Peter Balint on the Plaster Industry
Chances are if you are an exterior plasterer and you have used Dryvit’s products you know Peter Balint. Ever present at industry events and occasionally found on the greens, Balint is certainly one of the most approachable in this industry. Reviewing his career and tenure in the EIFS industry, he’s seen the center of the fairway and dealt with the game from the rough. As you read through this “exit interview,” as Balint retired in late April, you’ll notice someone thoughtful on business, direct with his words and passionate for all things EIFS.
In regards to press—as I imagine Balint has extended more so to his customers as well—he’s always made himself available. This editor recalls in 2008 sitting with him at a bar in Michigan as he was visiting to attend a professional golf competition. We spent a few hours chatting about the industry then. It made an impression and at Walls & Ceilings, we highly respect his attention and willingness to communicate the benefits of EIFS while chatting with the media, even if it means dipping into vacation time.
This interview won’t cover all the career highs and lows but for those that do have a relationship with Balint, it won’t surprise anyone to hear that he has held a remarkable tenure with one of EIFS’ most important and influential manufacturers, sat on EIMA through various positions (most recently as president), and so much more.
We salute him for all his commitment and his personal achievement as a very public and central advocate to this exterior cladding system and the wall and ceiling industry.
Walls & Ceilings: Where are you from and what is your education background?
Peter Balint: I was born in Budapest, Hungary and came to the U.S. in 1958 with my sister because my father escaped from communism after the Hungarian Revolution. I grew up in Milwaukee, served in the United States Marine Corps, and earned a BA and MBA from The University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.
W&C: How did you find yourself in the world of construction and ultimately EIFS?
PB: I started working in the coatings industry and was later recruited to the mill-work industry where I ultimately became President of Morgan Manufacturing. When Paul Hill, former President of Dryvit, decided to retire, Dryvit and RPM were looking for an executive that had both a construction and coatings background. I was looking for a new opportunity and was hired for the job of President/CEO of Dryvit Systems.
W&C: When you started, what was the state of the EIFS industry? Who were the other primary players? Within Dryvit, Frank Morsilli surely must take some credit for the gospel of the product to spread in the U.S. Did Europe or/and other countries miss out on pushing the system as a great product? I know U.S. manufacturers have been very proactive and smart to dispatch field technicians worldwide but still ...
PB: EIFS—or a concept very similar to what we now know as EIFS—actually started in Europe and became popular in the reconstruction of post-World War II Europe. The concept of an exterior insulation solution has been in Europe for longer than it has existed in the U.S. by two decades.
Frank Morsilli was the founder/inspiration of the U.S. EIFS industry. In 1969, he obtained the rights to manufacture, market, and sell Dryvit worldwide from the inventor Edwin Horbach. Frank and some of his key distributors and contractors built the industry by demonstrating to architects and building owners the viability and incredible benefits of a Dryvit system.
W&C: How did you become involved in EIMA?
PB: Shortly after I started, I attended my first Board of Directors meeting representing Dryvit. It was there that I met my respective counterparts at STO, Parex, Senergy (BASF Wall Systems), and Finestone.
W&C: When you first joined EIMA, I assume the EIFS industry was in an altogether different climate, in terms of economy, use of product, distribution, and aesthetics? How would you describe the environment in which you first started?
PB: In 1998 when I became involved in EIMA, there was a lot of discussion on what the role of EIMA should be. Some felt that EIMA should undertake a large marketing program to tout the benefits of EIFS to consumers (Got Milk campaign). Some felt that this type of marketing was best handled by individual manufacturers and that EIMA did not have the financial resources to mount an effective large scale marketing campaign. Shortly thereafter the “EIFS water intrusion litigation” became the primary focus of EIMA. I believe the strength of EIMA, then and now, is the willingness of the members to work towards common goals once a consensus is reached.
W&C: The following quote from Wikipedia’s entry on EIFS reads: “EIFS with Drainage … is the predominate method of EIFS applied today. As the name implies, EIFS with Drainage provides a way for moisture that may accumulate in the wall cavity to evacuate.” Is EIFS with Drainage considered the premium system still and should this just become the standard? Or are there applications unto which it is not appropriate?
PB: I believe the industry learned through the moisture intrusion debates that even though an EIF System does not allow moisture to penetrate, the fact that many adjacent joints, penetrations, or other attachments are not always detailed properly, and therefore incidental moisture can get behind an EIF system. The industry, as well as building codes, now require positive moisture drainage behind EIFS when it is attached to a water sensitive substrate. Just like advancements in automobiles (i.e. seatbelts and ABS brakes), EIFS with drainage is now the standard over water sensitive substrates.
W&C: In micro terms, define since you’ve been involved with Dryvit and EIMA what each decade represented in a couple sentences up to the present?
PB: As everyone knows, in 1969, Frank Morsilli, the visionary entrepreneur, founded Dryvit and the EIFS industry in the U.S. He spent over two decades building Dryvit and the EIFS industry. Frank sold the company in the ’90s to a venture capital firm and three Dryvit executives with Paul Hill as president. Paul is credited with transforming Dryvit from a sole proprietorship to a professionally managed business which was sold to its current owner RPM. Paul found the perfect long term home for Dryvit with RPM. RPM has an exceptional history in acquiring and growing small entrepreneurial businesses by supporting their management teams and providing the financial resources for growing business needs. I joined Dryvit shortly after the RPM acquisition as Paul Hill decided to retire.
During my 17 years with Dryvit, I’ve had the most interesting and exciting times of my career. We have been through national class action lawsuits, hyper-market growth, and the biggest recession in the history of the construction industry. It has been a dynamic and rewarding period for the industry, highlighted by recognition by the energy codes that the proper way to insulate a building by using continuous insulation on the exterior of buildings—or exactly what EIFS has inherently been providing in this country for 45 years.
We see that as vindication for the concept of Outsulation vs. insulation, and EIF systems are the only wall system that offers CI as an integral component of the system. It just took the code bodies a few years to realize what we have been offering is a better way to building buildings. That has been very rewarding.
It has also been an exciting time for EIMA, as it has become the recognized technical expert in the construction industry on all things EIFS after getting EIFS listed in the building codes.
W&C: It seems to this magazine’s editor that during the 2000s, Dryvit had a massively productive period of introducing new products, such as the new colorants, warranty programs, faux finishes, lighter pails, and the E Finish Lines. Does adversity prompt innovation?
PB: Dryvit has historically been the innovator in the industry as it is the originator of the EIFS industry. Dryvit product and EIF system innovation continues today with Outsulation X, StrataTone colorants, Reflectit, etc. Innovation at Dryvit is fueled by the continued entrepreneurial spirit of its management team and employees, coupled with a firm commitment to research and development. We take pride in our commitment to product innovation, and I believe that will continue as a fundamental part of the company’s DNA.
W&C: Who can take credit for the emergence of the “EIFS—Doing it Right” program? Was that AWCI or did EIMA initiate a formal and accredited process for knowing that its customers were installing EIFS by a regimented program?
PB: The EIFS Doing it Right program was and continues to be a collaborative program between EIMA and AWCI. EIMA provides technical information as well as financial support for the program. AWCI, whose members are primarily contractors, runs the program for the benefit of their members and to ensure higher quality work from those that have been through the program. Dryvit has been a long-time supporter of this program as well, providing a financial incentive to those Dryvit-listed contractors who obtain their EIFSmart Certificate.
W&C: In 2008, Dryvit testified before a House Select Committee. What was that about and how do you think it helped the industry? It seems the company addressed the issue of global warming/climate change in front of several politicians.
PB: We saw the opportunity to testify in Congress as a part of our overall commitment to education. We pointed out the benefits more energy-efficient buildings bring to the nation’s overall energy policy. It’s hard to say what effect that had, but it may have played at least some role in the acceptance that CI is a better way to build buildings.
W&C: Explain the ethics of distinguishing the goals of Dryvit and the endeavors and responsibilities you’ve had as president of EIMA. How does the politics of that operate and is it as productive as you had hoped for—in regards to carrying goals for a company and interests to an association?
PB: EIMA is an exceptional trade association because the individual leaders of the companies involved have a lot of respect for each other. These business leaders are committed to advancing the EIFS industry and ensuring the best technical information is available to all of the various constituents of the construction industry. The common goal is to increase the understanding of the many benefits of EIFS including energy efficiency through CI, lower installed constructions costs, infinite aesthetic possibilities, and sustainability through the lowest life-cycle cost of alternative claddings.
W&C: What are some accomplishments of which you are most proud?
PB: I would say I am most proud of the Dryvit management team and employees for working together to weather the many storms we faced in the past 17 years. I am also proud of their accomplishments in implementing ISO14000, to be a more environmentally responsible company, for maintaining Dryvit’s reputation for quality, innovation, service, and for continuing to be recognized as one of the Best Places to work in Rhode Island.
W&C: Officially and professionally, what is next for you? Will you serve to any capacity in Dryvit or EIMA’s world or do you feel it’s time to step back altogether? Surely, you must be looking forward to no work duties.
PB: I don’t plan to have work related duties in the immediate future. My wife and I plan to enjoy the many activities we love full time. Whether that’s riding our Harley around the country, taking last minute cruises, exploring the Southeast, or spending quality time with our children, grandchildren, family and friends.
W&C: I believe Mike Murphy will be replacing you officially. Can you explain why he was chosen?
PB: Dryvit has a robust succession planning process to ensure that the company will continue to have the best possible leaders in each position. The Dryvit team knew for several years my plan for retirement. The selection process was difficult because we have so many great people. In the final analysis, Murphy has demonstrated over his 20-plus years with Dryvit an unwavering passion for the company, and its employees and customers. His vision for the future of Dryvit and the EIFS industry is based on his deep understanding and knowledge of the construction industry and the many opportunities before us in the coming years.
W&C: Any final thoughts on where the industry is headed or what you’d like to see?
PB: The future of Dryvit and the EIFS industry is very bright. Today architects, building scientists, owners and energy codes are recognizing that CI belongs on the outside of a building to provide the optimum building envelope. Today energy codes require some amount of CI in every climate zone. Dryvit and the EIFS industry have been providing this for more than 45 years. With the infinite aesthetic possibilities of EIFS and a long proven, integrated building envelope system, at a very competitive installed cost, the future is so bright everyone will need to wear shades.
W&C: Finally, will you retain residency in New England or is it down South for you? Surely you’ll miss the cooking of Federal Hill if you leave.
PB: For 66 years I have lived in a climate with snowy, cold winters. When I was younger, the winters used to invigorate me with activities like skiing and ice skating. As I was growing older, I would spend a couple of weeks each winter in the tropical climates. Now I realize that I would much prefer to live in a warm climate and just visit the winter for a week or two if we feel the need. My wife, Mia, and I will be moving to our home in Sarasota, Fla., permanently joining a couple of other retired Dryvit executives and we also have several childhood friends in the area. Of course, we will be returning to Rhode Island in the summer months to visit friends, Dryvit colleagues, and of course, our children and grandchildren.