Volume 49, Issue 1- January 2014

Reflections of the Future

Glass Market Trends Support Kitchens and Baths of Tomorrow
by Jenna Reed

When pondering glass of the future, one of our favorite childhood cartoons The Jetsons might come to mind. While we might not yet have the option of instantly creating a meal at the touch of a button or being surrounded by glass that works seamlessly with technology, is this vision of the future that far off?

From the appliances we use to the backsplashes decorating our kitchens, glass is creeping into our everyday lives more frequently.

“We see smart appliances that are able to ‘think’ for themselves,” says Vince Capozzi, Guardian’s global market director of appliances. “What is great about glass is that it can be the interface between the user and the appliance. Appliances will be able to transmit data that can help keep food preserved, prepare food and shopping lists. Glass can be the medium for that communication.”

“The way we use glass has changed, as our lifestyles have changed,” adds Mike Johnson, Pilkington’s regional sales and marketing manager.

“The display market continues to grow steadily. Lifestyles have changed; available morning time has been compressed for the typical family. Display technologies have allowed the basic TV to become easily integrated into a fluid bath and kitchen design,” he explains.

Taking a more decorative architectural view, Ryan Price, Guardian’s global product director of interiors, adds, “Glass provides a surface that can integrate into any design concept. Its surface is easy to clean, highly reflective and allows great transparency. It can be processed to bring dramatic texture, color and light into any space.”

Quite simply, glass can be used in a multitude of ways to enhance natural light and add pattern and texture, while perhaps also including a note of practicality.

“Technology has the potential to transform what products architects use in future designs for the interior and exterior,” says Capozzi. “Some items may become more multi-functional and the versatility of glass will make it so.”

Glass is easy to install and keep clean, making its popularity climb in a multitude of uses, points out Alice Dickerson, AGC Glass Co. North America’s manager of marketing communications for building and industrial products.

“Whether it is in the bathroom, or any room, it can be used in cabinet fronts, counter tops, vanity tops and more. More glass tiles are being used, as well. And glass can be added in a solid sheet, such as for backsplashes and in bathrooms, so you don’t have grout lines to maintain,” she explains.

The Glass Landscape of Tomorrow

If we look back ten years or so ago, glass tended to be used wherever transparency was needed. But the landscape of kitchens and bathrooms is changing.

“Today, the use of glass has expanded dramatically,” says Price. “The range of applications has increased as well as the decorative and functional elements within each of those applications.”

A big example of this is the introduction of backpainted glass, meaning it can now be used more often on walls to add a variety of colors and a unique look.

“Colored glass tiles, as well as entire glass backsplashes are very popular today,” Price says. “Similarly, some high-end design settings are using an accent wall of backpainted glass as an alternative to tile in a luxury shower enclosure.”

The ways glass can replace traditional materials appear almost endless.

“Some innovative firms are using glass as a counter or surface material,” Price points out. “ThinkGlass in Canada uses a fusion process to create thick glass counters that have some inherent scratch-resistance. Coatings such as Guardian’s ShowerGuard® and DiamondGuard® will seal the glass surface, making it easy to clean and ten times stronger than ordinary glass.”

And don’t forget about the possibilities cast glass, acid-etched glass and high-end textured glass products can bring to architecture, he notes.

AGC offers Krystal Patterns™, which is a low-iron decorative glass that can be used in interior applications to liven up a kitchen or bathroom’s atmosphere.

Dickerson says this glass “creates unique, distinctive patterns with varying degrees of privacy and diffusion while producing a virtually colorless appearance.”

Pilkington has an array of decorative glass offerings, as well, including Pilkington Texture™ for cabinet designs and Pilkington Optiwhite™ low-iron glass, which can be used in shower enclosures, backpainted glass and more, according to Johnson.

Speaking of appliances, Capozzi says glass usage here is also taking on a bigger role.

“We certainly see evidence of a continued increase in glass usage over the next five to ten years,” he says. “In addition to the decorative types, we see an increased usage in appliances, where the appliance has an integrated control screen for additional functionality. We also see increased use of glass in traditional appliances such as oven doors that use larger ‘windows’ into the appliance.”

Interactive display technologies are expected to grow in design interfaces, says Johnson.

Pilkington offers several products geared to this market, such as Pilkington TEC™, which is a touch-screen substrate. This glass is a “conductive surface product that has many applications that apply to the kitchen marketplace such as being an integral component product to touch-screen systems and is used extensively in thermal oven lites,” Johnson says.

Products of Tomorrow

A hot topic area for growth in research and development is “switchable” glass products. Price says Guardian’s glass has a special film laminated between two glass lites that can switch from opaque to transparent when an electric current is applied.

“We are involved in various advancements in backpainted and low-iron glass products, and other innovative options for commercial and interior applications,” says Price.

“We will begin to see more products that use display and data technology that integrate the functions of a home and create value and efficiencies for the home owner,” Capozzi adds.

According to Johnson, designers are looking for products that not only incorporate “desirable aesthetics, but also address the need for functional information convenience.”

“Today’s information-dominated lifestyles demand more than just pleasing looks. It will include TV news, events, a social media connection, phone and email capabilities, home systems’ management and more,” Johnson says.

The products on the market have already brought the future to today, Johnson adds.

“We are seeing architects becoming aware of these capabilities and seeking assistance in developing those performance specifications. We continue to push the design envelope and are excited about where these applications may take our pyrolytic product offerings,” Johnson says.

 


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