Room for Improvement: Installers, Suppliers Take Second Look at Retrofits
February 4, 2010

Commercial glass suppliers and installers have been taking a closer look at ways to capitalize on opportunities in the retrofit market while new commercial construction churns through a forecasted slump in 2010.

Robin Randall, vice president of marketing for Traco in Cranberry Township, Pa., has been watching this trend take off. “We have seen an increase in retrofit projects, in large part due to the decline in new construction.”

Others say this growing trend might not be growing fast enough to really help buoy installers searching for work.

“Renovation projects would have to significantly increase in order to offset the losses in other commercial segments,” adds Jeff Griffiths, director of business development at SAFTI FIRST Fire Rated Glazing Solutions. However, he acknowledges, “An increased emphasis on energy performance improvements, the need to align older buildings with today’s technological needs and the ability to tap into equity for funding are all important factors that could cushion the blow to the renovation market segment.”

While retrofit revenues for Minneapolis-based Apogee Enterprises historically have been about 25 percent, Russ Huffer, chairperson and chief executive officer, has said this may change with the right incentives (CLICK HERE for related story).

Already, Huffer says, he is seeing increased interest as a result of “stimulus projects.” He adds, “We’ve also seen interest from non-government projects, but many of these projects are not moving ahead with the difficulty in obtaining financing.”

Mark Meshulam, executive vice president of Builders Architectural in Deerfield, Ill., agrees that the retrofit work might not be there now—but now is precisely the time to prepare for work in this segment.

“Right now there’s been such a huge decrease in all kinds of work that it’s hard to say,” Meshulam says. He adds, “I believe that the fastest part of our industry’s market to return will be rehab, first in the public sector, then the private sector.”

Meshulam advises glass industry professionals to promote their energy—and cost—benefits based on a three-pronged approach, by addressing tax benefits available to help with the immediate costs, addressing the longer-term energy savings and looking toward existing data that documents the enhanced market value of properties with green upgrades.

Huffer cites similar data. “Often monolithic glass is being replaced and there are huge energy savings to be achieved, as well as increases in comfort and productivity for employees with the improved energy efficiency and greater use of daylighting. The improvements also increase the value of the building and can lead to increased lease rates for building owners,” he says.

CLICK HERE to share your thoughts on the retrofit market.

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

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