Glass Shops Respond to Residential Construction Demand
January 18, 2010

During a Construction Outlook Conference last year, Robert Murray, vice president of economic affairs for McGraw Hill Construction, forecasted that total construction would rise 11 percent in 2010, partly buoyed by a 32-percent increase in single-family housing construction starts (CLICK HERE for related story). Meanwhile, this month the American Institute of Architects released its semi-annual Consensus Construction Forecast, which reported that nonresidential construction spending is expected to decrease by 13.4 percent in 2010 (CLICK HERE for related story).

So where once the commercial glazing industry worried over the small and residential contractors taking on jobs beyond their capabilities (CLICK HERE for related story) in 2010 this movement may be reversed.

With the start of 2010, Aaron Day, president of American Glass Inc. in Springfield, Mo., has seen an optimism return to construction professionals in his region. "I know a lot of our local builders are fairly optimistic about the new year," he says. "I think demand, at least in our area, is increasing and the supply is decreasing. It seems as though the builders I've talked to all have a few things to look forward to in the new year."

That increase, and optimism, refers specifically to the area's residential projects.

"I think we've definitely seen the bottom of the residential [downturn] and it's very slowly increasing," Day says. Local commercial construction, he says, is "definitely" on the decline.

The Glass Doctor franchises provide commercial as well as residential glass replacement across the country, offering them an overview of across-the-board demand. Its president, Mark Dawson, says the company, overall, "projects market growth to be between 4 to 5 percent a year over the next three years. Demand should continue to outpace the gross domestic product. Even though remodeling activity has been declining, we should see the first signs of recovery beginning the first half of 2010."

Paul J. Rowan, vice-president and Midwest regional manager for Trainor Glass Co. in Alsip, Ill., says that demand is not there yet, for either residential or commercial glass, but it's coming. "They are both down right now, but we have seen some movement."

Rowan sees variances by region, in two ways: "both volume and price. We have a couple areas where we are getting a lot of traffic and others where it is a little slower," he reports. "In addition, what you sell for in one region may be high or low in another area. You need to make sure your pricing structure works for the area you are in," Rowan advises.

Solar Innovations of Pine Grove, Pa., a manufacturer of products ranging from greenhouses to curtainwall, is seeing regional variances in demand as well.

"Pockets of customers in the retirement areas of the country and those areas that provide more economical living and energy costs also appear to have higher demand," says Greg Header, president of Solar Innovations. "There are also pockets of customers who aspire to live 'greener' lifestyles, in terms of natural daylighting and passive solar, who provide greater demand to our industry"

For more information, look for the January 2010 issue of USGlass Magazine.

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