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Susan Marvin on Style, Efficiency and Passive Windows


We’re proud to be guided by our president, Susan Marvin — a strong, visionary leader whose voice is respected throughout our industry and beyond.  Susan was featured in Fine Homebuilding’s latest issue talking about the philosophy Marvin follows, along with her thoughts on the building industry. Here are a few snippets:

From your perspective, what’s the future of home building?

I see a very strong industry, but it ebbs and flows. One of the things I’m seeing right now is a downward pressure on price. There’s a lot of discounting going on in the industry; there’s a lot of concern about the commoditization of windows because of that.

I tell the people we work with that we continue to focus on high-quality products. You want to do it as efficiently as you can, but it’s got to be durable, it’s got to perform, it’s got to be an important architectural element to the house. There will always be a market for that. There will always be people who care and people it makes a difference to. That’s a segment of the market that we’ve decided to focus on, and we’re not leaving it behind. We’re not making a mad dash for the bottom of the barrel. When your name’s on it, you care.”

How are you feeling looking forward?
Everything is in place for us to begin to have a very slow recovery. Slow is probably a good thing in this case because I don’t think the industry could support fast growth right now. There are potential issues with land, labor, and financing that could hinder a fast recovery. Also, there are capacity issues: Some companies cut staff and ran lean during the recession, and may not be able to get back to speed quickly. Then there are issues facing builders, who may have difficulty finding a qualified, skilled workforce.”

What are American window manufacturers like Marvin doing to compete with European window manufacturers?
When I hear about this topic, it’s usually something about how Passive House construction techniques have been employed in Europe for a number of years. The standards for Passive House are incredible. Until recently, domestic manufacturers could not supply windows that would meet the Passive House standards. Now we can. I have had dealers tell me they have brought on a European window line for their customers who are interested in meeting Passive House standards. Both dealers and architects have told me, though, that with European windows, there are long lead times, exorbitant prices, and aesthetic compromises. We’ve responded, and we have a number of window styles that will meet both the German standard and the U.S. standard, which are different. In either case, we’re excited about being able not only to put into the market product that will meet the standards, but also that we’re going to be able to do it with reasonable lead times. Your headquarters is in northern Minnesota.

Read an extended version of the interview here.