Trends Suggest Promising Future for Vinyl Siding in Texas

by Don Browne

At the 83rd Annual Conference & Design Expo of the Texas Society of Architects (TXA) in late October, I had the opportunity to learn about the power of history in building vibrant neighborhoods, as well as two new terms VSI member manufacturers should consider when striving to distinguish their products: “Embedded Plastics” and “Emulated Styles.”

With the Vinyl Siding Institute’s (VSI) recent success in collaborating with other industry partners to achieve legislative reforms that prohibit local bans on modern materials, our “VSI delegation” comprised of consultant and architect Fernando Pages Ruiz, VSI Director of Advocacy, Alex Fernandez, and yours truly approached these offerings of the TXA as an opportunity to educate and inspire architects about the enormous benefits of vinyl siding related to their future projects.

History Comes Alive with Modern Materials…it’s a Beautiful Thing!

The host city played a pivotal role in one of the event’s major themes, history, as a driver for revitalization. On one of many architectural tours, the “Birthplace of El Paso and Rebirth of Downtown,” experts highlighted the city’s historic gateway and renovated El Paso Street, as well as a walk-through of the National Historic Plaza Theatre.

This modern film house that captured the Spanish Colonial Revival style with the flexibility of presenting stage shows was revitalized to its original design in 2015 thanks to a preservation project.  The Plaza and other historic preservation projects have turned a once struggling downtown into a vibrant hub of social, cultural and economic developments, paving the way for significant residential renovation and expansion initiatives.

For the VSI team members in attendance, this historic emphasis was a catalyst for educating architects on vinyl siding design advantages. We learned that substituting one material to imitate another is nothing new but has taken place throughout history, from Scagliola to woodgrain LVT.

In a session, “Faking Your Way Through History: History of Faux Materials,” presenter Ann McGlone, AIA, Partner, Post Oak Preservation Solutions, demonstrated that the Ancient Greeks utilized color-matching substrates to give a marble appearance in some of their great buildings; and that other societies throughout history whose designs continue to inspire today’s architects would specify practical materials to emulate desired styles. According to McGlone, modern materials – like vinyl siding – should not be degraded as “fake.” The correct and proper description, she said, is “emulated styles.”

During the Expo, it was a treat to witness Fernando Pages Ruiz explain the successful applications of vinyl siding and related PVC products specified by himself and other advocates of New Urbanism and TND (Traditional Neighborhood Development). He connected with a wide range of professionals, from seasoned architects to young designers in training from the AIA’s first student chapter of Latinos in Architecture (LiA). And along with offering AIA credits, we gave attendees a copy of VSI’s Architectural Designs for Traditional Neighborhoods and its companion piece, Architectural Polymers: Best Practices for Architectural Specifications.

“The first book is a ‘TND 101’ that teaches architects to ‘think vinyl’ when designing as opposed to ‘thinking wood’ then specifying vinyl and achieving poor results in construction,” Ruiz said. “The second book shows how to add details to projects consistent with the concepts in the first book. It includes downloadable specifications that can be used for construction drawings.”

Having Pages Ruiz, a co-author of these books, at the event booth was a valuable addition for VSI as show participants appreciated the opportunity to ask questions. As a veteran blogger of Ruiz’s success in designing with and educating about vinyl siding benefits, it was an honor to finally meet “the legend” in person. My biggest “eureka” moment during our time together was hearing him tell other architects the story of how he convinced Andres Duany (the founder of New Urbanism) and Stephen Mouzon (another leading authority on New Urbanism and TND) to re-evaluate their prejudices against vinyl siding at a conference about eight years ago.

“I got them to meet with the VSI member manufacturers, and they not only discovered products made by VSI members that already met their high standards but collaborated with them to develop new applications that were a win-win for architects demanding both exceptional design and sustainable performance,” he shared.

Distinguishing VSI Members’ “Embedded” Products From the Other Plastics

During the “Plastics in Buildings: Do We Really Need It?” session,  presenter Michael Malone, FAIA, Founding Principal, Malone Maxwell Dennehy Architects, explained that plastics materials used for buildings are not the real culprits in the plastics pollution overload threatening the future of our environment. He established two categories of plastics:

  • Single-Use Plastics. These consumer plastics, like water bottles, packaging containers and straws, are extremely difficult to recycle and are overwhelming our landfills and waters.
  • Embedded Plastics. Vinyl siding and other PVC products used for building and remodeling are high-performance materials intended to extend the life of the building.

While Malone asserts that we should be concerned about the devastating effects of single-use plastics pollution, building professionals should be proactive about educating municipalities, customers and other stakeholders that embedded plastics are an integral part of green building solutions.

We intend to follow up with Malone and other architects to familiarize them with 1) vinyl siding’s post-consumer recycling benefits and our low carbon footprint compared to other exteriors, and 2) our members’ vast array of emulated styles to help them design beautiful homes that just happen to be cost-effective and sustainable.


Don Browne is a writer, entrepreneur and local legislator who believes that the power of words can change the world. He provides unique writing services for clients in the construction, health care, IT and hospitality sectors. He has a passion for small business and start-ups, as well as writing about Irish history, family and corporate biographies. As a homeowner and father of four who is passionate about community development, Don looks forward to writing more about the exciting possibilities of creating traditional neighborhoods and more sustainable communities using modern materials.