The Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance Hybrid Annual Conference Feb. 28-March 3 in Amelia Island, Florida, was a jam-packed week of education, networking and a healthy dose of vitamin D from the Florida sunshine.
After attending FGIA’s conferences virtually for nearly two years, I was delighted to step into my first in-person conference and meet the people whose on-screen thumbnails and names I was familiar with. I left Florida with a renewed appreciation for our industry and was impressed and humbled by immersing myself among so many thoughtful, intelligent people who trailblaze our industry to new levels.
A few overarching themes stuck out to me:
1. Innovate or get left behind.
One of the more notable sessions was a panel about embracing innovation in the windows industry. Moderator Ray Garries said 90 percent of CEOs regard innovation as “critical” to an organization, yet only 10 percent are satisfied with their innovation progress. He recommends companies ensure their culture, commitment and focus is right and that a failure tolerance exists. “You have to fail a lot to get the right thing,” he says.
He also said that “Innovation isn’t just for engineers or technical people. Everybody can be an innovator. Everybody has great ideas. Following through on those ideas is important. Innovation is turning ideas into invoices.”
Panelist Tim McGlinchy, executive vice president of engineering and R&D, GED Integrated Solutions, shared the company’s new product development process of evaluate, prioritize, develop, launch and measure. Critical actions include justification (market need and financial ROI), customer involvement (validate the value proposition) and continual communication. “You need good ROI for you and the customer to make a win-win situation,” he explained.
Likening the product development and innovation process to an exercise program, McGlinchy said, “You have to have a program to follow so you stay more disciplined, do the right things at the right time and follow up with it.”
2. Be prepared for Energy Star 7.0. It may come fast.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency analyst Doug Anderson explained the agency’s proposed changes to the Energy Star standard. The most recent version of the new standard is meant to bridge the needs of glass industry stakeholders and the increasing need for more energy-efficient design, especially in hotter southern states.
Public comments are due on March 28 and a final draft is tentatively scheduled for May or June. Once that is finalized, which the EPA hopes will be in June or July, the effective date will be one year later, said Anderson. Despite the industry asking EPA to consider a timeframe longer than one year to allow companies to make necessary changes to meet the new standards, Anderson said the EPA remains firm on its implementation timeline. “Companies are all over the spectrum,” he said. “Some are ready to go. Others have many certified options that could get the version 7.0 numbers. We feel one year is reasonable.”
3. We live in uncertain times.
Although this statement isn’t a surprise, several sessions provided enlightening context, starting with economist Chris Kuehl, managing director of Armada Corporate Intelligence. Kuehl spoke about the rapidly evolving Russian invasion of Ukraine and its ripple effects across the globe. Although the greatest impact will initially be in Europe, he predicts, it will have global spillover.
Kuehl also spoke about inflation, which he expects to top 7 percent before falling, and the challenges of the supply chain crisis and labor shortage. Job openings for manufacturing sit at 858,000, and he encourage companies of all sizes to invest in training employees.
Frank Abagnale, whose life inspired the movie “Catch Me If You Can,” spoke about how to avoid fraud and cybersecurity risks. He cited a record number of breaches and compromises in 2020, each one occurring “because someone did something they weren't supposed to do, or they failed to do something they were supposed to do, creating an open door for a hacker.” Areas he encouraged attendees to think through include passwords and soft spots, social media, children and the elderly. “My philosophy is: prevention, verification and education,” he said. “Education is a powerful tool to prevent crime.”
4. Regulation and legislation hits nearly every aspect of the industry.
Kathy Krafka Harkema and Amy Roberts provided a fast-paced U.S. and Canada regulatory and legislative report that spanned everything from energy and labor to rising costs.
The Department of Energy, Harkema said, continues to grow in size and has two branches: Secretary for Science and Innovation and Secretary for Infrastructure, which oversees $20 billion of infrastructure funding. Other initiatives include increasing the adoption and deployment of clean energy and investing in diverse, reliable and socially responsible supply chains.
The U.S. Consumer Price Index for urban consumers was up 7.5 percent in January 2022, which is the largest 12-month increase in 40 years, said Harkema. She also noted that energy spiked 27 percent and building material prices are up 20.3 percent year-over-year, and up 28.7 percent since January 2020. High costs mean 69 percent of U.S. households can’t afford a new median priced home, according to the National Association of Home Builders.
Likewise, Canada has “soaring” home prices, said Roberts. January 2021-2022 saw an increase of 21 percent, and experts predict an additional 20 percent increase by the end of this year. Canada’s inflation rate rose to 5.1 percent in January 2022, the highest level since 1991 and above the market expectation of 4.8 percent.
Canada is examining how to make its buildings more sustainable. For example, said Roberts, the Canada Green Building Council identified the next steps for Canadian retrofits and decarbonizing large buildings. “Every large building can be retrofitted to achieve decarbonization goals,” she said.
5. NGA, FGIA continue joint activities.
The National Glass Association and FGIA regularly form joint task groups to develop technical resources about topics relevant to member companies of both organizations. Karen Wegert, associate director of advocacy and technical services for NGA, shared the following updates about the most recent joint activity from the conference:
Examples of current joint task groups working together to update glass technical papers include Performance Criteria of PIB and Compatibility Testing of Glazing Materials Related to the Performance of PIB in IGUs. A new group will be formed to conduct the systematic five-year review of Guidelines for Use of Capillary Tubes. The organizations are also working together with C-Change Laboratories to develop the glass category of the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3).
Other examples of joint activities are the Product Category Rules (PCRs) for windows and for processed glass, which are used to develop Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). The NGA building code consultants share their proposals to update the model building codes with FGIA code consultants so that the two organizations can present a united front for the glass and glazing industry at the building code hearings.