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Quality management systems may be the single most important factor in every building company’s success. Reputation is everything in this industry. All it takes are a few avoidable mishaps to ruin your brand. Therefore, it behooves builders to constantly improve oversight, even if it means taking on a major project to test one’s practices.

Surely, you remember “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” The show went off the air in 2013, but famously featured homes dramatically made over in the span of just a few days. In 2008, Veridian Homes (Madison, Wis.) was approached with an opportunity to build a home for a family in desperate need. The company’s quality management practices would be tested like never before.

Denis Leonard, president of Business Excellence Consulting, LLC., and a quality management systems expert, wrote about the experience for

The challenge was to build a 3,000 square foot home within 106 hours. There were eleven weeks before the start of construction during which time all aspects of design and project management had to be completed.  When the project was over, construction had actually been completed in just 96 hours to Energy Star and the WI Green Built Standards.

Ultimately, the lessons learnt and transferred from the “Home Makeover” project resulted in a 25% reduction in the Veridian Homes evenflow construction schedule, which had already been an industry recognized schedule.

One challenge yielded massive improvements in process and efficiency. Your company can take on a similar challenge that doesn’t involve reality television. Johnson encourages builders to dedicate themselves to constructing a zero-defect home or an entire home in a week to benefit in the same manner Veridian Homes did.

Johnson and his colleague, Gary Zajicek, co-authored a must-read whitepaper about the experience Veridian Homes had on “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” and what others in the industry can glean about quality management amidst difficult circumstances. The whitepaper is available for free here.

Below is the episode in which Veridian Homes participated:

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“Energy efficient” doesn’t begin to describe the Honda Smart Home, a forward-thinking development constructed in collaboration with the University of California-Davis. Achieving a net-zero carbon rating is one thing, but this home actually produces a surplus of renewable energy!

Though currently uninhabited, the Honda Smart Home generates a surplus of 2.6 megawatt-hours (Mwh) of energy per year. (For comparison, the average American home uses about 13.3 Mwh per year.) Some of that surplus will be used to power a Honda Fit electric vehicle, which also will come with the home as a nod to the fact 44 percent of greenhouse gases are emitted by homes and vehicles. explains how the surplus is achieved:

“With advanced lighting, geothermal heating and cool and a 9.5 kilowatt solar photovoltaic system, the Smart Home’s design will use less than half of the energy a similarly sized new home in Davis would when it comes to heating, cooling and lighting. It’s also three times more water-efficient than the average U.S. home.”

UC-Davis is in the process of selecting a member of its community to reside at the home so researchers from the school and Honda can production and consumption habits in a real-life setting.

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Peak building season is just weeks away. Before things to get too busy, now is the perfect time to enter or nominate a project for the Integrity Red Diamond Achiever Award Program. The award recognizes outstanding design, innovation, sustainability and quality in projects using Integrity products. As if earning industry acclaim and a great prize package wasn’t incentive enough, every entrant or nominee receives a$50 Cabela’s gift card just for taking the time to submit a project.

After winners are announced in the fall, they (along with one guest) are flown to Minneapolis and Warroad for a VIP experience. Here are highlights from the 2013 event:

2014 Integrity Red Diamond Achiever Award winners also will receive…

  • Award - A beautiful glass award that features a picture of your project.
  • Project Profile - Integrity will create a Project Profile of your project and feature it on Integrity’s website, Integrity’s Facebook page and other social media opportunities deemed appropriate by Public Relations.
    • You will receive 200 printed copies and the electronic creative files for your own use!
  • Press Release/Media Support - Press Release sent to your local market’s newspapers as well as a copy for you. The project will also be featured on Integrity’s national social media outlets, E-Newsletters, and Public Relations. Winners from last year were featured in more than 100 media outlets and local newspapers!
  • Cash Donation - A $200 cash donation will be donated on behalf of your company to a charity of your choice.
  • iPad - An iPad Air™ will be awarded to the winner of the People’s Choice Award which is voted on by the public to decide their favorite of all of the entered projects.
  • Website - Each winner will be prominently featured on the Integrity website.
  • Calendar – Integrity will create a 2015 monthly calendar featuring winners and other top entries. We will provide a number of calendars for the winners and one calendar for each entrant. We will also host an order period where dealers/distributors can order box quantities.
  • Winners Badge – Winners will receive an electronic badge to be used in any business materials or imagery displaying that they are a Red Diamond Achiever Award Winner.

Click here to learn more about our 2014 Red Diamond Achiever Award Program.

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What green does and doesn’t mean to homeowners

April 9th, 2014 by Berit Griffin


Suzanne Shelton, president of Shelton Group (Knoxville, Tenn.), has spent the past decade thinking green. As a researcher, Shelton has studied how Americans feel about environmental and energy issues, and building professionals should take note.

The If you build it, they will come philosophy may work for cornfield baseball diamonds and ghosts, but green building? Not so much.

In an interview with BUILDER senior editor Jennifer Goodman, Shelton offers a harsh, but helpful assessment of how green building has been marketed by professionals and perceived (or not perceived) by prospective homeowners:

Shelton on what consumers think of high-performance housing:

“High performance” is one of those terms that builders and their advisers have gotten really comfortable with, and, unfortunately, it’s begun working its way into consumer-facing marketing materials. Here’s why that’s unfortunate: Last fall in our ninth annual Energy Pulse study, we asked Americans if they could confidently and correctly explain the term “high-performance home” to a friend. Eighty-four percent of the American population said, “No.”

We must stop using this term unless we’re going to really make the effort (i.e., support with marketing dollars) to make it meaningful to consumers. I love it and happen to think it’s a much better way of communicating the value proposition of a more efficient, sustainable home, but when 84 percent of the population tells us they don’t get it, it’s a great indicator that we’re just talking to ourselves on this one.

Shelton on the best way to market green home features:

Americans care more about comfort, their health, keeping their family safe, resale value, and lower utility bills than they do about “green.” So that’s another term builders should stop using. For years, we tested the term “energy-efficient home” against “green home,” and “energy-efficient home” so handily clobbered “green home” year over year that we stopped testing it. “Efficient” is something they can make sense of. “Green” sounds squishy.

But make no mistake: consumers care about many of the benefits of a green home, they just aren’t turned on by the term. So builders should talk about the health benefits (keeping allergens and toxins out of the house), the comfort benefits, and controlling energy costs. They also should talk about resale value. We see that as the No. 1 barrier to Americans truly embracing efficient homes. They believe they’ll pay more for it without getting their money back when they sell it, yet they believe they’ll get their money back for aesthetic awesomeness (granite countertops, hardwood floors, etc.).

A recent UC Berkeley/UCLA study of 1.6 million home transactions found that green labeling improved selling price. Controlling for all other factors, such as location, school district, crime rate, time period of sale, views, and amenities, researchers found that the 4,321 certified energy-efficient homes sold at an average price premium of 9 percent. Builders should start using this fact as part of their pitch to help Americans really embrace the value of a better built, more efficient home.

We highly recommend reading the rest of Shelton’s BUILDER interview here.

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Meet the water heater of the future

April 4th, 2014 by Berit Griffin


Chances are you and your family members shower at around the same time each day. Yet, most water heaters function by keeping 40-80 gallons of water warm 24 hours per day, requiring a considerable amount of energy usage over time.

If you see the flaw in the way our water is heated, you are too late to do anything about it. Two inventors in Illinois already have.

Sridhar Deivasigamani and Siva Akasam, both just 39, have created the Nest learning thermostat of water heaters. It’s called Intellihot. Where traditional water heaters feature a large tank heated by a small flame, Intellihot has a small tank and large flame.

But here’s where things really get cool: Like Nest and other smart home technology, Intellihot observes behavior patterns. When it recognizes you and your family normally begin showing around 6:45 a.m., it begins to consistently heat water shortly before that time each day.

We know what you’re thinking: Why didn’t I think of that?!

Intellihot retails for about $3,500-$4,500. You can learn more about its functionality and availability here.

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You’ll love these homes built with spite

April 2nd, 2014 by Berit Griffin

Not every building can be designed and constructed with love. In fact, there is a colorful history of residential and commercial buildings erected out of sheer hatred.

So-called “spite houses” tend to look like architectural calamities — and not by mistake. Generally speaking, spite houses are built to defy urban planners, building codes or even disagreeable neighbors. Forget passive building — spite houses are all about passive aggression. But the stories that inspire them more than make up for the resulting eyesore. recently compiled a list of nine spite houses, including their back story. Here are a few of our favorites!



Location: Virginia City, Nevada

History: According to Mental Floss, “A Nevada man bought the lot next door to one of his enemies and built his own house less than a foot from his neighbor’s, blocking his neighbor’s view and cutting off the ventilation on that side of the house.”



Location: Frederick, Maryland

History: According to Mental Floss, “This 1814 mansion was built hastily by a local doctor who wanted to prevent the town from building a road through his property. A local law stipulated that the city couldn’t build a road if a building was being constructed in the path of the road, so Dr. Tyler quickly ordered that a foundation be poured for this mansion.”

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Throwback: The Wychmere Pool Bar Pavilion

March 31st, 2014 by Berit Griffin
The Wychmere Pool Bar Pavilion was one of our winning Red Diamond Achiever entries last year. Check back on Wednesday for some exciting information about this year’s RDA!
The Wychmere pool bar pavilion is located on the sandy beaches of Harwich Port, MA. Harsh winds, storms, salt water, and the sand of this coastal location were of utmost concern when deciding which windows would be used. Integrity IZ3 IMPACT products were chosen because of their durability and resistance to the corrosive effects of the climate. The other goal of the project was to create an open and social space which the windows helped create with increased natural light.

This beautiful project was designed George Gakidis of Gakidis & Stewart.


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Here’s the kind of news we love to read on a Friday: A recent Houzz survey of more than 6,500 service providers — including home builders, architects, remodelers, landscape professionals and interior designs — found that 90 percent expected revenue to grow in 2014. Ninety percent!

This optimism could be connected to last year’s performance, too. The chart above further explains how each respective trade in the building industry viewed success levels for 2013. More than half of respondents for each trade, including businesses big and small, rated their success as better than expected.


Additional findings from the survey (according to Professional Remodeler) included:

  • On average, 69 percent of home professionals said they have taken on more diverse projects over the past two years. This number was higher for landscape architects, designers and contractors with 72 percent saying they have diversified their projects and lowest for architects (64 percent). Larger firms were also more likely to have diversified their business: 72 percent of firms with six employees or more said they have taken on more diverse projects compared to 66 percent of sole proprietors.
  • Irrespective of company size, the majority of home professionals (64 percent) reported that the size of their projects (in terms of overall project cost) increased in 2013 compared to the year prior. More landscape professionals (67 percent) and contractors (66 percent) said project size was larger compared to 2012 than other professional types.
  • Firms expect revenue growth to come from both higher average revenue per project, as well as a larger number of projects. New project starts are expected to increase in 2014 across all professional types surveyed.

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The air purifier of the future may be in your flooring. No, not the air ducts between the floors or at the heating and cooling source, but actually in the flooring. 

Canadian manufacturer Lauzon recently released its Pure Genius hardwood flooring, an air-purifying solution that may be a game changer for green homes that can trap harmful toxins indoors.

According to Lauzon, “Pure Genius is a light-activated, air-purifying agent made of Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) integrated into Lauzon’s Titanium floor finish. Activated by natural and artificial light, it breaks down toxic contaminants (VOCs) on contact and transforms them into harmless molecules. Its constant and consistent action is so effective over time; it makes indoor air up to 85% cleaner.”

The Lauzon website features test results for Pure Genius’ ability to remove nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, and the results are awfully impressive. The video above demonstrates (in general terms) how the technology works. Color us impressed!


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Industry news roundup for March 24, 2014

March 24th, 2014 by Berit Griffin

Tiny Houses: A Big Idea to End Homelessness
NBC News
“The “Tiny House Movement,” once an architectural component to a downsized life, is now becoming something much bigger: an escape from chronic homelessness.”

Investors put out welcome mat for housing data
USA Today
“The housing market, and the recovery of real-estate prices, is a key sign of the economy’s health. And this coming week, investors will be parsing a raft of economic data showing where the housing market stands.”

Builder Confidence Treads Water in March
Housing Zone
“Builder confidence in the market for newly-built, single-family homes rose one point to 47 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI).”

Has The Time Come For Floating Cities?
EcoBuilding Pulse
“As sea levels rise, will floating neighborhoods become more common in low-lying countries around the world? “

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