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Fenestration Forum – Opportunity in foreign markets

Canadian quality should sell overseas

September 29, 2016  By Brian Burton

Canada’s fenestration industry is remarkably well placed to take advantage of emerging global market trends in the foreseeable future. Here at home, the continuing domestic slowdown in new construction and the increasing cost of new home construction and renovation is depressing the market.

On the other hand, global market demand for window and door products is expected to continue a modest upward trend. Global market projections by application are very close to equally split between residential and commercial applications.

Our economy is actually in much better shape than it was a decade ago and improving employment prospects and increasing income levels give ample reason for optimism. However, most of the significant long-term market growth will likely occur outside our borders, where market conditions should favour Canadian fenestration product manufacturers. The global market for fenestration products is currently estimated at over $138 billion per year. In recent years, millions of residents in developing nations have begun to urbanize. The new middle classes and business owners in these newly industrialized countries (NICs) now expect more from their built environment and from fenestration components in particular.

There are distinguishing features of NICs that warrant consideration. Often, the transitional economies in these countries are in the process of moving from a closed economy to a more open fiscal environment. The population is usually young, growing and actively seeking to improve their quality of life. By definition, NICs are building their infrastructures, which translates into higher costs for manufacturing and distribution.


Buildings in India, Brazil and China, three examples of growing NICs, have typically incorporated relatively small windows, partly to compensate for a lack of mechanical ventilation and to avoid excessive glare. Today, new technologies are encouraging an increased use of larger windows in greater numbers. House sizes in most NICs are also growing in tandem with household income levels, thereby creating additional demand. With the exception of warm climate countries, where thermally efficient windows are relatively expensive, demand is also close to equal with regard to windows versus doors.

There is a similar equality with regard to new construction and renewal, a trend which is expected to continue as many newly industrialized nations replace older buildings and homes.

India is second only to China with regard to demand for both replacement and new construction fenestration components. Rapid industrialization and urbanization are stimulating demand for doors and windows, regardless of the material used. The Indian architectural market is particularly sophisticated and there is an increasing use of high quality fenestration components for retail and commercial applications as well as office buildings and other commercial structures.

While fenestration products have typically been viewed as difficult and expensive to package and transport, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that Canada’s most tangible and valuable strengths are in manufacturing, production and distribution. Supply of manufacturing equipment is another desperate need in the NICs. Over the years we also have accumulated significant experience with regard to installation, on-site testing and quality control in general. Our knowledge of environmental separation from our experience building for severe climate conditions is a significant asset. We also have developed considerable strategic marketing expertise – all of which can be successfully exported if we adopt a suitable approach and create the right partnerships.

Global markets for fenestration products are not brand sensitive, likely because the period of time between purchases can be as much as 10 years. This fact, combined with the fragmented nature of the industry, means smaller players face less resistance when entering international markets and are often able to find a niche if they concentrate.

Brian is a construction writer from Ottawa Ontario who served on the CSA’s Fenestration Installation Technician Certification Program Personnel Committee. You can contact Brian at or learn more by visiting Burton’

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