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Editorial: Pain and profit

Environmental standards can be seen as an opportunity.

October 17, 2016  By Patrick Flannery

Our cover story this month is on Centennial Windows, one of Canada’s great success stories in the window manufacturing business. One interesting aspect of Centennial’s story is the way this company recognized early that energy-efficient window designs were going to be the wave of the future and jumped in with both feet to make an efficient window and to support the Energy Star program.

It is a great example of a company seeing change in society and the economy and building a strategy to take advantage of it. Instead of viewing the high oil prices, high inflation and resulting energy conservation concerns of the late ’70s and early ’80s as a threat, Centennial founder Terry Lee saw an opportunity to get in on the ground floor with a new marketing approach few others were attempting. The rest, as you will read, is history.

Fast forward to last week at the Canadian Glass Association’s Glass Connections conference in Ottawa. One of the excellent presentations was by Mark Silverberg of Technoform North America. He was talking about sustainability in the architectural glass industry, which would normally prompt me to ask who I’d offended in order to be forced to sit through another sustainability lecture. To my pleasant surprise, Mark’s talk was both thoughtful and thought-provoking. He started by describing the origins of the term “sustainable” as it applies to industrial practices. The word comes from a paper called the Brundtland Report produced by the United Nations’ World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987. In it, the authors outline the concept of sustainable development as taking into consideration the environment, social matters and…economics. That’s right – sustainability was not initially conceived as something that occurs in opposition to making money. In fact, the model portrays sustainability as similar to a three-legged stool. Take any leg away, and the whole structure topples. That seems to me a far cry from how most people use the word today.  Too often, environmentalists seem to be using the word as a hammer to clobber any initiative that does not meet their planet-saving objectives. The interesting thing that Mark brought out was that any environmental proposal could be equally opposed as unsustainable by pointing out that it is not profitable.

Then he moved on to mention that New York City has environmental targets in place that would require renovations to the fenestration of over a million buildings in the next 30 years. Now that’s what I call “sustainable” – if you are in the business of supplying windows.


At another conference this summer, I heard about the new Product Category Rule for processed glass that has been developed and published in a joint effort by several North American glass associations. With the publication of this document, it is now possible to issue Life Cycle Assessments and Environmental Product Declarations for all fenestration products that are recognized by the various green building certifiers. Who cares? Well, you might if you want to supply windows and doors to a LEED v.4 project. As of October, providing LCAs and EPDs will be the only way to gain certain LEED credits, replacing other methods that existed before. Those who have invested the time and money to develop these reports will have the inside track, especially on institutional projects. It’s another opportunity masquerading as a pain in the ass.

Now all you need to turn that posterior pain into profit is a trip to WinDoor. Fenestration Canada has loaded up the program with experts who can tell you all about sustainability, PCRs, LCAs, EPDs and maybe even LCBOs. See you in Montreal.

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