Volume 46, Issue 3 - April 2011

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Great Trends in Architectural Glass for 2011
A Look at the Products in Demand You’ll Be Supplying This Year

While we all know architects want to set the trends, not follow them, you just know that at times you’ll see certain products moving more quickly off the shelf (so to speak, for you custom types). That’s why we asked readers of the USGNN.com™ daily e-newsletter and members of the USGlass online community about the trends they’re seeing—and starting—for architectural glass. Whether you love them or hate them, these are the trends you can expect to see at the annual AIA Convention (see page 52), industry trade shows and your next jobsite.

 

1 Performance Requirements? Only Everything
As glass companies provide solutions to more problems, the requirements just keep getting tougher.

“As technology advances, architects are realizing they don’t have to compromise on the design front in order to meet sustainability and performance goals,” says Devin Bowman, national sales manager for Technical Glass Products (TGP). As an example Bowman cites the fire-rated glazing industry. “Architects want all-encompassing fire-rated solutions. At TGP, this has led to an increased demand for sleek fire-rated frames and ultra-clear glazing, which better integrate with existing designs. It’s also led to an up-tick in applications that can pull light in from adjacent places and open up interiors, like glass firewalls and fire-rated glass floor systems,” he says.

Fire protection, sleek design, lots of daylighting? No problem. How about excellent performance benefits, structural stability, throw in some blast or impact resistance and that can go in a historic retrofit too, right? Talk about a tall order.

“This is becoming a much more common trend in project specifications,” says Michael Castleberry, architectural support for Boyd Aluminum in Springfield, Mo. “Currently we all see the standard qualifications for air, water and structural performance, along with the NFRC window thermal performance; lately we have seen a large multifunctional cross-reference for blast and impact requirements on fenestration products within the same project.”

Castleberry adds, “I don’t see this trend reverting back, as in this market project owners, architects and customers are looking to find products that perform across a wide range of market needs.”

2 Quality Matters More
It seems that now, more than ever, product quality is key.

“We feel quality is playing a bigger role in the future,” Juha Liettyä, senior vice president of Glaston Services, commented during glasstec in October 2010 (see December 2010 USGlass, page 64).

Geys Gomez with Bridgestone commented at that same event, “For added-value [products] the customer is expecting quality because they are paying top dollar.”

That could well be the impetus of this latest trend. As contractors and others look for the lowest bidder, glass product providers have replied by improving the quality of their products over their low-cost competitors. Machinery manufacturers are following that same trend with new offerings that help fabricators ensure their quality is top of the line.

“The demand of the quality glass is becoming a must as the architects and engineers today are requiring excellent surface quality and aesthetics of the glass in the buildings they are designing. It is very obvious that this trend will fast explore to all market places, even to those now developing,” Liettyä tells USGlass. He adds, “New glass types are introduced all the time and the energy regulations will lead to tougher quality requirements in the future.” According to Liettyä, fabricators able to produce good quality glass will differentiate themselves from others.

Bruce Lang, vice president of marketing and business development for Southwall Technologies, adds, “Manufacturers that go beyond these minimum requirements have a real opportunity to use quality, rather than simply price, as a competitive differentiator. The automotive industry learned this long ago and is well ahead of the window industry in terms of adopting continuous improvement and total quality management (TQM) systems that focus on serving customers and transforming front-line workers into systemic problem solving teams. The results are an improved reputation with fewer defects and replacements, lower total costs and higher employee morale. Many of the more visionary glass and window manufacturers have used the recent downturn in the automotive industry as an opportunity to hire some of this TQM expertise.”

In some cases glass is being expected to do a little of everything. Still, other suppliers says they’re seeing a lot more interest in glass that does little but look fantastic.

“Design professionals keep finding new and interesting ways to use glazing. One emerging trend is to use the unique depth and shape of specialty glazing materials to create visual focal points,” says Jeff Razwick, vice president of business development for TGP. Razwick offers the channel glass his company distributes as an example. “It can diffuse light, create tight-curving façades, make artistic statements with various colors and surface patterns, and add drama when backlit. We’ve even seen it used as the backdrop of a waterfall.”

John Krajewski, sales representative for Walker Glass, sees opaque acid-etch glass as an example of this hot trend. “All of a sudden it’s been catching on like crazy,” he says.

3 Looking At Glass, Not Through It
In some cases glass is being expected to do a little of everything. Still, other suppliers says they’re seeing a lot more interest in glass that does little but look fantastic.

“Design professionals keep finding new and interesting ways to use glazing. One emerging trend is to use the unique depth and shape of specialty glazing materials to create visual focal points,” says Jeff Razwick, vice president of business development for TGP. Razwick offers the channel glass his company distributes as an example. “It can diffuse light, create tight-curving façades, make artistic statements with various colors and surface patterns, and add drama when backlit. We’ve even seen it used as the backdrop of a waterfall.”

John Krajewski, sales representative for Walker Glass, sees opaque acid-etch glass as an example of this hot trend. “All of a sudden it’s been catching on like crazy,” he says.

“I think [architects] are discovering that acid-etch glass offers creativity away from your typical clear glass. It offers the interior light opalescence. It gives you light harvesting. When properly backlit it gives you a ‘lantern effect.’ … They’re also using it for spandrel.”

He cites a hospital where the company’s acid-etch glass in blue was recently used as a spandrel “because it complements the blue exterior glass without creating the opaque banding line spandrel has. It blends in better as a spandrel and it still gives you obscurity of the regular opacifiers,” Krajewski says.

4 Blast Fuels the Market
“Blast is fueling the market,” commented Castleberry during an industry event last year (see November 2010 USGlass, page 44), and his mind hasn’t changed since then.

“I do believe that the blast-resistant products and blast-resistant building designs are still fueling the market. We still see a high demand for pre-bidding design assistance, specification writing, along with quote requests,” he says. “The difference in the last six to nine months is that more of our customer base (installers and general contractors) are getting in the market, and where we used to see one or two requests for pricing, we are now seeing anywhere from five to eight requests for the same project.”

That’s where the work is, after all.

“Our estimating level on blast and Department of Defense (DOD) projects is increasing exponentially because of the propensity of government and public funding,” agrees Dave Hewitt, director of sales and marketing for EFCO Corp.”

Castleberry adds, “This market segment has truly become a very competitive component of the fenestration industry. If a company is not currently keeping up with the evolving protocols (such as UFC, GSA, ASTM & AAMA), actively reading and understanding detailed project specifications, or making sure that bid packages qualify exactly what has been priced, it could prove to be a very costly market segment also.”

Hewitt says that’s what helps to set his company apart. “If you’re a business like ours that’s heavy on the front end as far as engineering services and reps in the field that have a lot of the engineering tools required, it helps us because it differentiates us from companies that don’t have a lot of those assets or can’t afford those assets,” he says. He adds of this market, “It presents a lot of challenges and opportunities.”

5 Bigger is Still Better
It didn’t start at glasstec 2010 (see December 2010 USGlass, page 64) but the show’s display of a record 59- by 11-foot insulating glass unit certainly got people talking. Then earlier this year at BAU, attendees saw seele’s self-supporting IG measuring nearly 20 feet long, and capable of sizes up to 39 feet (see March 2011 USGlass, page 54). It’s human nature to think that if something is good then more must be better, but this certainly isn’t making the glass professional’s job any easier. Not just the installation of these behemoths but explaining the challenges that come with energy performance. But there are lots of reasons behind the growing sizes of these units.

“We have been seeing extrusion die size design increasing in curtainwall projects over the past several years. The larger die designs have been driven by bomb-blast mitigation, hurricane protection, tightened building codes and the increasing need for natural daylighting in LEED projects,” says Brent Slaton, national sales coordinator for Keymark Corp. in Fonda, N.Y.

Guy Charpentier, marketing manager for Bonnell Aluminum in Newnan, Ga., offers his assessment based on the customers and markets Bonnell serves. “Although the overall demand for aluminum extrusions has been impacted by the downturn in the nonresidential building and construction, we continue to entertain a growing demand for larger profiles requiring critical surface finish.”

 

6 Steel Is an up and comer
Chuck Knickerbocker sees two reasons motivating more architects to call his colleagues at TGP for the company’s steel-framed curtainwalls, as opposed to conventional aluminum framing: performance and cost. As Knickerbocker explains, steel provides better thermal performance since it doesn’t conduct or radiate heat the way aluminum does.

In addition, steel is cheaper to produce; there’s “less embedded energy in turning iron ore into steel than there is in mining, refining and then extruding aluminum profiles,” he explains.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, steel mill products had a producer price index of 159.9 in January, up 2 percent since December 2010. Aluminum mill shapes meanwhile had an index of 182.3 that increased 1 percent between December and January.

On the other hand, Hewitt says, “It’s really hybrids. He explains that being a Pella Co. subsidiary gives EFCO access to “several pultrusion presses where we pultrude material that is replacing aluminum.” On curtainwall systems, EFCO offers a pultruded pressure plate, Duracast®, that he says has “gotten a huge reception from architects and owners in the market place, because it increases your condensation resistance factor.” That’s been touted lately as a big consideration especially for new hospital construction, Hewitt says.

“And,” Hewitt adds, “it increases your U-factor and thermal numbers dramatically … We have the performance values in the metal to handle large sizes and large windloads, [but] put with the components and technology we’re using internally in other materials than aluminum, we’re able to get some very good thermal numbers for U-factors.”

Regardless, it sounds like additional materials are edging into aluminum’s traditional turf.

7 Spider Systems Are On Point
“We have been seeing a lot of call for spider clamp systems here in the Metro New York City area,” shares Robin Selesky Smith, operations manager for ATM Mirror & Glass in Buchanan, N.Y.

Turns out that’s not a regional thing.

“There has been a significant increase in spider clamp fittings over the past few years,” agrees Mike Kushner, vice president of sales for TACO Metals Inc. in Miami. “Architects are specifying spider clamps and fixed point fastener systems for glass façades, canopies and railings. These products have been very popular in Europe for many years and have finally gained acceptance in the U.S. as more testing and engineering data has been made available to support their use.”

Andrew Chatfield, director of architectural glass systems for The Wagner Cos., also sees “more and more people interested” in spider systems. He notes, “There’s obviously some reticence in the marketplace always to use spiders because it’s technology that’s still relatively new to the market, though [people] have been doing it up here in the Northeast for a long time.” The concern, Chatfield says, comes with the exactness required. “You have to put the holes in the right place, you’ve got to drill the holes exactly as they should be and there’s no room for error, there’s no or very little adjustment.”

Chris Dolan, director of commercial glass marketing, Guardian Industries, offers an explanation for this “growing trend in the commercial glass arena” toward point-supported glass. “Architects often look for additional ways to make buildings more transparent. One way to accomplish this is by using point-supported glazings.”

Dolan adds, “Because they are made up of more glass and decorative hardware, these buildings allow for improved transparency and offer additional architectural opportunities in the detailing of the bolted connections. Increasingly popular in Europe, these exterior systems have continued to make inroads into commercial building design in the United States.”

Chatfield agrees that these systems are garnering interest that matches the increasing interest in daylighting. “As I always say, you sell light. Basically you’re bringing the light from the outside of the building to the inside of the building with minimal obstruction.”

Alongside the undeniable push toward energy-efficient glass, Chatfield says he now is starting to get questions from customers as to how they can improve the efficiency of the spider wall by including an IG unit … see Trend #1 …

 

8 Shades Keep Getting Cooler
Today no discussion of glass, and its wonderful ability to let in natural daylighting, is complete without a discussion of how to manage all of that bright light coming into the building.

“Architectural interest in sunshades, principally driven by energy conscious building design, has been on the rise for the past three to four years. While the aesthetic element of sunshades is still important to an architect, the demand for better performing sunshades, which integrate seamlessly into curtainwall systems, is increasing,” says Jot Chahal, product manager of curtainwall, sun control and BIPV for Kawneer North America.

No kidding. What sunshades are able to do now—besides, obviously, providing shade—is getting more complex. For example, Kawneer’s Versoleil sunshade can be adjusted by 5 degree increments, allowing it to be used in applications across the country. Boyd Aluminum offers a sunshade attached to an operable window. Companies such as Doralco and Kawneer offer sunshades integrated with solar panels.

“Bottom line,” Chahal continues, “is that sunshades are no longer considered an add-on to the building façade but have matured into a complete product line, with outrigger and single blade configurations, horizontal and vertical orientations, and a plethora of blade designs, to name a few.”

 

9 Glass (and Manufacturers) Get More Active
We’ve been hearing about dynamic glazing—which can turn glass from transparent to opaque and back again following some sort of stimulus, be it electrical or sunlight—for years now as the next big trend.

“I’m not sure the product is completely there yet, but it is a trend with a worthwhile goal,” comments John S. Baxter of Best Solar Glass Consultants in Perrysburg, Ohio.

But one might say that dynamic glazing manufacturers are becoming more active themselves. SAGE Electrochromics is constructing a new facility that will allow it to mass-produce its dynamic glazing product, thanks to significant contributions from Saint-Gobain (see December 2010 USGlass, page 12) and the Department of Energy. Soladigm, too, has received financing from a variety of sources to put toward a $130 million dynamic glazing manufacturing facility in Mississippi. The company expects to begin producing its insulating glass units starting in 2012 as well. And Pleotint says it has already installed what it believes to be the world’s largest single thermochromic window, 5 feet wide by 10 feet tall. The projects using technology such as this are no longer rare, as demanding energy-efficiency requirements drive architects to think “outside the box” with glass.

Jim Wilson, chief marketing officer for SAGE, gives credit to the codes. “For instance, the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code aims to increase energy savings in buildings by reducing the window-to-wall ratio to just 30 percent (a 25-percent reduction over the previous level of 40 percent). It’s a code based on a rather dated conventional wisdom: fewer windows means better thermal efficiency. The rapid emergence of new dynamic glass technologies that tackle the underlying energy efficiency goals of these codes head-on is a challenge to the conventional wisdom and offers an opportunity to position glass as a net benefit to efficiency, rather than a problem to be mitigated.”

 

10 Retrofit, Retrofit, Retrofit
Retrofits are expected to remain among the stronger markets for commercial glass companies as incentives such as the proposed Better Buildings Initiative promote the many benefits of improving windows and envelopes of existing buildings. Some manufacturers are responding to this trend with the release of products intended to provide a quick fix to outdated windows.

For example, J.E. Berkowitz and Edgetech I.G. partnered on patented technology that uses existing single-pane units to create a triple-pane system without the investment of a full replacement—and without the disruption to occupants of a full tear-out.

According to Ed Berkowitz, chairman of J.E. Berkowitz, “RENOVATE is approximately 50-percent less expensive than a complete tear-out of window systems and is more thermally efficient.”

Serious Materials in March commercialized the retrofit system it used on the Empire State Building, calling it iWindow. The retrofit glass system is installed on the inside of the exist ing glass, and the manufacturer says it can be in place and improving thermal performance in as little as 20 minutes.

“Never before has the imperative to lower energy costs in buildings been so great,” says Peter Rumsey, West Coast director of Integral Group, a design group that has used the iWindow product. “Owners are searching for ways to retrofit older buildings with leaky and inefficient windows, but too often full window replacements are not cost-effective and impractical.”

Manufacturers are responding with creative new solutions.

 



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