From secondary glazing to thin-triple and laminated insulating glass units (IGU), the glass market is adapting to demands for cost-effective, lightweight and energy-efficient windows. PGT Innovations launched its own thin-triple venture, Triple Diamond Glass, in an effort to tap into the underused market.

Months later, another player is up to bat.

Alpen High-Performance Products announced that it now sells thin-glass IGUs to other window manufacturers and glaziers, upending industry nomenclature (for “thin triples”) by offering quad-pane configurations. The Louisville, Colorado-based company also announced a partnership with Kensington HPP for east coast distribution via Pittsburgh, extending distribution nationwide.

Alpen CEO Andrew Zech says the company currently has three thin glass suppliers. He adds that five years into production, “we’ve really mastered the manufacturing processes.”

While awareness for thin-glass IGUs has remained low despite patents dating back to the 1980s, Zech says his company detected a turning point recently when peers and competitors began asking about thin-glass products.

“Is it hard? Is it doable? Are people buying it?” Zech says companies have frequently asked. “As we received more questions, we started thinking, ‘You know, automating this just for our own use is really missing an opportunity and an industry need.’”

Zech says thin-glass production has already been profitable, making up “probably more than 98%” of Alpen’s current sales in doors and windows. At the same time, the thin triples are “accelerating energy code standards and Energy Star 7 [requirements], which are putting a lot of stress on us window manufacturers,” he says. “And North Americans like their windows narrow and thin.”

According to Zech, thin-glass units allow companies to use existing window designs without changing hardware, no change to depth, no change to manufacturing processes—literally by doing exactly the same thing they’re doing today.

“All without breaking the bank, which is something we’re also pretty proud of,” he says.

Alpen’s IGUs incorporate thin glass ranging from 0.5 to 1.1 mm. Quad-pane, 1-inch IGUs with two lites of thin glass produce R-15 thermal performance. Zech suggests that the additional weight and thickness are negligible compared to double-pane IGUs.

As for PGTI’s new Triple Diamond Glass subsidiary, Zech says Alpen views them as collaborators.

“They’ve been helpful,” he explains. “We’ve shared intelligence back and forth on the market, and we want to get the market familiar with thin-glass IGUs because I think once the market is familiar with what they are and what they can do … I think there will be a stampede. And we want that. I think it’s great if there are multiple players, so we’re not alone in the desert, trying to spread this … I think there is a massive market here that is way under-penetrated.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *