Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Horrors on the Residential Side

How bad is the residential world right now? Its funny in January, I was at the Builders Show and everyone was playing off this fake confidence that things are fine and so on. Now 11 months later, the truth is that it’s an absolute mess. MI Window announced its closing its Georgia facility hot off the news that PGT is “restructuring” its work force. And more dominos will fall. Heck why do you think Pella was so happy to get EFCO, because their core business was going to be affected, and as of now, that is surely the case. I guess we all have to hold on and roll with this, but judging from the statistics that keep coming out, this is not going to be a short run. Worst part? If cycles hold true, commercial always follows residential in the cycle, so will it be a matter of time before that happens?


-- Starting Monday is the NFRC meetings and I will be there. Should be interesting, as the heat is coming from every direction on the CMA program and its trappings. Jim Benney by the way has an article coming out in one of the trades where once again he (or whomever writes their happy fluffy stuff) talks about the need for NFRC. This time they focus on “Positioning your business for the future” because you’ll need NFRC because of all of the energy related pushes. So that may be the new approach, instead of taking the past inconsistent comments like “congress mandated it” or “it’s in the codes,” now, at least in this article, NFRC is appealing to the business sense. What they fail to mention is they want to keep their monopoly and have yet to show they want to produce a program that will work and be beneficial for all stakeholders. And folks I can not stress how hard your trade organizations IGMA, GANA, AEC and AAMA are working to protect your interests here. Anyway, I really believe now that the NFRC has to be realizing that this CMA issue could drag them into a place that they really don’t want to go… but if they do, I am excited for the ride….

-- Last week I propped the Guardian website and I know several people went right from here to there. Well this week I have to engage in some semi self promotion. And believe me I never do this; you can look through two years of posts for proof, but for this I have to because quite frankly I am proud of the effort and outcome. Earlier this week, the new Arch Deco Glass website launched. (Click Here). It’s really a spectacular site and many people led by Scott Cook and the designers at JAMAR Park and Fargo Design did a super job.

-- Our friends at Sage got plenty of good press this week… I am happy for them, good people and a great product- truly one that makes sense in an energy conscience world.

-- By the way is it just me or is every architect trying to draw glass bigger and bigger and bigger… what an amazing and scary trend… I love the look, but all of the other angles about it (handling, distortion etc) make it less appetizing. If anything it does force the fabricator to be better.

-- I think I should stop picking Football games…. Especially since I am in true “Mush” mode losing 2 of my last 3… but we’ll get back on the winning track this week with the Vikings +7 at home… and a bonus pick, in the “Game of the Century” I’m taking New England to win and cover… just too good of a team.

-- Last, is it Thanksgiving yet? That is one holiday that can not get here soon enough in certain regions… I wrote about the miserable duo of months we are in a few weeks ago and even one customer who reads this blog, fell right into the trap- he was being pressured by his GC which in turn forced him to pressure us… he even noted to me that it was comical that right after I mentioned these happenings he was involved… well thankfully all I think turned out well.. thanks for reading Jeff and making my blog predictions happen….

Video of the week is a cheerleader making the dire mistake of trying to fix a sign before a team full of players run through it…. Brutal…

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Saturday with Green Issues and NFRC comments

A few loose ends to cover….

-- Green building as great as everyone thinks? According to this article (CLICK HERE) the answer is a resounding NO. Its an interesting piece and it shows that some people are so determined to be in the “in crowd” by building green that they don’t understand what they get… and then others expect miraculous transformations from their new facilities because of all of the good green products. Regardless I think that was the first article that I have read that brought up the pratfalls of going green….

-- Wall Street Journal had one of those sobering pieces on the awful home market… if you missed it… CLICK HERE…. I am feeling sorry for the residential side more and more because its ugly and we’re still a while a way from the uptick….

-- No way could I let the recent NFRC election results go without a comment. I wrote on this on the blog back in September:

In addition a vote for Steven Rosenstock of the Edison Electric Institute would be good too since a win for him would remove Alecia Ward from the Board as she has never been, in my opinion, fair or open to anyone or anything from our industry. Sadly, the chances of her losing are 10,000-1, but a guy can dream right?

Well folks I am also the Mush of picking NFRC races (as well as football) as Rosenstock won in what I would call an Appalachian State like upset. Unreal. Now as I was reminded a few times yesterday, there’s no guarantee that Mr Rosenstock will be any more open to our industry than Ms Ward, but we can hope. And as for Alecia Ward, I can guarantee you that she’ll be back… the NFRC will find a place for her, and as soon as something opens again, it’ll be a mortal lock that she’ll be back on board.

-- Meanwhile the NFRC board did get a major upgrade with Steve Farrar from Guardian, as his level of professionalism and expertise will surely help bring our industry concerns at least to the table. As for the other new members... hopefully Joe Hayden of Pella will keep an eye open to the fact that he has a real commercial operation in the family now with EFCO. Tony Rygg is this terms annual California representative… must be a little known by-law that someone from the CEC must hold a board spot at NFRC. Comically Rygg ran against unopposed and he could only muster 75% of the vote… 31 out of 121 people were telling a story by NOT voting for the only person on the ballot. Shame that we couldn’t find someone from the other 49 states to put in against him because they probably woulda won.

-- I will be at the NFRC meetings starting November 5.. and of course I’ll have the details here on the blog.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend….

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Seriously Interesting Coalition

On Wednesday I sat in on an open forum meeting of the Advanced Building Coalition. It was an amazingly diverse group of people. You had of course protectors of the industry there (GANA) along with primary glass manufacturers and 2/3rds of the top fabricators. Then you had code officials, government officials (DOE and HUD), and plenty of energy related groups. Plus you had non glazing folks too so it really made for an interesting meeting. The theme of the meeting was how to approach the governments plan to reduce energy in buildings by 30% by 2010 and 50% by 2020. 11 people representing every background imaginable gave short presentations and thoughts on what could/may/possibly happen when this 30% goal becomes law/code.

To me the most interesting take came from Todd Taylor of the Professional Northwest National Laboratory. He noted that getting to 30% is not as simple as people think because there are so many factors that need to be addressed. He noted regional differences, building differences, fuel types and non code regulated items among the many reasons on why this effort will take time to muster. But that said, the DOE representative on the panel was pretty focused on the fact that this will happen and according to a surprising Memo of Understanding that was released today from 4 organizations (ICC, AIA, Alliance to Save Energy and ASHRAE) the drive to get it done could be there. Long way to go, but energy focus and code advancements are surely coming, so get ready. I’m going to write more on this meeting either later this week or next.


-- Also from the meeting, the DOE rep, a pretty engaging guy Ron Majette, had few fascinating comments- but the best was:

“You are the experts, you are the pulse in the field….” Yes we are, can you pass that on to the fine folks at the NFRC…. They’ll ignore you, but it sure would be nice if someone from DOE would tell them that instead of listening to NFRC tell you how we’re all evil greedy manufacturers who hate things like Low E.

-- Mr. Majette and many others also talked about how costs will go up in order to meet the energy goals… because of higher end, better products…. So again that brings me to our pals at NFRC… if their program is expensive, and you know it will be, how will that impact the goals of the government? You know its one thing to pay more for product, its surely another to have to pay a ransom to have a professionally produced product tested, re-tested and vetted, so some people can make profit. Now more than ever, with this on the horizon, I believe that NFRC’s CMA effort will fail miserably unless it becomes a ton more user friendly, less invasive and surely less expensive.

-- While I am on subjects that make me nuts… did you see that China led the world in exporting glass…. 1 BILLION worth…. For which they probably sold on the market for 400 million…. Or less. But the article on USGNN (CLICK HERE) has some great points, especially made by Russ Ebeid of Guardian.

-- Speaking of Guardian… if you have not seen their new Sun Guard website (CLICK HERE) then you are missing out. Fantastic site, extremely informative and detailed. And yes while I’ll be accused of drinking the Guardian Kool Aid, I have to compliment because if you have worked on a website, you know it’s A LOT harder than it looks, so I have to give proper kudos to the folks behind it, because it’s simply tremendous. Congrats guys.

-- And no, I am not on their payroll.

-- Football picks have been ugly.. like I warned at the start of the season… that’s why they call me MUSH…. This week… I’m going with a favorite for the first time in a while.. Tampa Bay by 4 over a Jacksonville team starting a horrible QB…. So let’s see if I can right the ship.

Video of the week… Bowling with a football flair…

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Best and Worst months of the year.

You know I both love and hate this time of year. I love the season, fall, cooler weather, leaves changing, Halloween candy- leading into Thanksgiving (best holiday IMO) and the great month of November. But the hatred comes from how these two months are for our industry. It is simply the worst 2 months we have. Everyone is swamped. Everyone is pressured. Plus it has been a while since that relaxing summer vacation and the Christmas holidays are way too off in the distance, so everyone is a bit more on edge. And of course, everyone needs their product YESTERDAY. Especially in any region where there is snow, the October/November runs are all extra pressured because everyone wants their buildings closed in before the “snow flies.” Customers and suppliers who get along great for 10 months of the year are at each others throats in these two months and its like this EVERY YEAR and it sucks. Anyway I am counting down the days til December while trying to enjoy the best/worst 2 months of the year.

Elsewhere this week….

-- So the Architectural Billings Index went down again eh? While it’s still above water, the downward trend should be a worry. Now keep in mind this is for projects going 9 to 12 months from now, so it’s a while away, BUT, its also about that time… end of 08, early 09 that the experts were calling for tough times. Next months ABI will be very telling.

-- Big retirement news in the industry as Jack Deyo, President of Mid Ohio Tempering and last I knew President of the UGC East Coast announced his retirement to his folks last week. Obviously I have some history working with Jack and even though the UGC period for me is darker than the color black, I always respected Jack and the way he did things. In addition the way he ran his business was top notch, he treated his folks well and built a company that developed a great reputation in the marketplace. I wish Jack and his family the best of luck and health, we as an industry will be weaker without a guy like that around.

-- Great article on the Silicon Valley boom re-birth. Is it really the “dot com” explosion part 2- well according to this article (click here) it is. It’s a great read and it’s pretty unreal that people can make a ton of money still in the internet world without delivering results. It makes you ask why we are in this business sometimes.

-- Speaking of Silicon Valley, if you are a fan of Apple- makers of the great IPOD and new IPHONE there’s a great book out there on its co-founder Steve Jobs. It’s called I CON and it’s by Jeffery Young and William Simon. It’s a great look at the guy, his history and so on. The man has had his ups and downs, but unlike some of the lucky ducks that you’ll read about in that column above, I believe Steve Jobs has earned every penny of his fortune. Good book if you want to read more.

-- Got an e-mail this week on the fact that the BEC conference is already 10% full- and we are 4 months away! That is incredible. So I would say if you want to be there, and if you have any connection to our industry, YOU WANT TO BE THERE, then you need to get registered.

-- Yes terrible week for predictions.. My D Backs are done (that’s what happens when you mess with the green movement, keeping AC on in 111 degree heat with the roof open) and the football pick of the week failed too. Oh well, lets get back on the horse, for football, New Orleans is favored by 8-1/2 over Atlanta… something is wrong here, as I know New Orleans is better but they’ve only played 1 good game this year, and while Atlanta stinks, I gotta go with the Falcons to cover.

Video of the week- from Saturday Night Live this week making fun of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the fact that NBC is their network… good stuff… (unless you are an ND fan and then this whole season has been a nightmare)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Saturday with More and new Chinese Toy

Got a bunch of e-mails after the last post that brought up some great issues...

A reader reminded me about the last NFRC "outreach" it was was $30,000 grant to Board member Gary Curtis,for his organization to educate architects on this new program.... So SEE they have been trying... but remember they only try by giving money to one of their own...

Another reader pleaded with me to not "give in" on the need if this issue. I am not giving up, but there are certain things that can be done and others that can't. Plus with how big of a mess this is, it may blow up all by itself.

I did get one dissenting opinion, stating that there is a serious need for what NFRC brings... and to that I say... the only people who would benefit from the way the system is set up now and the way the Board truly wants to set it up are:

1. People who see NFRC Cert as a "revenue stream" and yes there is at least 2 folks out there who can't wait for it to happen, because they think they can make money from it
2. People who think that NFRC cert will legitimize their products that either don't deserve it or have bad reputations.

That's it. Because how the NFRC Board wants it, no normal industry stakeholder will see any value or need.
And of course I need to always add this....
I have no problems with a program to rate whole system calculations. And I don't have a problems with a certification program that could work with it. The problems will always lie in the inane and overwrought oversight and the lack of care/knowledge from the people attempting to implement it. Plus competition would be nice eh? I mean don't you and I have competition? Why does the NFRC have the same rights as the IRS?

Last- I also had 1 call and 1 e-mail to please not forget about China... and trust me I won't. The China issue is 1000 times worse than the NFRC. While the NFRC could ultimately destroy themselves, the Communist Chinese won't and vigilance is a must.

More proof... despite all the recalls, the exports still keep coming and it WILL GET WORSE! Especially in our industry. Click HERE for the story.

And from a reader (Thanks David!) this great picture of the latest toy recall from China... CLASSIC!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Blog turns 2 and the NFRC is still here...

Big day here at the blog, as we celebrate our 2nd birthday…. Amazing. While the first year was spotty, the 2nd year has been pretty darn good and I thank you for that. Actually I should thank everyone from EFCO and Pella who seemingly still check this blog often, even after their deal has been done. Anyway, its been fun and we’ll keep it going, but I warn you, this blog could be a like a real 2 year old child and go through its “Terrible Two’s” so look out…


** WARNING- The next few paragraphs are NFRC related, so if you are one of those people who do not care for this stuff, please skip below**

Big meeting coming in a few weeks at NFRC. In advance of that meeting, Glass Magazine has an interesting piece on the whole commercial effort and the timeline of what’s been happening. To read it CLICK HERE. Nice to see them jump into the fray, just 2 years+ after I wrote my first piece on it. Anyway, it is a good primer on what’s happened and what is going to happen. But of course there were certain parts of the article I had to make comment on and here they are: (quotes in bold, my comments under)

Participants have said it’s hard to make decisions about the usability of a software program before it’s completed. To give users something they can “touch and feel” before the program launches, the NFRC plans to release a lite version of the CMA software in the form of a bidding tool, Benney says. The software will have the rating program without the certification.

This shows you how comical this whole “fight” is. While we fight on the oversight (more on that below) and other things, the program depends on a piece of software that’s NOT COMPLETED YET! Yes and we all know how new software works, never any bugs, never any problems, works smooth huh?

One major compromise would allow manufacturers to serve as an approved calculation entity, reducing costs and an additional level of testing, albeit with a requirement of 100 percent review from an inspection agency. Although the NFRC membership voted overwhelmingly at the spring meeting in Austin, Texas, to allow manufacturer ACEs without total IA review, the board reversed the decision. (underline and italics mine)

And you wonder, ladies and gentlemen, why I fight this. This statement says it all. The membership saw this MADE SENSE. The membership who have to deal with these issues and actually understand the pressures and the industry, made its recommendation to the board who promptly REVERSED the decision. Why?


A: They Can! They are a 501c3 and they can do whatever they want, even invade Iraq too if they want.


B: The people who make money off of their NFRC memberships would lose out in a deal like this. If a manufacturer could do his own calculations, what would that to do the business of all of the labs and consultants who MAKE MONEY from stuff like this? So the board, in trying to protect their own, went against an overwhelming vote. Believe me they’ll breakout the argument of third party certs and “trust” but if the labs, consultants, and IA’s weren’t making money off of this it would be approved. Oh and you would think that the DOE would wake up and take notice of this? Nah, they are completely and pathetically snowed.

Falke agrees NFRC has not had enough communication with industry players but says it is a top priority for the board. “We’re working on a marketing plan and know we need to do a better job. We need to get the word out, and we probably should have been doing it earlier,” she says. Possible outreach efforts the board is considering include attending meetings and trade shows, holding demonstrations and focus groups, and taking directly with AIA members and code officials, Falke says.

Hey I got an idea, let’s create a program for an industry that we know nothing about, and ignore their input and offerings (like a tour of Viracon) and let’s go from there! Yes, it should be noted that the NFRC was offered and the DOE endorsed a tour and session at Viracon when the NFRC was having their meetings in Minnesota. And like everything else- it was ignored. So it's lip service in my opinion when they want to “reach out” because they only want to “reach out” to save a program that makes, in its current form, no sense. So have fun reaching out guys…. And as for focus groups, I hope they do them again as it was high comedy seeing them interview people from towns that don’t have a building bigger than 1 story.

Although many issues remain unresolved, the CMA sausage is about done and ready to be served, whether the industry is ready or not.

And you know what, the fun will really begin, because there is no way this industry will take it lying down… at first it will be ignored, but when the NFRC works the code angle, then it will be fought, and I am pretty sure taken to court if necessary, if it turns out to be the completely biased program some want it to be. And that’s just glass and aluminum industry- the architects will absolutely ignore.

The bottom line is, and I have said it many times, our industry embraces and welcomes efficiency. We want to sell and manufacture value added products (even though some NFRC members have poisoned the minds of the DOE telling them, we don’t like to produce Low E!) and we are all for a fair, simple and credible system to rate whole systems.

What we are against is the blatant profit motive of those involved. Like the example above, they prove that their goal is to make money, not create a workable program.

And I must note, there are people I respect on the other side of this issue, and they bring up many good points on some of the needs of a program like this. But at the end of the day it gets lost in the BS that this has spawned. It’s a shame because done right, a program like this would really do a lot of good, but with too many people in profit mode, it will never happen here.

OK moving on….

-- I do show my frustration with DOE, but hopefully the DOE does the right thing on another issue. Sage EC is in the running for monies from the DOE for their product development, and to me it’s the ultimate no brainer. The Sage product meets the specifications set by DOE and is truly a cutting edge piece. Let’s hope they get the money to keep that technology rolling. If a company like Sage with the product they have can’t get money from DOE and groups like NFRC do, there is seriously something wrong with that.

-- While I am Mr. Negative, Good Morning America had a piece on a California subdivision that had more than ½ of its houses up for auction. And the prices were at ½ the original prices. What a disaster. The housing market is getting uglier by the day, and even with people offering to pay insurance and taxes and so on, homes are not moving. Add in the foreclosures- 300 this year in my community alone and folks it is not pretty.

-- Registration for BEC and Glassweek are now open, spots will fill fast, so get registered today.

-- From the football side, its 3 in a row for me as San Fran barely covered the spread vs Baltimore last week, and should’ve won outright except for a missed FG. Anyway we go for 4 in a row with the Jets at home getting 3 from Philly. The Jets have been bad, but I think Philly has issues and I just don’t trust McNabb… so we’ll see if the streak can continue.

-- Baseball wise, I guess my hunch on Steinbrenner and the Yanks was wrong… So now I am going with Red Sox… and in the NL, my D Backs are still alive and I like them to end the Rockies Cinderella run.

Sorry no video this week… I am clearing hard drive space for that snazzy new bug free NFRC CMA software…

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Don't worry the deals will be coming....

A big driver of traffic to this blog has been the insight into the “deals” that have happened recently in our industry. So because of that, I get e-mails constantly either giving me “scoop” or asking me what’s next. As for the scoop, I really do vet it completely, as an example, when I first heard that EFCO was being bought by Pella, I actually discounted it immediately. Then I heard it again, and again, and then from another source, so that after a while I could not ignore. But I know there’s folks out there that think I’ll run with any thing I hear and that’s just not the case. Now with that in mind, I am hearing about a few deals, but some of the details have been too sketchy to run with, so as soon as I can get things more clear, I’ll clue you in.


-- The NFRC letter from the NGA still has me stunned a few days later. I am just blown away that they are coming to the party, but the question is will they stay? I really hope they truly understand the efforts of the Carney’s, Webb’s, Culp’s etc who have had to navigate the nightmarish NFRC maze of meetings, proposals, task groups, committees and so on. If those folks, among others of course, did not keep dragging themselves to the meetings and so on, we’d be saddled with a seriously unusable program. Thanks to them, there’s hope. Now if NGA is serious, they’ll send a letter to DOE, they’ll work whatever contacts they have at AIA, they’ll get to the meeting in November, and they’ll make their voice heard. Like Greg Carney has told me on occasion, “I go to the microphone at NFRC so many times, I am sure they are blocking me out right now” and he’s probably right… so some fresh faces would work.

-- During this whole episode this week, I was asked what the communist Chinese think of the NFRC… I laughed… a lot… the communist Chinese don’t care about laws (among other abuses like making toothpaste without poison or lead in the Elmo Toys) so caring about the NFRC is not high on the list.

--Am I the only one who kind of raised an eyebrow after reading the Wall Street Journal story on PPG at the end of last week? CLICK HERE. The comment that left me curious was the Wall Street analyst who noted PPG is now more known for its paint products and specialty coatings. With the selling of its autoglass division and everyone seemingly dogging the glass side as a whole, it really left me perplexed. Then earlier this week there was a Q&A (HERE) with Victoria Holt who is PPG's Senior VP of Glass and Fiberglass and when the question was thrown at her about the outlook of the rest of the glass businesses her answer started with:

I'm not going to speculate on what the future looks like because at any point in time, things could occur.

Now am I the only one who is seeing something there? The question did not ask are you going to sell the flat side but “what’s the outlook” and to me I think the answer would just be rosy talking about products and potential and so on. Also I guess the reason my radar goes off is usually the answer in that case is like Vistawall’s was when they were asked 6 weeks before the Oldcastle deal if they were selling.

"We currently operate successful businesses throughout North America (North Star BlueScope Steel, Butler Buildings and Vistawall)," BlueScope Steel is committed to growing our North American business. In the last four years, BlueScope Steel's North American employee base has grown from 40 people to 4,000. It is a market that we are 100 percent committed to."

I don’t know maybe her answer which makes you think something is up is reverse psychology… I guess time will tell.

-- The baseball playoffs just started… but I will make my picks… first I am rooting for the Arizona Diamondbacks because a few reasons, but mainly anyone that wants to blatantly run Air Conditioning with the roof open when its 111 degrees out has some serious guts. Plus I think they will make it from the National League to face the Yankees in the World Series, with the Yanks winning it for an allegedly very ill George Steinbrenner.

-- Football pick- yes I am rolling- two in a row- two home dogs win outright. This week, I had a few thoughts but decided to stay with the home underdog angle and go with the 49ers at home getting 3 from Baltimore. I just don’t think the Ravens are that good and even though SF has Trent Dilfer playing QB, I like them to cover and win…

This week’s video is comical- its bizarre answers from the TV show Family Feud… well worth the 1:15 and a few chuckles to be had.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Color me STUNNED

My normal post will come later in the week, but I could not pass this up. The NGA, National Glass Association has weighed in on the NFRC issue with a scathing letter.

You can read the lettter HERE. It was well written and brings up some interesting points.

Welcome to the party guys.... its a nice first step, and hopefully its not the last. This letter will not even make a dent in the NFRC machine, they'll respond to it breaking out all of their famous lines about "protecting the public stakeholder" and "California's demanded it" and "Its Green" and "we're a 501c3" and "our mandate from congress" and "ISO is gonna do it" so on.

A nice second step would be to send a letter to the DOE and educate them and let them know of your opinion. Plus joining the NFRC (so you can vote) and attending the meetings works too.

((At this point I know you'll say, if they are against it, why join? Well to truly affect change it has to happen from within. As much as I dog NFRC, they are not a fly by night organization. They are connected at the DOE. And the DOE and others will always say "did you go to the meetings? did you vote?" when they discuss the issues with you- plus the NFRC WILL develop a program, like it or not, so you may as well try as hard as you can to make it simple and realistic))

Anyway, while I do not see this as stopping the current effort by NFRC, it is promising that NGA has finally weighed in and I can only hope that they will follow through and truly make this a priority to protect their membership.

Wow, last week the NGA is on TV talking about glass and now this... I am really stunned.