At Sierra Pacific, "Seed to Window" means that every atom of wood used in the company's windows is harvested from forests that have been tended by the company's founding family, the Emmersons, for four generations.
Michael Laughlin has been the Taos face of the California-based company since 1999. Laughlin was born and raised here in Taos, and has a background in building. He brings to the job not only generations of connections in the community, but also a working understanding of the unique challenges of Northern New Mexico’s high altitude and weather conditions.
“When I first interviewed here, I was doing construction, and I didn’t really want to move into sales,” Laughlin recalled. “What convinced me was that it was a family-run, hands-on business that started as a lumber company and has transitioned organically into millworks, and now windows and doors. The kids in the family who want to join the business have to work in every aspect of it and learn it from the ground up. And they really stand behind their product, which was important to me if I was going to sell to people I know and care about.”
Laughlin was relieved to find that the bulk of the job was in customer satisfaction, rather than persuasion.
“As it turns out, I don’t really have to sell it. If people need these windows, I’m glad to be able to supply the best quality product. And after it’s installed, if it’s ever less than perfect, my main concern is what can I do to make it right, and the company will back me up on that.”
Another factor close to Laughlin’s heart is the company’s commitment to conservation. “We’re members of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Most of the forest is in
California, where you’re required to grow more than you cut, with a 100-year harvesting plan. Sierra Pacific owns the land, grows the trees, harvests the trees. We have wildlife biologists, registered foresters and hydrologists to make sure we’re managing the land responsibly, as stewards. One of the cool things is that we use every part of the tree, and we actually sell power back to the state of California.”
Laughlin described the different casings used on the wood frames of the windows and doors. “The outside is clad in aluminum. For the first couple of years here in the ‘90s, they did vinyl-clad, but it just doesn’t hold up to the UV damage here and they started getting calls that it was separating from the wood. So Sierra Pacific switched to the thickest metal-clad in the industry, and gave everyone their money back. They even replaced ones that hadn’t had any problems yet, anticipating that they’d need replacement down the road.”
Taos's altitude, sunlight and climactic extremes also require special knowledge of the properites of the glass that goes into the doors. "We have to do high-elevation glass."
We do low-E coatings, typically on the north side to reflect heat in, and leave it off the south to get the passive solar. There have been such exciting advances in window glass – about half our work now is remodels, putting the new
energy-efficient glass into older homes. In the envelope of a home, most of the heat loss will be at its coldest surface, which is glass. If you can put in higher quality windows, you can save a lot.”
Environmentally friendly improvements have also been made in the application of paint, allowing a greater range of available colors and the elimination of hazardous VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) released in the painting process.
“The way we put the finish on the metal-clad is now powder coat, not spray like it used to be,” Laughlin explained. “You run it through an oven and bake it on. It’s allowed us to go from eight standard colors to 60, and it lets us give a better warrantee on the exterior. It’s 2605 finish, which is the highest architectural exterior paint finish you can get.
“We try to go above and beyond,” Laughlin added. “I can’t stand to have someone not happy with something we’ve done. I like to go out myself and try and make it right. We see ourselves as partners with people doing what they need to get things done. We show up when we say we will, and do what we said we were going to do. We know building can be a headache. We want to be one less headache.”
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