A Window Into the Industry

Window & Door Manufacturers Association
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

For almost a century, the Window & Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) has advocated on behalf of its industry. Primarily representing window, door, and skylight manufacturers, the WDMA also has a supplier membership category for companies that produce components for windows and doors, as well as service providers, including software firms and machinery manufacturers.

Continually evolving to keep up with industry changes, the WDMA in its own words “promotes, protects, and advances the use of high-performance, high-quality windows, doors, and skylights through advocacy, education, standards, and certification.” Based in Washington, D.C., the Association’s team of lobbyists and technical experts champion issues affecting its members to ensure this important sector continues not only to grow but to thrive.

A history of service
Originally founded in 1927 as the National Door Manufacturers Association (NDMA), the Association has undergone several name changes over the decades. Promoting wood windows and doors, the association changed its name in 1949 to the National Woodwork Manufacturers Association (NWMA).

From its early days, the Association devised and developed programs, including the Seal of Approval Program (which became the WDMA Hallmark Certification Program). In 1958, the Association took over the management of U.S. Commercial Standards for ponderosa pine doors, which over time led to WDMA Industry Standards for these wood products.

In its 97 years, the Association spearheaded fire testing of doors, took a firm position on standards and certification development, successfully took on several unions along the way, and became the sole industry association with a presence in Washington, D.C.

“The Association has been evolving through its entire history, starting with a heavy focus on wood windows and doors,” says WDMA’s President and CEO, Michael O’Brien, CAE. With evolving technology and the arrival of new materials, the Association expanded to include windows, doors, and skylights made of other material types, such as vinyl, fiberglass, and composites.

Before coming on board in 2009, O’Brien took on roles with the National Lumber & Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA), as President and CEO, as COO at the Manufactured Housing Institute, and at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), where he served as Assistant Vice President of State and Local Affiliate Services. A career spent in housing and building industry associations made O’Brien a natural fit for the WDMA.

Key initiatives
To this day, the Window & Door Manufacturers Association’s legacy of service continues. The WDMA’s 2023 National Policy Agenda (available at https://www.wdma.com/assets/docs/Policy_Agenda/2023Agenda.pdf) “identifies priorities and offers solutions that will strengthen the U.S. economy, improve the national supply chain, address nationwide labor shortages, and bolster America’s housing industry.”

Enumerated in the Agenda are many recent efforts of the Association, including working with Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration on policies impacting energy, workforce development, affordable housing, trade policy, safety, supply chains, and economic challenges facing members.

One key initiative is the important role that windows, doors, and skylights play in energy conservation; in fact, an entire section within the Agenda is dedicated to energy conservation.

“We try to encourage and support efforts or incentives for the purchase of energy-efficient windows, doors, and skylights to help bring down the cost of window and door replacement for consumers across the country,” says O’Brien.

He adds that there are about a billion single-pane windows still in existence in the United States. Old and inefficient, these single-pane windows allow heat and cold to be lost, making properties much more costly to maintain.

Although there is considerable regulation surrounding new windows, doors, and skylights, many people don’t realize that replacing the existing inventory of single-pane windows with energy-efficient products will save consumers millions—if not billions—of dollars in energy savings.

“Buildings themselves are the largest consumer of energy in the world,” says O’Brien, “and when we talk about energy policy, we don’t talk enough about energy efficiency.” Replacing outdated and inefficient windows, doors, and skylights with new products not only saves money, but also reduces our collective carbon footprint and adds value.

While window replacement benefits the environment, the WDMA acknowledges it isn’t cheap, and is advocating for options for buyers. The Association has been disappointed with the federal government’s unwillingness to incentivize consumers through a robust tax credit to help consumers replace windows, doors, and skylights. “One of the biggest things a government can do is help spur that on,” says O’Brien. The WDMA is constantly faced with code changes and policy proposals that increase the cost of producing energy-efficient windows, doors, and skylights, but the government is doing little to benefit consumers willing to make the effort to replace old, inefficient products.

While O’Brien says there have been some government efforts, they must meet specific criteria, including Energy Star Most Efficient 2023. This designation governs different window types, including vertical slider (single- and double-hung), casement style (awning, projected hopper, tilt-and-turn, etc.), sliding glass (patio) doors, skylights and tubular daylighting devices (TDDs), and others. Buyers can claim 30 percent of the project cost, up to $600 maximum—hardly enough to prompt homeowners to redo all their windows with high-efficiency versions. Energy Star-qualified exterior doors are eligible for a $250 tax credit.

Another of the main functions of the Window & Door Manufacturers Association is, and always has been, product certification for windows and doors. This includes WDMA Hallmark Certification and serving as an inspection agency for the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) for energy efficiency.

The Hallmark program certifies windows for air, water, and structural performance for different industry standards, with products tested for energy efficiency by a third-party administrator. “That provides an added layer of confidence for consumers—including builders, architects, remodelers, and the average consumer—that the windows and doors they are purchasing meet certain standards and criteria, and to ensure overall total product performance,” says O’Brien.

Advocating for members
Alongside quality standards, energy efficiency, and affordability, the WDMA is active on many other issues. These include working with the IRS regarding reporting (on tax returns) an individual identification number of windows and doors that qualify for tax credits. As some windows, doors, and skylights come from big box sellers and others are made to order by smaller manufacturers, this presents a complex issue. “Unlike a furnace, we don’t have serial numbers,” O’Brien explains. The Association is still working on this, trying to come up with workable solutions that don’t burden the industry or the consumer.

Other issues facing the WDMA and its members include the latest version of Energy Star, state regulations surrounding chemicals, and packaging used to ship products.

Introduced last October, Energy Star Version 7.0 replaces the previous version regarding residential windows, doors, and skylights, and is the most stringent to date. The Association is working to develop a system for manufacturers to report their data, in an aggregated format, concerning Energy Star production to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as required by the agency.

The Association is also concerned about state regulation surrounding the elimination of Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances (PFAS). These are used in the manufacture of fluoropolymer coatings, which resist oil, grease, heat, water, and stains. Although found in the adhesive used in windows and doors, the WDMA’s position is that PFAS are also contained in many other everyday products, from heat-resistant non-stick cooking surfaces to clothing, furniture, electrical wiring, and even food packaging.

Recently, Maine and Minnesota passed legislation looking to phase out the use of PFAS over alleged harmful health effects, and the Association believes this will become a big issue for many industries. “It will impact a lot of products and how they are used,” says O’Brien. “People don’t realize it’s contained in a lot of products, not just things you ingest or wear.”

Another issue at the state level is to reduce non-recyclable plastic packaging. Windows and doors are shipped with a lot of plastic packaging because they are delicate items. The WDMA is investigating how it fits into that debate, and is working to educate policymakers about the challenges of completely eliminating plastic in shipping. This issue will be on the Association’s agenda heading into 2024 along with others, such as the shortage of workers.

Like construction and most other manufacturing sectors, window, door, and skylight manufacturers are hard-pressed to navigate the current staff situation. It continues to trouble the industry, especially at the entry level for production workers. The WDMA’s challenge has been how to reach Gen Z-ers and younger Millennials and communicate the industry’s many career opportunities and benefits.

The WDMA has a separate website, Open Up To Performance (https://www.openuptoperformance.com/), which covers a range of topics while promoting high-performance products to builders, architects, and remodelers, from newcomers to seasoned industry professionals.

To keep members informed of changes and developments in the industry, the WDMA has a biweekly electronic newsletter, regular webinar updates, and three annual conferences every year, plus an information-packed website. “What’s most effective for us is getting existing members to identify and refer other companies that would benefit from membership,” says O’Brien. “It’s a type of one-on-one recruitment effort that we do.”

As mentioned, the Association’s primary membership is window, door, and skylight manufacturers, but there is also the supplier membership category, which includes suppliers of services. “Those suppliers are typically identified by primary members as candidates for membership,” O’Brien adds.

A clear view
As the WDMA approaches its hundredth anniversary, the future of the Association remains bright.

“It might not be obvious to many, but the window and door industry is very innovative and technologically advanced, and I’m excited to see where it goes in terms of meeting consumer demand, how we’re going to evolve, the products that are going to be produced, and how much of a dent we can make in that reduction of the old inventory of single-pane windows,” notes O’Brien.

“We have a lot of innovative companies in this industry constantly coming up with new products and solutions both to the challenges facing existing homeowners and the demands of builders and architects,” he says. “I expect that by our centennial in 2027, there will be a host of different options available, both for the high-tech home automation that many people are seeking and for affordable products to help meet the energy-efficiency demands that need to be addressed.”

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