Two years ago, the NFBA embarked on an important strategic mission to increase post-frame construction’s penetration of the light commercial marketplace.
NFBA’s board of directors has long felt that post-frame construction offers many advantages as compared to more conventional construction methods when it comes to many types of low-rise commercial projects. There can be significant savings associated with foundations, framing solutions, insulation and cladding. Our building solutions can be designed to be extremely energy efficient, architecturally pleasing, and can readily incorporate a wide variety of green building concepts.
With so much to offer, we decided it was well past time to start on the serious work of getting the word out about the many advantages of post-frame construction. In particular, our research indicated that on many commercial projects, the design community, namely architects and engineers, are often the major influencer when it comes to choosing a particular type of construction.
Unfortunately, the research also showed that they, in fact, often knew very little about post-frame methods. We need to fix that problem if we are ever going to make the significant in-roads into low-rise commercial construction that is possible.
During these past two years, we have raised and spent $700,000 to build awareness in the architectural community. We have built and branded the postframeadvantage.com website and we are busy making it the site of choice for designers wanting to learn more about post-frame construction. Website traffic continues to increase every month as the word gets out that the site contains content that the design community is looking for.
During the past two years, we’ve also exhibited at various trade shows and hosted a variety of educational seminars that have been well attended by members of the design community. For the first time, we’ve also put together a generic post-frame building specification guide that architects and engineers can now use when they want to specify a post-frame building solution.
Yet it’s just the beginning
We’ve accomplished a great deal, but there’s even more we still need to do. By the end of this year, we will have a two-week curriculum geared for professors at engineering schools who would like to expose their students to basic concepts involving post-frame design.
We will take much of this same information and make it available to practicing designers in a six-part series that we will be making available on our postframeadvantage.com website.
We’re even adding the capability for designers to get AIA (American Institute of Architects) continuing education credits for going through each of the six modules and completing a certification test. We’re steadily building a database of architects, designers and engineers who are coming to our site. For those who grant us permission to do so, we intend to continue sending out two e-newsletters a month featuring new and interesting post-frame projects that have recently been completed by our members.
Despite a ‘down’ market
We’re making steady progress. Yes, the market for low-rise commercial construction has certainly been in the doldrums these past 12 months. But there are projects that are getting financed and built every single day.
And even though it’s not the best of economic times for most of us in the industry right now, we need to be laying the groundwork now for a broad-based recovery for our industry once the economy gets moving again.
Make no mistake, people who have been on the sidelines and not building in the past year have still been busy planning their next projects. That planning will continue in the coming year, and a number of those projects will begin coming off the drawing boards.
For any business that is looking to expand, now more than ever, they are looking for low-cost, energy-efficient building solutions that provide them the functionality they need at a budget price they can afford. There’s really never been a better time for post-frame. It meets the need on so many levels!
Yes, it takes money
The headline of this article states, “PFMI needs your support.” The lifeblood of any marketing initiative is money. With money, we can continue to develop content that the design community will find useful when seeking to incorporate post-frame design concepts into their projects. With money, we can do a better job targeting and reaching architects, engineers and designers who get involved in the specific types of light commercial projects that offer the best fit for post-frame design.
With more money, we intend to expand our involvement in trade shows and industry events where we can continue to get the word out on the advantages of post-frame.
With an objective of continuing to ramp up our PFMI efforts, by the time this article hits your desk, we will have convened a group of industry leaders in late October and will have asked them to step up their financial commitment to this effort.
n 2008, the Post Frame Marketing Initiative was funded with $300,000 of money that came from industry suppliers, NFBA reserve funds and contributions from a few key outside interest groups. Funding in 2009 increased to $400,000 from those same sources.
Our goal for 2010 is to grow the funding base to $600,000. We believe we will have the opportunity to work with other outside interest groups to generate roughly half of that funding. These are groups that have similar interests to ours.
For example, we are in conversations with organizations that have a mission to promote the growth of the lumber industry. There are similar organizations that support the growth of steel as a construction material of choice. Our product is of interest to a wide variety of interest groups with whom we want to build mutually beneficial relations.
But it is important to understand this very key point: We greatly enhance our ability to go to these other organizations and raise money if they first see that our industry is behind this marketing effort. We need to demonstrate that our members believe in the power of our Post-Frame Marketing Initiative, and are willing to support the effort with their own funds.
At the time of the writing of this article, the gathering of some of our key industry leaders is still two and a half weeks away, so I’m unable to report on the results of that gathering. But I will do so at the time you receive a solicitation from me in the mail in mid-November.
The NFBA board of directors is calling on all members to support PFMI in 2010. I know it’s been a tough year. Next year may not be appreciably better. But if the industry works together on this effort, the benefits each member company can derive can be much greater than what individual member companies might be able to accomplish on their own.
I urge you to give what you can. Whether it’s $100, $500 or $5,000, we need your support! You can rest assured we will be good stewards of your money, and we will deliver a solid return on investment to our members.
Please contact me if I can answer any of your questions about our 2010 PFMI plans.
John Hill, Lester Buildings, is chairperson of the National Frame Building Association board of directors. Contact him at Jhill@lesterbuildings.com