Calm After the Storm; WDMA Members Learn about Future of Construction at Annual Meeting

Things didn't go well for the residential construction business in 2006, and most of 2007 doesn't look much better. But, by the fourth quarter, things could start to look up.

That's the word from Harvey Bernstein, vice president of industry analytics, alliances and strategic initiatives at McGraw Hill. Bernstein shared that prediction as part of wide ranging talk looking at the future of construction at the Window and Door Manufacturers 80th Annual Meeting in Big Island, Hawaii.

While Bernstein mixed in liberal doses of humor throughout the presentation, the residential decline last year (11 percent) and the projected falloff this year (7 percent) were no laughing matter. "This year will be tough, but not anything like last year," he says. "We're projecting things could go up in 2008. The question is really if the shift will be in the final quarter of 2007 or the first quart of 2008."

After 2008, Bernstein says things look bright for residential building components producers. And, it's not going to be just one thing powering the resurgence. Demand, in fact, could come from all corners of the globe. Case in point: Third World countries. With increasing urbanization, longer life spans and growth in communication and transportation, there will be more demand for housing.

That opens many new markets for products manufacturers. "If you're not focused on the global marketplace, you're behind," Bernstein says.

As other countries grow more sophisticated, the United States grows older. By 2030, Bernstein projects that the elderly population in this country will be increasing faster than the total population. The anticipated retirement and subsequent relocation of seniors and empty nesters into new homes offers even more opportunity for residential builders and materials producers.

But to capture this market, building material producers will have to know what seniors want. "Understanding what this population wants [in home choice] is important," Bernstein says. "What kinds of features are they looking for?"

This will pose challenges, of course. But after a year of declining business, it's most certainly a challenge that both builders and their suppliers will surely embrace.