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7 Things We Learned at the 2015 Vinyl Institute Annual Meeting

Nov 2015

Every conference has its own character and its own cadence. This one took place in Florida at a hotel where it was a comfortably laid-back place to listen, network, and learn.

Here are the top seven takeaways from VI 2015.

1. The Vinyl Institute has a new strategic plan aimed at positioning the industry as the “material of choice” for architects and designers. In a Day 2 keynote, Scott McGillivray, host of Income Property on HDTV, talked about how and why he uses vinyl in a number of his properties.

2. Don’t sleep on the developing world. Jeffrey Rosensweig, a professor at Emory University’s business school, said that “populous emerging markets have really emerged.” He also talked about the three fastest growing economies (China, India, and Indonesia), noting that they are markets for vinyl and other U.S. goods.

3. “Green” building won’t be a thing—it will just be. Tad Radzinski, Sustainable Solutions Corporation, told attendees that it was imperative to move away from a “take, make, waste” mentality to a circular economy in which we design products for end-of-life recycling and reuse. He also suggested that while green building codes are now moving from voluntary to mandatory, “soon it will just be the way that people build buildings.”

4. Innovation is not optional. The business landscape is littered with companies that failed to forecast and take advantage of shifting market opportunities (e.g., Woolworth’s, Blockbuster, DeLorean). Robert Brands, Brands & Company, said that “if you don’t innovate, you will die. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about that.” He detailed a 10-step roadmap to smart innovation, including how to embed innovation across your business and why you need to give your employees room to fail.

5. The apartment market is hot. Kenny Emson, National Multifamily Housing Council, said that one-third of people in the U.S. rent and that smaller households like apartment living. That, coupled with the changing composition of families and the number of millennials still living at home, suggests that the market for apartments will continue to be strong. Ken Gear, Leading Builders of America, looked at some of the challenges to both home builders, including tighter mortgage rules, less access to credit, a shortage of skilled workers in the construction trades, and the implications of government regulations. Gear also suggested that millennials are “going to shape and dominate the market, so you better figure out how to get them to buy your products.”

6. Consumer education is key. Vinyl industry representatives from Brazil and Japan talked about the ways that their organizations are promoting the value of vinyl. Shigetaka Seki said that the Vinyl Environmental Council has public-facing programs in Japan that talk about the properties of PVC that contribute to the sustainability of products. Miguel Bahiense discussed how the Institutu do PVC teamed up with the Ministry of Environment to place plastic shredders (think shredded credit cards) in government buildings in order to encourage recycling. The vinyl is then repurposed into new products.

7. Architecture isn’t just about design. Gordon Gill, Adrian Smith +Gordon Gill, said that he defines sustainability as being “about performance that we can measure. We are accountable for what we say,” he added, “and bear the burden of proof for what we design.” Gill talked about thinking through all the elements of a building, including the natural footprint, water and energy use, waste, density, and more. He noted, for example, that his firm specifically designed for snow to fall off an Expo-2017 building in freezing-cold Astana. Gill also talked about unintended consequences, including that melted luxury car (which was not his project).