMA members about their top concerns and potential positions the organization would take. The industry has shied away from political activity historically. As a result, “we can be vulnerable to bad legislation,” he noted. Through advocacy efforts, WDMA can provide a great service to its members, he continued, reviewing recent events in Minnesota in which the organization successfully lobbied to amend a bill that would have required safety screens in new residential buildings to prevent child falls.
WDMA also plans to expand its marketing efforts. It recently added a new marketing and communications person to its staff and is creating separate interior and exterior product marketing committees.
Dave Asselin of the Council of Manufacturing Associations, an arm of the National Association of Manufacturers, also spoke at the event, urging WDMA members to become more involved in the legislative process. “One thing they say in Washington—if you’re not at the table, you’re often on the plate,” he said, advising attendees to try to contact their local legislators, at both the state and federal levels, to make sure they “know your company and know what you mean to the community.”
Mike Fischer, who serves as WDMA’s representative before code groups and other bodies, offered an overview of issues likely to face the association’s members in the not-too-distant future. The window safety issue is now being examined by a special committee within the International Code Council, and is attracting the interest of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Safety glazing, he continued, has been a dormant subject matter for some time, but may come back as an issue. Pointing to regulations in urban-wildlife interface zones related to fires, he noted that safety glazing is now being mandated in more cases for windows.
On the energy efficiency front, Fischer noted plans within the Department of Energy to strengthen Energy Star criteria. He suggested that interior products may some day have to be rated for energy efficiency as codes evolve.
Finally, Fischer predicted more regulations and mandates related to life-cycle analysis and the environmental impacts of products, and increased activity related to air and water quality.
“Your industry has done a fine job addressing energy efficiency and impact resistance,” said Forrest Masters, a researcher at the University of Florida that studies the effects of hurricanes. “You have this one nagging issue—water intrusion.” How to alleviate that problem through better product design and/or better installation practices is the subject of a program he is working on now with a task group comprised of researchers, product manufacturers, code officials, insurers and others.
The University of Florida’s Forrest Masters reviewed research efforts into the dynamics of wind-driven rain and how to design window and wall systems better able to resist water intrusion.
Specific research efforts Masters is involved with include the Florida Coastal Monitoring Program. That program includes a team which brings mobile towers to measure wind and weather data to areas just as they are about to be hit by a hurricane. A new element of that program, being funded by the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, is the use of precipitation sensors designed to provide a better understanding of actual rain behavior during hurricanes, he said. A second part of the monitoring program includes homes equipped with a variety of sensors and instruments.
“In the past,” Masters explained, “there have been a lot of arbitrary decisions made in what we should design for.” The goal of this research, he continued, is to make it possible to “go out and test a product to something that actually occurs.”
The information gained in the monitoring program is being used to develop a new hurricane simulator, which is now being built at the University of Florida. That simulator will eventually be used to test buildings, windows and window wall interfaces to gain a better understanding of how water intrudes into building interiors during a storm, and then eventually provide guidance for designing products that can better resist the heavy rains that come with a hurricane.
Headlines related to the subprime mortgage market “may get uglier, but the damage is over at the jobsite,” according to Jim Haughey of Reed Construction Data, discussing the outlook for the housing market. There are going to be a lot more stories related to defaults, mortgage broker failures and financial institution losses, but, he told attendees, housing starts are at or near bottom, and they are likely to slowly improve through 2009.
The problems of the subprime lenders are well documented, Haughey noted. What hasn’t been discussed as much, as far as housing market troubles, is an actual decline in the number of household formations, a basic driver of housing. The impact of rising fuel costs is that more young people are continuing to live with parents and more people are sharing places.
Haughey also advised that builders are going to be increasingly cost sensitive. They are facing rising material costs due to strong global demand for such things as concrete and copper, as well as the weak dollar. Builders are also seeing labor costs rise, as the overall economy remains healthy, even while their market is week.
Other speakers on the WDMA agenda included David Meier, a one-time Toyota manager that has gone on to serve as a consultant and author on the subject of continuous improvement. Surveying the audience, he found many attendees’ companies had implemented lean programs. Surveying them a second time to see how many of those companies were satisfied within their lean efforts, he observed that WDMA’s members were typical of the corporate world—only one in five companies that implement lean end up satisfied with the changes that come.
Many companies, Meier stated, start a program, see some improvement, but then quickly plateau, forgetting that “continuous improvement is a forever journey.” The primary cause of that problem, he suggested, is a focus on processes and not people. “There is a limit to process improvement. There are no limits to people improvement,” he said.
It requires a great deal of work to get people to buy in, train them on problem solving and then continuously encourage them, Maier stated. “The truth about Toyota is that it requires an incredible effort to maintain its system. It’s always a challenge. It requires daily effort.”
WDMA gets down to business next with committee meetings set for December 10-13 in Des Plaines, Ill. Its annual meeting is scheduled for January 27-30 in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. More information about both events is available at www.wdma.com.
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