With glass technology, building codes, and even the makeup of the architecture field all experiencing significant change during recent years, the need for information and education about low-E glass and solar control options—as well as how those choices interact—is increasing, say some industry members.
“Architects now are being asked to meet ever-increasing energy codes,” says Colin Blackford, regional technical advisor at Guardian Industries Corp. “Understanding those codes and the products that meet each of the climate regions are important.”
As Blackford explains, design and glass options in warmer climates are driven by the solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC)—i.e., keeping the sun’s heat out. In cooler climates, meanwhile, the focus is on lower U-value of the glass and framing systems. “It is important to understand those distinctions so that you get the most out of the design of the glazing system,” says Blackford.
Glen Miner, director of construction for flat glass at PPG, agrees and also adds, “Low-E and solar control are not mutually exclusive. It’s a question of what is the proper glass for a particular building in a particular zone and conditions.”
Getting an appropriate answer to that question, therefore, is often based on communication with the architect. As some industry experts explain, though, architects do not always understand the dynamics of low-E, SHGC, and so forth. A case in point: “I get the question frequently, ‘Well, what’s the best glass?’” says Miner. Answer: There is no single one. It depends. It varies. Miner says they then need to discuss the project location, goals, design, and the best product option for those variables.
Meghan Beach, architectural representative for AGC Glass Co., also says decisions are often client dependent.
“Our role, as architectural representatives, is to guide our customers to make the best decisions for their client’s long-term goals and needs of the project and become their trusted advisor,” she says.
However, with spec writers often doing the detailed work, architects are also not always familiar with the ins and outs of glass options. Add to that the constantly evolving technology, codes that keep getting more stringent, and even a new generation of young architects coming into the field, and the role of representatives from the glass industry becomes as much educator as anything else. “We’re getting a lot of inquiries that way,” says Julie Giba, architecture service manager at PPG Industries, referring to the shifting code and technology landscape.
Companies are responding to the need to educate. To start, there’s one-on-one consultation; architects communicate their goals, and service reps respond with options. Companies also offer online tools and resources, continuing education courses and other programs to help educate architects.
The good news from a technology standpoint is that architects have to sacrifice less when making choices nowadays. “Each advance in technology has allowed for increased glazing performance by lowering the SHGC while maintaining a high visible light transmittance,” notes Blackford.