The Bounce Back

Architectural Glass Usage Set to Rebound in 2021

By Nick St. Denis

Entering 2020, architectural glass usage was expected to moderate as construction starts slowed. Then came COVID-19, and that moderation turned to deprivation.

While contract glaziers remained busy with ongoing activity throughout the year thanks to existing projects and strong backlogs, the construction industry also saw a significant period of stalled construction starts. This resulted in a decline in demand for architectural glass during that time.

However, there is light ahead. An expected rebound in the economy in 2021 means a boon to construction starts and a return in demand for architectural glass—a welcomed sight for manufacturers and fabricators.

Key Media & Research conducts industry-wide research for custom and syndicated reports, including the annual Glass and Glazing Industry Outlook. Visit for more information.

The ever-important office sector also saw a significant decline, albeit at a
lesser rate of 19%.

Looking ahead, KMR projects that all commercial categories except lodging will increase by single-digit percentages. Office will bounce back with a 5% uptick in architectural glass demand, while retail and the “other” commercial segment will also see rises in demand.

Architectural glass usage in nonresidential and high- rise multifamily construction starts will increase 4% in 2021, following a 16% decline in 2020.

Glass usage in high-rise multifamily construction, which includes multi-unit residential buildings that exceed six stories and use nonresidential-style glazing systems, will increase 2% in 2021 after a 6% setback in 2020.

In terms of ongoing projects, the institutional segment of nonresidential construction pushed through 2020 with resiliency, as many of its sub-categories, such as healthcare, education and government buildings, were deemed “essential.” Starts in these segments, however, did suffer similar to the commercial side. Square-footage demand for architectural glass for institutional building projects declined 18%.

As with commercial, institutional demand will rebound modestly in 2021. The healthcare sector is expected to lead the way, with a projected 9% increase in architectural glass demand.

Nick St. Denis is the director of research for Key Media & Research, parent company of USGlass magazine.

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