Doing It Light  
Vinyl Surges in Light Commercial Sector  
by Trey Barrineau  
heldon Kahan vinyl just performs better in most cli-  
has seen the mates, and we can do colors and we  
future of light can build much larger windows than  
commercial — and it before.”  
is vinyl. Steve Dillon, the marketing director  
Vinyl window for Veka, sees a similar situation.  
manufacturers have “In most markets, aluminum still  
adapted to the light has a foothold,” he says. “However,  
commercial market,” some markets have been quicker to  
says Kahan, the com- adopt vinyl as the preferred mate-  
mercial project manager rial because of the obvious thermal  
with Deceuninck North advantages that vinyl, in combina-  
America. “Vinyl is really tion with insulating glass, can pro-  
taking hold in light com- vide. This trend will continue across  
mercial and it’s becoming all markets as thermal requirements  
the product of choice. It’s become more stringent.”  
really something. It’s con-  
tinuing to be a huge factor project in historic Italian Village near  
in Deceuninck’s growth.” Columbus, Ohio, is an example of  
Kahan says vinyl is surg- vinyl’s versatility.  
Kahan says a new-construction  
ing because of its excellent  
The historic village requires win-  
thermal performance, ver- dows used in new construction to  
satility, ease of maintenance match the look and design of those  
and affordability.  
in existing buildings. Traditionally,  
“It’s taking larger and vinyl has not been an option. But  
larger chunks of the market Deceuninck North America worked  
from aluminum,” he says. “It with Lindsay Windows of Chicago,  
comes back to the fact that a member of its recently launched  
Commercial Alliance, to offer a vinyl  
window that matched the required  
frame design and black color while  
Vinyl on  
the Rise  
Several years ago, AAMA published a white paper about the use  
providing a high level of thermal per-  
formance. During a recent meeting of  
architects and historic planning offi-  
cials, the windows were approved for  
use as part of a large, mixed-use con-  
struction project comprised that will  
feature more than 1,200 living units.  
of vinyl windows in a historic former military base near Chicago that illustrates  
the material’s growing clout.  
Fort Sheridan north of Chicago was decommissioned in 1993. Soon after, devel-  
opers looked to exploit its beautiful Romanesque Revival architecture by turning  
it in a new housing development that would mix renovated historic structures  
and new construction. Barracks and single dwelling houses were converted into  
multi-million-dollar mansions and townhouses that cost in the upper six figures.  
The developers went with vinyl windows for the project because of its ther-  
mal efficiency, ease of maintenance and affordability. Veka supplied the two-  
toned extruded profiles to Republic Windows, which handled the fabrication.  
A Strong Market  
2015/2016 Study of the U.S. Market  
for Windows, Doors and Skylights  
from the American Architectural  
Manufacturers Association, the U.S.  
market for light commercial windows  
increased nine percent from 2013 to  
2015. AAMA defines “light commer-  
People are looking for maintenance-free homes all the time, even if the  
homes are over a million dollars,” says architect Brad Lewis, director of design for  
Chicago-based Balsamo Olson & Lewis. “We are doing a lot of houses with vinyl  
windows. People can’t tell the difference anymore. And now that we can do dif-  
ferent shapes with vinyl windows, it gives us a chance to use the material more.”  
Door & Window Market  
Vinyl Stats  
2 percent  
cial” as residential-type units used in businesses going.”  
low-rise non-residential applications,  
Neukirchner says  
noting that they usually pass through that’s big change  
the typical residential window supply from the past.  
Storefront and  
chain channels (see chart at right).  
“It was very uncom-  
commercial windows  
4 percent  
Additionally, a July 2015 forecast mon before the eco-  
from Principia Consulting predicts nomic crisis,” she says,  
that the $8.3 billion market for res- adding that it was a big  
idential and light commercial patio adjustment for a lot of  
doors and windows will grow seven those companies.  
4 percent  
percent each year through 2017. At  
“It’s a higher scale of intri-  
the same time, the overall commer- cacy for commercial fabrica-  
cial building industry should see 9.9 tors with engineering calculations,  
percent growth in 2016 and 7.5 per- mock-up testing, go through approv-  
cent growth in 2017, according to als, work with window consultants, Source: AAMA 2015/2016 Study of the U.S.  
the American Institute of Architects shop drawings, window management Market for Windows, Doors and Skylights  
Consensus Construction Forecast.  
According to Kahan, multi-family  
housing is leading the charge.  
on the job site,” she says.  
Since the housing crash, multi-fam- Style Watch  
ily housing has powered the recov-  
Kahan says color is the big  
We’re seeing lots of activity in ery in U.S. residential construction. game-changer in the light commer-  
student housing and things such as In 2015, multi-family production cial arena.  
mixed use with stores on the bottom reached 395,000 units, according to  
“It used to be manufacturers only  
the National Association of Home had white or tan or clay vinyl windows,”  
and apartments on top,” he says.  
Corrie Neukirchner of Rehau says Builders’ 2017 Spring Construction he says. “Now they’re selling painted or  
that’s because the commercial segment Forecast. A normal year of multi-fam- laminated products. Colors like bronze  
has gotten healthier faster than other ily production typically sees 331,000 and black are very popular.”  
areas of the construction industry.  
units produced, NAHB says.  
Veka’s Dillon agrees.  
“We’ve seen a stronger recovery of  
However, multi-family starts are  
“Color is always a consideration  
thecommercialsegmentafterthefinan- expected to decline 4 percent to for any commercial installation, and  
cial crisis compared to slower stabili- 379,000 units this year, but rise 6 per- vinyl offers the most versatility for  
zation of residential new-construction cent to 402,000 units in 2017.  
volume based on demographics and  
Dillon says light-commercial growth ity of the growth is in interior and  
lifestyle choices,” she says. “Specifically for Veka varies widely by region.  
exterior laminates. The ability to have  
finishes,” he says. “For us, the major-  
multi-family and mixed-use develop-  
ments have seen a big jump.”  
“We see growth in the Northeast wood grain interiors along with archi-  
and Midwest as traditional residential tectural exterior colors are appealing  
One installer of light commercial fabricators are realizing the oppor- to most builders and architects.”  
fenestration says he’s seeing an uptick tunities in the light commercial mar-  
Finally, Dillon says the adaptability  
all across the board.  
ket,” he says. “Not so much in the of many residential window designs  
The number of projects is up for South and West where aluminum is to light commercial is a big reason  
the first time significantly since the still strong. It really speaks to the ther- there are more diverse styles in this  
downturn,” says Craig Patchin of mal requirements in those regions. niche than ever before.  
Window Design Center in Madison, Where we see the growth, fabricators  
“Many residential window designs  
Wis. “Lending has loosened, and peo- are out there pitching the benefits of are capable and are making the shift  
ple are starting to create companies vinyl over other materials. It’s really over to light commercial,” he says.  
and expand. It’s healthy and steady. A about education. Growth will contin- “The changes in energy codes have  
lot of the big production builders were ue to increase nationwide at a modest driven designs to not only be more  
all active in multi-family during the pace while certain markets will rapid- thermally efficient but to be more  
downturn. It was a way to keep their ly adopt vinyl’s versatility.”  
structurally sound as well.”  
June/July 2016