Starline Windows

Just like building materials and structures, windows typically have to be de­signed to be able to withstand various weather conditions and climates. In western Canada and the United States, Starline Windows makes and builds windows that are resistant to the wet weather. “There’s a lot of rain and a lot of oceanfront, so we get wet and have frequent wind storms,” General Manager Terry Vipond says.

When the region was experiencing a sudden growth spurt in the ’90s, buildings and windows were built rapidly to keep up with de­mand, resulting in problems with leakage during the wet weather. “In those days, people were building as fast as they could,” Vipond says. “So water could go through a window or around a window, causing leaks.

“We develop products that eliminate a lot of that,” he continues. “The biggest thing that we are known for is product performance. We cater to those higher-water performance products that are impermeable to weather, much like window manufacturers in Florida would cater to hurricanes.”

To ensure its windows are of the highest quality, Starline Windows works with engineering consultants to build a secure building envelope. “Envelope consulting is a critical component of any new building in the Pacific Northwest and western Canada,” Vipond notes.

Starline Windows is a vertically integrated company, with four facilities – with roughly 450,000 square feet – dedicated to glass manufacturing, extrusion, aluminum and vinyl window production. The company also employs designers and engineers, as well as staff members who manufacture tools and components for dies and fixtures.

“We extrude our own vinyl and develop machinery in-house to facilitate manufacturing of windows to be efficient,” Vipond says. “We do all of that in-house – we’re not just an assembler of window products.”

Cut and Dry

Starline Windows’ focus on innovation has led to its status as the largest window manufacturer in Canada and second largest in western North America. In the 1990s, the company capitalized on an innovation called the Rainscreen Principle, which essentially creates a “dead” air cavity between the building structure and the exterior cladding of the building.

“If water is able to penetrate the building’s exterior cladding, it is directed into the dead air cavity and out of the building before it can damage the main building structure,” Vipond explains. “That requires a completely different window system; our products were specifically designed for that larger wall system, which is usually an inch larger than the old kind of construction. Our products are adapted to that and have accessories attached that make installation very, very simple.”

Starline Windows also recently began offering a new area of customization: vinyl windows that can be coated with different colors. Its higher-end casement and sliding windows now have acrylonitrile styrene acrylate (ASA) plastic resin extruded on top to allow for color customization. “A lot of people don’t want typical vinyl colors of white or beige,” Vipond explains. “ASA allows us to extrude a different color of material for the exterior.”

The High Road

With the residential construction industry facing major struggles, Starline Windows decided to make a choice between focusing on high-end or low-end markets as opposed to many companies that take any business they can get.

“The middle-cost housing is gone, so either people are building very, very inexpensive housing or you’re finding people are building their custom dream home,” Vipond says. “There’s nothing in the middle anymore.

“We found that we’re successful in the lower-end market, but our products cost more money, and it’s a hard market to get business in because there is a huge number of competitors supplying that market,” he continues. “So we focus on the upper-end, custom home, oceanfront with big views, fancy windows with a lot of features.”

The company saves money by keeping less inventory in its facilities and automating many of its processes on the production floor. With the help of its “very, very skilled” employees – many of whom have been with Starline Windows for more than 10 years – the company has been streamlining its manufacturing processes, according to Vipond.

“We don’t have a lot of raw material, and there are very few windows on the floor at a given time,” he says. “We create so much of our raw material ourselves, so we can extrude smaller amounts and don’t need to inventory it. We do our homework on lean manufacturing and automation.

“Without it, you’d be very limited to the product and complexity you could manufacture,” Vipond adds.

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