From NFBA chair: An opportunity and challenge

The year 2010 has come and gone — one more hurdle for those of us who make a living in the construction business. Although the overall economy showed signs of emerging from recession as we moved through the year, the market for new construction continued to lag the recovery pace of other key sectors.

Current forecasts for 2011 foretell another tough year for construction. Vacancy rates are high in existing office, warehouse and retail space; foreclosures are expected to accelerate in commercial real estate; unemployment rates will be slow to improve; and consumers are expected to continue paying down existing debt rather than take on new obligations.

As daunting as some of the macroeconomic factors that affect our industry may seem, there are clearly some opportunities that deserve our attention. In an environment where the pie is not likely to get much larger, those of us who make our living in the post-frame industry have a wonderful opportunity to grab a bigger slice.

Most of you realize that since 2007, our association has been working to expand the use of post-frame construction in nonresidential markets traditionally dominated by other construction solutions such as bricks and mortar, steel buildings and stud-wall construction.

Post-frame is an extremely viable alternative to many of those methods and in many cases, a superior option. But it’s not enough for those of us in this business to know that. What’s more important is that we get the word out to those who make decisions on the construction method of choice.

This past summer, as part of our Post Frame Marketing Initiative, we commissioned a survey of more than 10,000 architects to learn more about their views of post-frame construction. Would you agree architects control the decisions on a number of construction projects in this country? Would you agree architects are involved in a number of projects that could be built using post-frame construction methods? If your answer to those questions is “yes,” you should be very interested in a few of the key survey findings.

1. Who has the most influence in selecting a construction method?

Building owner    23.2%

Architect/designer    62.4%

Contractor    10.5%

Other    3.9%

2. When designing a low-rise, light-commercial project, my preferred construction method is:

Brick/Block    19.6%

Post frame    3.2%

Steel frame    43.6%

Stud wall    22.0%

Other    8.2%

3. When deciding which construction method to use, what factors are most important to you? (Answers are listed in order of priority.)

Construction cost


Service Life

Design Flexibility

Energy efficiency

Maintenance costs

Environmental friendliness

Strength of system

Speed of construction

Readily available construction specs/drawings/details

4. When you hear the term “post-frame building,” what are the first three words that come to mind? (Top three responses):

• I don’t know   • Post and beam   • Heavy timber

5. If you indicated you have not specified post-frame construction, please check all the reasons that apply:

I’m unfamiliar with post frame    57.7%

Not my preferred method    9.2%

Building code issues    6.0%

My clients don’t want it    10.2%

I don’t know about you, but when I look at those results, I see both a tremendous opportunity and a tall challenge. The tremendous opportunity lies in the fact architects and designers control key decisions on an impressive number of U.S. construction projects and they are concerned about topics that play to our strengths. The challenge is most don’t know anything about post-frame construction, and many who think they do confuse us with post-and-beam or heavy-timber construction methods.

That’s where the promise of PFMI lies. With a comprehensive approach targeted at building designers, we have an exciting opportunity to increase that community’s awareness of post-frame construction methods and to educate its members on the many advantages of post-frame. Success will create significant growth in our individual businesses, regardless of what is happening with regard to some of the broader macroeconomic factors now at work in the general economy.

Creating awareness and influencing opinions are what marketers do all the time. It is a very doable proposition, but also a task that takes money and resolve. We’re fortunate to have a group of highly dedicated people on our Post-Frame Marketing Committee. They have been doing great work to get the ball rolling in tackling this challenge — but they need our help. Most importantly, they need money to continue funding their efforts. This is truly a time period when our member companies can collectively do more together than each on their own. 

By giving generously to PFMI, you help us continue the work that will benefit all of us in the years ahead. Collectively, we can do great things to grow our industry. Thank you for your generosity, and have a great start to 2011!

John Hill is president of Lester Building Systems and current chair of the NFBA board of directors.

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