Special-Lite Completes Move of Interior Products Operation to Benton Township Facility

Special-Lite, Inc., a manufacturer of high-performance products for the commercial entrance and architectural interior markets, announced in February the purchase of a 130,000 SF building located at 1394 Empire Avenue in Benton Township, Michigan. The building had not been occupied in over a year.

Growth in Manufacturing

Headquartered in Decatur, MI, Special-Lite’s growth in commercial entrances and interior architectural products made it necessary to acquire additional manufacturing space. This $1 million investment provides space for unlimited new product and job growth for Special-Lite in Southwest Michigan. Over the years, Special-Lite has grown organically as well as through acquisition. The company’s most recent acquisitions have included pultruded fiberglass products and interior architectural product manufacturing.  Five years ago, they acquired Universal Pultrusions of Marshall, Arkansas. Two years after the acquisition, Special-Lite added 65,000 square feet to their Marshall, Arkansas site while substantially modernizing that facility. Two years ago, they acquired Omega Interior Aluminum Framing and leased a building in Niles, MI to support the acquisition.

Now Manufacturing in Berrien County

This month, after months of renovating this abandoned building, Special-Lite has begun manufacturing at the Benton Township facility. The Niles manufacturing of Omega Type II interior aluminum framing and SLI Interior Aluminum-Framed Doors has now moved to the Benton Township location. This facility will also begin manufacturing a new aluminum and glass demountable wall system – LiteSpace. Kevin Hanley, President and Chief Operating Officer at Special-Lite, commented, “We are excited about our move into the Benton Township facility and becoming a member of the local business community. This has been a significant investment by Special-Lite in the building as well as the community. They have transformed this closed and neglected building into a manufacturing facility that will contribute to the area’s economy. We are looking forward to continuing the good working relationships established with the local township officials and community leaders.” Special-Lite, Inc. is a privately held company. Special-Lite has a long history of engineering and building high-quality architectural products, providing superior customer service to their customers, and actively supporting their employees and surrounding communities. View PDF Press Release    

Special-Lite Upcoming Trade Shows

Special-Lite participates in many trade shows throughout the year. Here are the trade shows we are looking forward to yet in 2017 (check back for updates):  

appa-special-liteJul 21 – 23: APPA/PCAPPA 2017 Annual Conference & Exhibition | San Francisco, CA

APPA/PCAPPA/BayAPPA 2017 is the platform for discussion, information share, networking, and much more! Join over 600 educational colleagues for this distinctive international event where we discover best practices used around the world from more than 100 presenters, to include the professions most recognized and talented educational facilities leaders representing facilities officers, directors and managers throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and the world! July 21-23 in San Francisco, CA, we will convene, identify and discuss the most current and pressing challenges facing educational facilities, and determine the common path forward. Visit the APPA website for more information! Who you’ll meet: Graig Young, Quixsilver Systems Booth: # 503   enr-conference-special-lite

Sept 12: ENR Port Authority of NY & NJ Annual Conference | New York, NY

Join us for the 4th Annual Port Authority of New York and New Jersey conference where attendees will learn about new and existing construction project opportunities. This year, the Port Authority Board approved the largest ever $32.2 Billion 10-YEAR Capital Plan for 2017-2026. Approved projects include the area’s major airports, bridges and tunnels, railways, ports, and p3 on major transportation and terminal projects. The approved plan will create 235,400 job years, $20 billion in total wages and $56 billion in overall economic activity… Find out how you can get involved in these projects by attending this year’s conference. Visit the conference website for more information! Who you’ll meet: Mark Schustek, Special-Lite, Inc. & Joe Boltzer, LaPorte Associates Booth: TBD  

October 18 – 20: IFMA’s World Workplace Conference & Expo | Houston, TX

The most all-encompassing learning and networking event on facilities and how to manage them. Immerse yourself in all things FM — from groundbreaking discoveries impacting the industry to achievable strategies for your daily to-do list. Discover a new way to do it, a different place to source it, a cool tool to fix it or an action plan to solve it. Whatever your “it” is, pursue, perfect or attain it at World Workplace. Learn more on the conference website! Who you’ll meet: Brian VonDette, Special-Lite, Inc. Booth: #1542 edspaces-special-lite

October 25 – 27: EDspaces 2017 | Kansas City, MO

EDspaces is the gathering place for architects, dealers, educational institutions, IMR’s, dealers and corporations to learn about trends and experience the latest products and services to enhance student learning. Visit the EDspaces website for more information! Who you’ll meet: Brian VonDette, Special-Lite, Inc. Booth: #740

October 26: Contech 2017 | Quebec City, Quebec, CA

The Building Expo held at the Centre de Foires every fall features 150 exhibitors and welcomes 1 000 visitors. Designers, building managers, and builders come to Contech to learn about the exhibitors’ new products, but also to meet with industry peers and keep up to date on the latest and best practices. Learn more on the Contech website! Who you’ll meet: Karyne St-Hilaire, Repère Architectural Booth: TBD

Special-Lite Investing in the Future: Management Development Program Graduates


About Special-Lite’s Management Development Program

When Special-Lite put this management training program together, the objective was to give interested and motivated employees the opportunity to develop and improve their personal and management skills.  While having trained employees would benefit Special-Lite in filling future leadership positions as we grow, it was also just as important to the executive team that the program helps the participants grow as individuals. They can use what they learned in the program– both inside and outside Special-Lite.  Another objective was to foster communication between individuals in different departments by working together collaboratively. The participants committed a significant amount of their time in the classroom learning and growing. In addition, they spent significant time outside of the classroom reading, doing homework and working on a large group project.  These projects, chosen by each group, focused on a specific process within Special-Lite and took the last 16 months to complete. This effort culminated in a presentation by each of the three groups to their managers, the executive leadership team, and the other groups on June 12.  Kevin Hanley, COO of Special-Lite, commented on the graduating class, “Each group did an outstanding job in their presentation.  It was incredible to witness the growth in skills and confidence demonstrated by all the participants in this program.  It was truly powerful and inspiring! Thank you to all the participants for the willingness to take this journey and go outside your comfort zone. Congratulations for an outstanding job!”

Special-Lite’s Commitment to Employee Growth

Special-Lite continually strives to be an employee-centered manufacturer. In addition to the Management Development program, Special-Lite hosts other development classes, such as Customer Service. Special-lite also offers tuition reimbursement for employees pursuing training or a degree at a higher learning institution.

Doors that Brand: The Making of a Winning Entrance

Do you need Doors that Brand your building? Follow the making of a Winning Entrance

In March, we completed our #inoticedoors hashtag photo contest, and we announced the winning photo by Mike of The Lazzaro Companies: an entrance at Peoples Bank in Highland, IN.


A Winning Design

This entrance is unique, featuring not only curved framing but also curved muntins that complete the circular shape. Where the curved muntins run thru the door– completing the circle design– vertical muntins begin and travel down to the bottom rail. What an intricate design!  Also notable– the vertical framing above the entrance echoes the lines of the inactive middle leaf. These are not your typical bank doors!

Arches with Curved Framing in Production

Little did anyone know, this entrance had caught our eye much earlier on! We had several projects coming through production with beautifully curved framing in December.


Any project with curved framing results in a show-stopping entrance– but it wasn’t until I saw the drawings that I knew this would be an entrance that brands a building!


An Entrance that Brands a building– and Endures

Many Peoples Bank locations feature a similar or nearly identical design with a circular shape and arched framing. However, this is the first to feature Special-Lite entrance products. According to Mike Nolan at The Lazzaro Companies, the original drawings called for aluminum-clad residential doors to suit the overall look the designer wanted. However, Mike advised the bank that Special-Lite was the way to go for this opening. Mike had experience using Special-Lite products in the past. He understood that residential doors do not accept commercial hardware well. In addition, residential doors are certainly not as durable as commercial entrance systems. With support from the contractor, Larson-Danielson, Mike worked with the engineering department at Special-Lite to come up with the opening you see in the photo.

Every entrance product at Special-Lite is made-to-order. This enables us to make a one-of-a-kind entrance such as this one, that stands out and communicates your brand. We love helping organizations create an entrance that leaves a lasting impression on all who enter!


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Article on Fiberglass Pultrusion Wins 2017 DHI Robert G. Ryan Award

Pultrusion Technology Delivers Performance Enhancement won Second Place in Technical Articles

Special-Lite’s VP of Sales and Marketing, Roger Stempky won the 2nd place award in the Technical Article category of DHI’s 2017 Ryan Awards, for his article “Pultrusion Technology Delivers Performance Enhancement.” This article appeared in the November 2016 issue of Doors + Hardware Magazine. You can read about all the 2017 DHI Achievement Award Winners in the June issue!

About the Award

DHI presents this award to the best volunteer authors of any article in Doors + Hardware Magazine written from January 1 through December 31 each year. Articles cover either technical or business-related topics. Congratulations to Roger! We are very proud to win this award, especially given the number of excellent articles that appeared in Doors + Hardware Magazine in 2016!  

Read the Article:

pultrusion-article   Blog Adaptation & Video  

Special-Lite Makes Significant Expansion of Florida and High-Velocity Hurricane Zone Approved Storm Products

DECATUR, MI– Special-Lite, Inc. announced today that they have completed testing and received approvals for an extensive group of commercial doors and building entry products for the most stringent Florida storm standards. Special-Lite’s products have been tested to the most stringent high-velocity hurricane standards (HVHZ) by the Florida Building Code and have been deemed to conform to the requirements of these wind zone requirements within the state of Florida. Special-Lite has maintained a limited product offering for the Florida and coastal storm markets since 2001. Their commitment to testing and research, directed at improving the safety of buildings and occupants within the coastal markets, increased in 2009. This demonstrated commitment was a result of an introduction between Henry L. Upjohn II, CEO of Special-Lite and the UF Wind Engineering program at the University of Florida, which provides full-scale research and is known for replicating the realistic effects of storms on complete building systems. The importance of this level of support was discussed by Mr. Upjohn, “Certainly, our goal is to sell what we feel are the best-engineered door solutions anywhere. Developing our understanding of these high-wind storms and the damage that occurs allows us to grow and improve our products. It advances our belief that there is more that manufacturers of architectural products can do to keep people safe in schools, hospitals and any other types of buildings.” Upjohn went on to say, “Working on such an important project with the University of Florida was important in helping to advance the science and was certainly a project our engineers and I found exciting and interesting.” Special-Lite has a long history of providing highly engineered aluminum and fiberglass doors for the high-cycle and high abuse markets. The company’s history spans over 40 years, with approximately 35 years of serving the educational and institutional markets. Since 1981, with their pioneering effort in the use of Fiberglass Reinforced Polyester (FRP) products, Special-Lite has become an educational and institutional market leader in building entry products. Kevin Hanley, President, and COO of Special-Lite commented, “The whole investment in safety, research and development, testing, product development and ultimately product approvals, allows us to show our continued commitment to being a market leader in the educational and institutional sectors. These sectors continue to be a core market for Special-Lite. Our commitment to providing products that can improve safety is one that we take very seriously.” While Special-Lite remains committed to its educational and institutional sectors, Roger Stempky, Vice President of Sales and Marketing acknowledged the opportunity to enhance growth in other markets with a bevy of new product approvals. “The successful completion of this testing will allow us to continue to grow the vast and increasingly populated coastal markets. Of course, California, Texas, and Florida– which are the three largest states by population– all have regions that have can be subject to these dangerous storms. It is projected by the year 2020 we will have over 134 million residents concentrated along the coastal regions of the United States alone.” Stempky went on to say, “We are excited to have a broad offering of products with Florida’s nationally recognized approvals including our stile and rail, all fiberglass, and well-known FRP Hybrid doors. This offering will allow us to better serve the hospitality, restaurant, retail and multi-family housing markets along with many others.” Special-Lite’s approvals can be found on both the Florida Building Code and Miami-Dade building approval sites, or more information is readily available by contacting the company directly. About Special-Lite, Inc. Special-Lite manufacturers engineered, made to order architectural products, including commercial entrance systems, interior aluminum framing with swing or sliding aluminum framed doors, and FRP restroom partitions. Complete entrance system products are fiberglass or aluminum flush doors with many door face texture options including wood grain, aluminum monumental (stile & rail) doors, fiberglass and aluminum framing. Special-Lite’s products are used in new construction and renovation projects for educational, commercial, institutional, industrial and municipal applications. Founded in 1971, the company pioneered the use of fiberglass reinforced polyester (FRP) material for door skins. Today, Special-Lite is the largest volume producer of commercial FRP doors in the United States. pdf-hurricane-release

Special-Lite to Exhibit in Nashville for BOMA 2017

Join us in Nashville for BOMA 2017

We are excited to be exhibiting at the 2017 BOMA International Annual Expo in Nashville, TN on June 24 – 27. Widely recognized as commercial real estate’s premier annual trade event, the conference provides commercial property professionals with unparalleled learning and networking opportunities across three days on some of the most important issues the industry faces today. This year, we’ll be at Music City Center in lively downtown Nashville, TN! Special-Lite Regional Sales Manager, Brian VonDette, and Phelan & Associates Sales Representative, Jerry Phelan, will be representing Special-Lite at the Expo. We are at booth # 1036.  Brian and Jerry look forward to answering any questions and telling you more about Special-Lite’s entrance and interior solutions! We are proud to be exhibiting at an event that has gained its reputation for being at the forefront of market trends. We are sure that you will have much to learn from this conference. Hope to see you there! Register today.

Special-Lite Releases New Wood Grain All Fiberglass Door

Introducing the AF-219-1 All Fiberglass Composite Contemporary Wood Grain Door

DECATUR, MI, May 26, 2017–  Special-Lite, Inc. introduced a new door model to their All Fiberglass Composite Door series, adding the warm look of a wood door. Special-Lite will manufacture the new AF-219-1 Contemporary Wood Grain Composite Door in their Marshall, Arkansas facility. It features the same construction method as the All Fiberglass Composite door series. Constructed by factory bonding FRP face sheets to pultruded fiberglass stiles and rails, this method produces doors that are lightweight, strong, impervious to moisture, and resistant to rust, rot, and corrosion. The addition of the AF-219-1 adds a wood grain texture to Special-Lite’s existing FRP face sheet texture options: This contemporary wood grain FRP face sheet first gained popularity when Special-Lite released the SL-19-1 Contemporary Wood Grain FRP/Aluminum Hybrid door. The FRP face sheet has a realistic wood look featuring authentic cherry species replication in four standard stain colors:
  • American Cherry
  • Dark Cherry
  • Dark Walnut
  • Light Maple
  • Custom paint colors also available

About Special-Lite, Inc.

Special-Lite manufacturers engineered, made to order architectural products, including commercial entrance systems, interior aluminum framing with swing or sliding aluminum framed doors, and FRP restroom partitions. Complete entrance system products are fiberglass or aluminum flush doors with many door face texture options including wood grain, aluminum monumental (stile & rail) doors, and fiberglass or aluminum framing. Special-Lite’s products are used in new construction and renovation projects for educational, commercial, institutional, industrial and municipal applications. Founded in 1971, the company pioneered the use of fiberglass reinforced polyester (FRP) material for door skins. Today, Special-Lite is the largest volume producer of commercial FRP doors in the United States. pdf-press-releaseview-on-websitesales-sheet  

PART 3 of 3 – Bullet Resistance (Ballistic) and Blast Resistance & How to Choose a Level of Protection

Bullet Resistant (Ballistic)

It is sad to think that we live in a time where we need to design entrance solutions for keeping our families and property safe, but we must continually innovate to overcome the threats that present themselves in daily life. Bullet resistant doors or ballistic doors and complete ballistic-rated entrance systems are an important part of this innovation. (We previously discussed in Part 1 the reason we don’t use the term “bulletproof door” when referring to these products.) What makes a product bullet resistant? There are several ratings that could describe the level of bullet resistance in a product. The most common are:
  1.           UL 752
  2.           National Institute of Justice (NIJ) 0108.01
  3.           State Department SD-STD-02.01
  4.           ASTM F-1233
  5.           HP White Laboratories HPW-TP 0500.02
  6.           European Standard DIN EN 1063
  7.           British Standards Institution BS 5051
  8.           Councils of Standards Australia/New Zealand AS/NZ 2343
A certified test lab performs these tests in a controlled environment. The range of weapons varies from handguns to rifles, and the ratings are quite different depending on the standard to which you are testing. For example, you may hear someone refer to “Level 3”, which has a different meaning depending on which testing standard you are talking about. Level 3, UL 752, calls for a .44 magnum handgun. National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Level 3 calls for the use of a 7.62mm (.308 Winchester) rifle. So, as you can see, there is a difference. I have worked on several projects developing bullet resistant doors using a fiberglass pultrusion process. When deciding on a bullet resistant opening solution I strongly recommend exploring the pultruded ballistic door options that are available. Believe it or not, steel is not always the answer to solving these complex entrance problems. When used properly, fiberglass has excellent ballistic properties without the concern of deterioration due to rust or corrosion.  

Blast Resistant

In some cases, such as in government installations, there is a blast requirement for most if not all exterior entrance systems. There are a couple of different approaches to achieve a blast rating for a blast-rated door specification.
  1. Arena Testing- This is obviously the most fun. As you can imagine by the name, this testing occurs outside in a controlled area, by setting off explosives to achieve the desired load and duration. The entrance system is instrumented to record the forces felt during the explosion. The advantage of using an arena test is that you’re not limited to certain dimensions on the product you’re testing. The downside with this method is that it is more difficult to obtain a specific pressure and duration due to the variation in explosive behavior.
  2. Shock Tube- The shock tube is an instrument used to replicate and direct blast waves at a sensor or a model to simulate actual explosions and their effects, usually on a smaller scale. The advantage of using the shock tube is that you can repeat the test more accurately than arena testing. The disadvantage is that the size of the shock tube restricts the size of the specimen.
An Entrance Ready for Shock Tube Blast Test
Shock Tube

How do I know what level of protection I needed for an entrance?

To be successful when ordering these types of systems, I strongly recommend that you take the time to understand the science behind the products that will protect you and your customers. Understanding the requirements of your state or local jurisdictions and having all the information ensures that you and your customer have on-time deliveries and products that meet the requirements for the project. For example, the load results for HVHZ approved systems are calculated in pounds per square foot. With ballistic systems, you need to understand the caliber of bullet that your entrance must withstand in an attack. This information will dictate the level of protection required. For blast-rated protection, you will need to know the blast load the product (in this case, a blast-rated door) needs to withstand, calculated pounds per square inch (psi), as well as the impulse calculated in pounds per square inch and milliseconds (psi-ms). For intrusion resistance, you need to know the amount of time that you want to hold a perpetrator at bay and if you want laminated glass or polycarbonate glazing.

More From this Series:

Part 1 of 3: Proof vs. Resistant and Intrusion/Forced Entry Resistance Part 2 of 3: Hurricane and Storm Resistance

Related Articles:

Doors + Hardware Magazine | May 2017 | Proof vs. Resistant: The Truth is in the Test  What is Fiberglass Pultrusion? A Win for School Security: Ballistic Door Wins New Product Award

PART 2 of 3 – Hurricane and Storm Resistance

Billions of dollars in damage occurs in the U.S. annually due to natural events, the majority caused by Category 3, 4 and 5 hurricanes. Hurricane Andrew caused more than $25B in just Dade County Florida. Hurricane Katrina caused more than $100B in total economic loss. Fueled by this period of destruction, the science behind hurricane-rated products and building structures to withstand these storms has evolved considerably.

What does Hurricane or Storm Resistant Mean?

Let’s begin with looking at hurricane ratings. Most hurricane resistant doors are required to meet at least one of the following standards:
  • ANSI (American National Standards Institute)
  • ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials)
  • TAS (Testing Application Standard)
  • IBC (International Building Code)
  • IRC (International Residential Code)
Refer to the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) to determine which one to refer to for your area.

Hurricane Testing

What makes an entrance hurricane rated? Most test protocols will include static loads, cyclic loads, air infiltration, large missile impact, water infiltration and forced entry.   The most stringent of these requirements is an approval in Miami-Dade County. If a product can make it through Miami-Dade’s NOA (Notice of Acceptance) protocol (TAS 201, 202 and 203), we can generally submit it in other states or regions (such as the Florida Building Commission and Texas Department of Insurance) with a high degree of confidence. Product testing requires a lot of homework to determine how a product will perform under test conditions before sending it to the testing lab. This upfront work reduces the likelihood of a failure during testing. Water infiltration is an excellent example. Water is not your friend in the test lab. One drop of water that infiltrates a test specimen results in a failure. Through many trials and tribulations, we found that all-fiberglass or fiberglass/aluminum doors perform exceptionally well during this type of test. Furthermore, due to their resistance to humidity and salt water, they are great options when considering new or replacement doors in the coastal regions of the U.S.

Hurricane-Rated Special Requirements

Hurricane-rated products come with stricter requirements than some other types of tested and rated products. One important thing to remember is that the size of the product that you intend to sell or install cannot exceed the size of the specimen tested– although it can be smaller. The hardware and seals must be consistent with the configuration the approval states. You can deviate from the approval only with permission from the AHJ. This is why a manufacturer will sell a complete hurricane rated entrance: door, frame, hardware, seal, etc. in exactly the configuration tested.

More from this series:

Part 1 of 3: Proof vs. Resistant & Forced Entry (Intrusion) Resistance Part 3 of 3: Bullet Resistance, Blast Resistance, and How to Choose Your Level of Protection

Related Articles:

The University of Florida is Set to “Judge” Building Architectural Products and Entry Systems The University of Florida’s Website: Multi-Axis Wind Load Simulator