The industry has been hearing an increasing amount of discussion about over-sized glass. James Cole with AGNORA, Jeff Haber with W&W Glass and Kelly Schuller with Viracon participated in a panel discussion this week that addressed this growing trend. The session was part of the Glass Association of North America’s (GANA) Building Envelope Contractors (BEC) Conference, which concluded yesterday at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.
The panelists pointed out there are a lot of unique details to keep in mind when working with this material.
“As you bid these jobs, you have to change your mindset of logistics – how do you get started, how do you get the glass in, do you need a crane, more manpower, specially designed suction cups, etc.” said Haber. “There’s a tremendous amount of logistics challenges with handling this glass. You need to work with the fabricator well in advance of that order because it all makes for a better and more efficient project for your client.”
Schuller added that given the complexities over-sized glass can present, it’s important to get started with the design process as early as possible. “Communication is always important, but with this size and weight we take it a step up,” he said.
There are also a number of unique design considerations.
“Our biggest is everyone wants [thin] IG and you have to make the glass thicker, thicker and thicker, and it always seems to be a bit of a surprise to the client,” said Cole. “So we have to explain to them why [it can’t be thinner].”
Haber added, “We’re seeing they want these huge panels and invisible supports with magic silicone holding the whole thing together; it’s much more complicated. You’ve got to think outside the box, and sealant details become critical.”
Currently, glass of these sizes is mainly be used on podium spaces of buildings. Panelist expect, however, that as more and more companies offer it and become comfortable working with it we’ll see it migrate to others parts of the building. Still, there are some limitations.
“There’s only so much money companies are willing to put into R&D unless there’s a project that drives it, and that’s usually how it goes,” said Haber. “Be realistic about what you can and can’t do. I think a lot of fabricators are where they are because architects pushed them there.”
Cole added that his company has seen a lot of request for huge curved glass “and that’s not something we do today.”
Audience members also had the opportunity to ask questions, one of which addressed warranties. Cole said at his company they invite clients to inspect the glass before it ships.
“And if there are issues with glass we stand behind what we sell [and fix it],” he said.
Haber said having a visual mock-up for these jobs is critical.
“The client’s expectation of perfect glass is not really what they get,” he said, pointing to details such as seams in the glass. “Do the visual mock up so you understand what it will look like.”
And what about the availability of float glass and the possibility of a glass shortage, also discussed during the conference? These fabricators don’t expect it will impact their offerings.
Cole said his company’s oversized glass is purchased from PPG and Pilkington in North America, while coated glass is sourced from Saint Gobain in Europe and “for us, we plan and forecast ahead.”
Schuller added, “in general glass is tight, but if we plan and communicate well, it won’t limit us from supporting our customers. We don’t see any issues with this size on glass supplies.”