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Volume 41,   Issue 1      January 2006

All the Comforts of Home
  A Look at the Latest Trends in Residential Glass 

by Peggy Georgi

Glass products have always added beauty and style to any home. Dramatic new advances in the industry have inspired homeowners to incorporate more glass and glass products into their homes because of its versatility, appearance and functionality. Today’s new and innovative technologies are bringing about new trends that influence the way we live. They have also changed the way in which glass would be used traditionally in and around the home.

“Consumers who want to personalize their own space and reflect their own image are driving these trends in the residential marketplace,” says Peter vanBallegooie, marketing manager for DuPont’s Glass Laminating Solutions. “Homeowners are combining different kinds of decorative and functional glass materials along with color to achieve that individualized, unique look that is so sought after today.”

“Glass as a building product is increasing in importance and the design trend is to use it everywhere possible,” says Joel Berman, principal of Joel Berman Glass Studios (JBGS), headquartered in Vancouver. “Glass is a uniquely flexible and an impressionable substance that can be expended into any shape. Its characteristics of durability, inertness and transparency are the reasons it has become one of the most dominant architectural products of the century.”

According to Sean Ruck, manager of editorial services for the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), homeowners are investing more time and money into their homes, “making it the center of activity for living and entertaining.” 

Ruck says he is seeing an increase in the use of glass around the home, especially in the kitchen and bath areas: more glass countertops, back splashes, blocks, shelving and plenty of windows to keep areas throughout the home bright with natural light. 

Chris Birch, executive director for the Bath Enclosure Manufacturers Association (BEMA), says they his group is are seeing more diversity, more options and incredible innovation and advances in patterned glass and protective coatings.

“The advances in glass technology are providing homeowners with what they want and need today: all the amenities without the maintenance,” says Birch.

So just what, exactly, are these hot trends sweeping the residential market? We’re taking a look at a few of the big ones taking the consumer building scene by storm.

Bathrooms

When it comes to retrofit, renovations and even new-home construction, the bathroom is one of the most popular rooms for glass installations, additions and options. 

“There is no question that frameless (heavy glass) shower enclosures are one of the hottest trends in the residential market today,” explains Max Perilstein, vice president of marketing for Arch Aluminum & Glass Products. “We are seeing frameless shower enclosures in all levels of homes from spec homes to mega-mansions. The bathroom is becoming more of a showplace and homeowners don’t want it cluttered by a curtain, metal framing or obscured glass.” 

Bill Jackson, president of Southeastern Aluminum Products, agrees. 

“What was once reserved for the luxury home market is now filtering through to homes at all levels thanks to the advent of the on-site design centers where builders can offer homeowners upgrade options like frameless enclosures upfront,” Jackson explains. 

“When it comes to new home construction and luxury remodels it’s virtually unheard of not to have a frameless shower enclosure in the plan,” adds Ray Adams, president of Coastal Industries. “While the heavy glass trend started about a decade ago, it has literally exploded over the past several years.” 

Adams attributes the availability, the look and feel of the heavy glass and the fact that it is viewed as a luxury item as factors fueling the dramatic growth in this segment of the market. 

“Homeowners are putting big money into the two rooms that sell a house: kitchens and bathrooms,” says Paul Snyder, chief executive officer of Architectural Glass Arts Inc. “Consumers are willing to spend the extra money on a frameless system because it adds rather than detracts from the rest of the room.” 

Innovative Coatings

Advances in coated glass technology have also sparked a variety of options when it comes to residential glass.

“Innovative and functional glass coatings continue to impact the residential glass market in new and exciting ways,” says Tim Singel, director of residential glass products for Guardian Industries. “One such product is [our new] ShowerGuard™ a permanent, virtually maintenance-free coating that keeps glass cleaner [than uncoated glass]. It is a patented technology that seals the surface, preventing chemical corrosion. This technology preserves the look and beauty of newly installed glass by preventing permanent spots, stains and scale build-up.” 

Another innovation in coated glass technology from Guardian Industries is ClimaGuard SPF™. Designed specifically for use in residential windows, ClimaGuard SPF blocks more than 99 percent of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. (See related story in the November 2005 USGlass magazine, page 76).
 
Another coated glass option, low-E glass, has been, and continues to be, a trend with staying power. While low-E glass was introduced to the market some 20 years ago as an inventive concept in flat glass, today more than 75 percent of all residential windows made in the United States contain low-E glass. 

“Its [low-E] role and diversity in the glass industry has grown in size and scope, especially over the past five years,” explains Rick Hill, product manager for Arkema Inc. (formerly Atofina Chemicals). 

“Low-E has become the window type of choice across the country as more emphasis is placed on energy efficiency and as consumers and homebuilders become more educated about the benefits of low-E technology,” Hill adds. “Today, many codes require a certain level of energy performance and low-E windows meet those mandates. What is important to note is that while almost everyone makes low-E glass not all low-E glass is the same in terms of its low-E properties. It is important for consumers and builders alike to know what they are purchasing and that it is the right product for the area in which they live. For example, a window you would select for a home in the southern part of the country would not be the same window choice for a home located in the northern or eastern part of the country.

“Driving the trends in the low-E glass market are energy codes, natural disasters and/or manufacturers,” explains Paul Bush, technical service manager for PPG. 

“People are seeking greater energy efficiency and connectivity with the outdoors and it’s [glass] more practical and affordable than ever before,” adds Lisa Walters, residential market manager for PPG. 

Decorative Glass 

Another trend that continues to grow in popularity is decorative glass. Decorative glass comes in many different forms, patterns, colors and designs, and can be created through a variety of fabrication technologies. One such example is laminated glass.

“Technology has yielded laminators the capability to supply every imaginable color for the first time in history,” says Perilstein. “In the past, we were limited in our options to match décor but now with the flexibility and unlimited color options we can accommodate anyone’s needs, be it [for] a decorative partition, tabletop or shower enclosure.”

DuPont’s SentryGlas® Expres-sions™ interlayers is one option for adding color and design to laminated glass. 

“It is a truly unique product that offers the highest level of decorative features with all the benefits of laminated glass,” explains Valerie Aunet, marketing manager for SentryGlas Expressions. “This product utilizes technology to allow for a wide array of decorative features including near photographic images. It mixes extremely well with other products, such as wood and metals, to give any living space a more personalized look.” 

When it comes to adding color to textured glass, JBGS is one decorative glass company that has incorporated the two trends to better meet the aesthetic needs of homeowners. The company recently acquired the North American rights to process a new commercial color coating for glass that provides an unlimited color spectrum. Numerous applications for color-coated flat and textured glass exist, ranging from spandrel panels and partitions to counter and vanity tops. Additionally, back painted glass can serve as a backsplash for kitchens and bathrooms, or as a clean-looking wall covering, further multiplying the creative possibilities.

When it comes to textured glass, designs are no longer just flat and two-dimensional. Three-dimensional cast glass textures, for example, offer unlimited design possibilities. 

“While the design community is aware of the transparency benefits in using textured glass, they are also realizing its versatility can be explored to include three-dimensional glass textures for partition walls, balustrades and ceiling panels that not only bring about a feeling of weightlessness but also refinement,” explains Berman. “Using textured glass provides flexibility to meet various residential needs and budgets,” continues Berman. “The benefits of textured glass are many including endless custom fabrication possibilities, added elegance and flare…[it] can also be a focal point in the room, and when tempered combines strength and durability with decorative function, low maintenance and scratch resistance. [Textured glass]…can create privacy while still allowing natural light transmittance; it can create a sense of open space without sacrificing privacy.”

Radiant Heating

Radiant heating is another trend that is gaining momentum. Most any glass product used in the home has the potential to be heated with this new technology—flooring, windows, towel rack warmers and many other applications. Thermique™ heated glass technology from Engineered Glass Products of Chicago is an example of radiant heated glass that is designed to transform ordinary glass into an efficient heat source. This is accomplished through a proprietary conductive coating that is applied to the glass during fabrication. A specially designed controller supplies an electric current to the coating, which heats the glass with precise control. 

“Heated glass may be a brand new concept right now, but it won’t be long before [the] technology is a commonplace and indispensable part [of homeowners’] everyday lives,” says Mike Hobbs chief executive officer of Engineered Glass Products. 

Hurricane Impact Windows and Glass

“With the onslaught of some of the most powerful hurricanes to strike the Gulf Coast in decades [taking place over] the last two years, hurricane impact windows are fast becoming a household word,” says Thomas J. Kopec, North American architectural manager for DuPont. 

In the not so distant past, laminated glass had only been used in applications for security purposes and sound reduction (i.e., airports). Today, an increasing amount of laminated glass is being used in the residential market in many parts of the country. 

“An important by-product of the devastation caused during the last two hurricane seasons was a growing movement to implement new and improved statewide building codes,” continues Kopec. “This is a vital component as the states rebuild and move forward to protect citizens in a better way than they have in the past. Presently, the Gulf and Atlantic states either have standards in place that require the use of hurricane windows in residential and commercial buildings or are currently developing specific codes that require the use of hurricane impact windows that meet wind-borne debris protection in residential and commercial buildings.”

Indeed, the residential market continues to be a prosperous one for the glass industry. And, as the industry continues to evolve homes, in all likeliness, will continue to be a hot spot to showcase this growth.


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