Volume 51, Issue 1 - January 2016


Multifamily Sector Moving Lite-ning Fast

Some leading construction indicators show a major boom in multifamily construction; others indicate a steady rise.

Either way, the sector is on the up.

According to Dodge Data & Analytics, the multifamily construction segment saw dollar increases of 23 to 37 percent each year from 2010 to 2014. It projects a 25-percent boost in 2015 and a 7-percent bump in 2016.

Construction Market Data (CMD) Group’s numbers were more conservative, with a 5.1-percent rise in 2014 and a slight 1.8-percent dip in 2015. However, CMD projects a higher 11.7-percent jump in multifamily construction dollars in 2016. That is followed by 4.1- to 8.6-percent increases in each year through 2019.

The glazing industry has been reaping the benefits.

Darand Davis of Dallas Glass in Dallas, Ore., says multifamily projects currently make up about 30 percent of his company’s volume. “In total construction dollars spent, I would say [multifamily] is close to leading the market in projects built,” he says.

Davis adds that the uptick in construction in the sector is similar to a decade ago, but with a little twist.

“It is reminiscent of the environment prior to the great recession, although then there were more condos. This time around, it is mostly multifamily apartments being built,” he says. Trend-wise, he says energy efficiency “continues to be a driving force as developers and architects push for the lowest U-values possible.”

Vincent Grieco, Crystal Windows’ regional sales and technical manager, says the demand for more glass in highrise construction has brought heightened attention to acoustics. In New York, where the multifamily sector is booming, that has meant working closely with the architect and the city’s Office of Environmental Remediation to ensure outdoor-indoor transmission class ratings are being met.

Crystal has seen an increase in the use of unique design components. Turning repurposed buildings into residential dwellings brings unique challenges, such as custom-designed slab coverings.

Additionally, architects are rejecting cookie-cutter designs for more distinct ones. Grieco says that has increased the use of ornamental features on the buildings.

“If you want to get the job, you’ve got to be able to do this stuff,” he says. “We let the architects design, and on our side, accessories can enhance those openings. We welcome the custom work.”

As a result, close and early coordination of all parties in the project is becoming more important. “That’s where 3-D printing and mock-ups have really helped companies like us,” says Grieco.

Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is a trend Keith Lindberg, Wausau Window and Wall Systems’ regional sales manager, has seen with high-rise residential projects. He says the collaborative approach is “a major break from the historical, and more linear, bid-build process.”
With IPD, the design team is formed early in the process and typically involves the general contractor, architect, consultants and subcontractors, including the contract glazier and window/curtainwall manufacturer. This allows each party to bring its expertise to the project team and play a role in developing the design.

“IPD requires window/curtainwall manufacturers to re-think their current processes if they want to provide support effectively,” says Lindberg. “It’s an exciting change to our industry, and our response to it will play a major factor in our success.”

The Bklyn|Air building in Brooklyn, N.Y., is an example of the unique challenges highrise residential projects pose to the glazing industry. Crystal Window & Door Systems, Guardian, JE Berkowitz and Vista Skywall Systems were among the companies on the project team.

Lindberg says thermal modeling, to address issues like condensation, has become more significant and is required in jurisdictions such as New York City. He says the most effective way to prevent condensation issues is to have a clear understanding of the performance requirements from the beginning of the project.

From a window-design standpoint, accessibility is a growing trend, as designers are increasingly specifying windows that meet stringent operating force and motion requirements. Under ICC/ANSI A117.1, one-hand operation using a force of five pounds or less is necessary. Hardware cannot require tight grasping, pinching or twisting of the wrist. Additionally, the standard also has “reach” limitations.

“Model building codes and local jurisdictions address accessibility in condominiums, apartments and hotels. However, operable windows are not always mandated,” says Lindberg, noting that natural ventilation is required in some areas. “Remember, building codes represent only minimum requirements. Even if not code-mandated, accessible operating windows may be a very desirable and salable feature of the spaces being designed.”

—Nick St. Denis

New York, New York

The New York City metropolitan area continues to dominate the apartment and condo market. So far in 2015, 10 of the U.S.’s 12-largest multifamily project starts are in the area. According to Dodge Data & Analytics, the region saw more than $16 billion in multifamily construction through the first nine months of 2015.

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