Top Takeaways from AIA ’19

By Ellen Rogers and Jordan Scott

Architects looking for new products, technologies and trends in the architectural glass and metal industry found Las Vegas the place to be in early June. And when it comes to construction, Las Vegas is one town doing quite well, making it an ideal location for the American Institute of Architects’ 2019 Conference on Architecture, which took place at
the Las Vegas Convention Center. The two-day expo brought hundreds of exhibitors to the show floor, vying for architects’ attention. However, fewer glass and metal companies exhibited overall this year and several opted for smaller booths. Despite a drop in quantity, exhibitors had plenty of quality products on display. Several trends stood out in the mix of glass and metal industry companies.

Glass Takes Flight

One of the key topics for a number of companies at the show was an increasing focus on bird-friendly glass products. The night before the show opening, Walker Glass, together with Vitro Architectural Glass, hosted an educational event with ornithologist Dr. Daniel Klem, who has been studying and working in this field for 45 years. He says bird-friendly markets are increasingly gaining awareness, and more and more in the building industry are starting to take this field seriously.

Charles Alexander, director of business development with Walker Glass, said what’s interesting about the market for bird-friendly glass is that it’s starting to see activity at the legislative level.

“There’s a new standard produced by the Canadian Standards Association, and what makes it unique is it’s a design- or performance-based standard instead of test-based,” said Alexander.

Vitro’s vice president of marketing Patrick Kenny, added that while bird-friendly glass is an important part of the design consideration, it still has to have energy performance and aesthetics. Through its partnership with Walker, Vitro is providing the substrate with its Solarban low-E coatings to meet those needs.

On the show floor, Guardian Glass highlighted its Bird1st UV coated glass, which works with laminated glass to break up the reflectivity. The UV vertical stripes are visible to birds, but less noticeable to the human eye.

“The UV solution has generated a lot of interest simply because it’s not visible,” said Sarah Wansack, marketing manager for the United States and Canada.

Coatings and Clarity

A number of other glass themes could also be seen throughout the show, many focused on coatings. The German glass company Arnold Glas Corp., which also offers a bird-friendly glass called Ornilux, featured that as well as a variety of other products to help architects create both a high-performance and attractive façade. These include a custom coating that allows architects to select their own unique colors, as well as the performance they want for the glass. Another product is the company’s gradient coatings, which can go from 40% visible light transmission (VLT) to 70% VLT, as an example. This option allows architects to vary the VLT in one piece of glass.

Incorporating neutral colors on a façade is one trend AGC Glass Co. North America has seen. In response, the company developed its Majestic Grey, a light grey tinted float glass with high light transmittance.

“ … Architects want to show what’s going on behind the glass and this gives them the ability to have that appeal as well as the aesthetic,” said Mark Twente, director of marketing. Clarity and transparency are also important within the interior market. Fire-rated glass manufacturer Safti First has responded to this need with its SuperClear 45-HS-LI, a low-iron, 45-minute fire-rated glass. The low-iron glass has more clarity than the
company’s previous fire-rated products in the 45-minute range.

“Architects want clarity in all of their glass products, even the highly technical glass,” said Diana San Diego, vice president of marketing.

Decorative Glass

Several companies showed new decorative options, many of which incorporate laminated glass with other technologies, such as printing, either on the glass or on an interlayer. For HMI Cardinal, decorative interior glass was the showstopper. As Chris FitzGerald, CEO, explained, the company’s recent acquisition of Woon-Tech not only gives his company a tempering presence in the Northeast, but more focus and involvement in digital printing.

Galaxy Glass & Stone showed how printing is great for creating decorative aesthetics. It is printing onto the interlayer material rather than the glass itself, an option that’s less expensive than printing onto the glass because it doesn’t have to be tempered.

Sensitile works with resin laminated glass to create a variety of decorative glass creations that can be LED-lit and used in areas such as screen dividers and feature walls.

Staying Safe

Safety and security continue to be important design considerations, especially when it comes to schools. Armortex sales manager David Hatt said entrances, transaction windows and executive offices in corporate facilities are the most common applications for his company’s products. These include bullet-resistant glass and glazing systems as well as fiberglass wall panels to create bullet-resistance in the walls surrounding the glazing system.

Avanti Systems has also experienced an increase in demand for protective glass products in schools. The company offers interior glass products and has seen more specification of tempered and laminated safety glass.

Getting Hefty

Bigger and bigger openings continue to be in demand, and with that comes the need for stronger and sturdier components and framing systems, among other elements.

In response, Azon has developed thermal breaks that offer low U-values and high strength to accommodate heavy, oversized glass, as well as double- and triple-glazed units. Its polyurethane break adds shear strength to the profile to handle heavier glass and windloads.

Speaking of larger sizes, Panda Windows & Doors featured is TSXO system in which the frame of the profile is 15/16 inches, giving it a very narrow sightline, explained Jennyfer Woods, vice president of sales. She said the slim lines and large glass help maximize views of wherever the application is located. She added that the system is thermally broken and can also be automated. Likewise, the wheels are built into the track.

What trends can we expect next year? Find out when the AIA Conference on Architecture heads to Los Angeles, May 14-17, 2020.

Ellen Rogers is the editor of USGlass magazine. Follow her on Twitter @Ellen Rogers and like her on Facebook at usgellenrogers to receive updates

Jordan Scott is the assistant editor of USGlass magazine. She can be reached at

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