Ongoing trade conflicts between the United States and several other countries are beginning to come to a head. Just before this writing, USGlass reported on new complaints filed by the U.S. and China to the World Trade Organization. The subject of the complaints are tariffs that affect numerous materials used in the glass industry.
Regardless of any political implications, the bottom line for the building and construction industry right now is this: The cost of raw materials is going up, just about everywhere in the world, and it’s coinciding with a couple of other significant pressures. Contractors remain optimistic about the health of the U.S. economy, but the tariffs combined with an ongoing difficulty in finding skilled workers are cause for concern. And there’s been talk of a glass shortage, though the industry can’t seem to agree about its significance.
This kind of a situation isn’t exactly new—the market cycles through periods of uncertainty every so often. And I’ll say what I always say in these circumstances: We’ll get through it, and we can do so successfully. It will simply require staying committed to tried-and-true principles that have always helped drive our businesses forward.
What do I mean by that? It can be difficult to sell a price increase on a project, for instance, even if that price increase is understandably valid amidst present market conditions. And it’s not unlikely that the customer or project manager will begin shopping around for cheaper options or seeking competitive bids.
But the stakes for bargain shopping in the commercial construction industry couldn’t be higher. The overall cost of a project doesn’t simply involve what you’re paying for materials and components today. It can be costs you incur a few years down the line. For instance, the long-term cost of choosing a cheaper alternative versus a proven product for an insulating glass, window or curtainwall application that fails prematurely will be significantly more than the upfront material cost savings.
Raw materials, component selection and the assembled finished project all contribute to the long-term success of any project. It’s imperative that we’re not compromising on any of these choices to simply seize a short-term price benefit, and these decisions should be made weighing terms beyond cost. Consider that building codes and criteria around the world grow more stringent, and architectural design grows ever bolder. Being on the frontier of commercial design always involves an element of risk and the use of innovative components, and certainly, new innovations in the marketplace exist that offer excellent performance that make the most economic sense. I wrote about vinyl profiles as one of these possible solutions a few months ago.
The point is this: A time of relative market uncertainty isn’t the time to make rash decisions. We need to make certain that, as an industry, we’re always investigating solutions that bring the right attributes to any given project.