Most everyone has a bucket list–those adventures and experiences we all want to do at least once in our lifetime. Some items might include:

  • Driving across the U.S.
  • Running a marathon
  • Seeing the Grand Canyon
  • Visiting another country
  • Learning to speak a foreign language.

I can check off the first four, and I’m working on number five (I’m learning to speak French via Duolingo). Now, let’s make that bucket list next-level and talk about a must-do list of glass industry items. What would yours include? Visit a float plant? Try your hand at glass blowing? See the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles (i.e., Château de Versailles)? Attend Glass Performance Days (GPD) in Finland?

I would tell anyone who is interested in being a part of shaping and growing the future of the glass industry to attend GPD. Not only do you get to visit the beautiful Scandinavian country of Finland, you get to go in the summer where there’s nearly 24 hours of daylight. It feels a little strange when it’s merely dusk at 11 p.m. but the takeaways from the event are worth it.

After a four-year absence due to the pandemic, more than 500 glass industry attendees returned to Tampere, Finland. I found the conference packed with relevant content, much of which focused on the dire need to address ways the glass industry can help build smarter and more sustainable high-performance buildings.

Light a Match, Watch it Burn

The official GPD opening took place in the evening the day before the full conference sessions began. The opening ceremonies included high-level keynote sessions and entertainment followed by the welcoming Get-Together Party.

This year, prior to the opening, GPD included a glass industry Fireside Chat. This event offered a sneak peek of what the keynote speakers would cover later that evening. Without a doubt, the key takeaways from that session—which also carried the course of the entire program—are finding ways to think and act sustainably; ways that will help the industry reduce its carbon impact in both new construction and renovation.

“We need a carrot and we need a stick.”

Christoph Timm, principal with SOM, was one of the GPD keynote speakers who talked about the importance of building more sustainably.

Those words came from Christoph Timm, principal with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, who shared some passionate thoughts about what’s needed for a sustainable future, including innovation in products and processes. We are facing a climate crisis, he said, and we all have to come together and be serious and honest about the products we need and the processes to make them with the least amount of energy required. This also involves leadership to carry us in that direction, and legislation, much like Local Law 97 in New York. That legislation, if you’re not familiar, will require most buildings over 25,000 square feet to meet new energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions limits by 2024, with stricter limits taking effect in 2030. Building owners that don’t meet the requirements could be fined hundreds of dollars for every metric ton of carbon dioxide above the building’s limit.

Of course, we all know that change doesn’t happen overnight, and as Timm pointed out, change is often difficult.

“Let’s slow down and make the right change,” he told us. “If you want good buildings, it has to take time. The same goes with products.”

Another big takeaway for me was hearing from Yasmin Al-Ani Spence, director at WilkinsonEyre Architects in London, who encouraged the need for us all to simply do less. What does that mean when talking about architecture? Start by thinking about retrofitting rather than building new.

During her GPD session, Yasmin Al-Ani Spence, director at WilkinsonEyre Architects, encouraged a “less is more” design approach.

“We all have the mindset that everything new is the best,” Spence said. “My idea has always been to do less. Go backward to look forward. Reusing a building can also be very exciting. It’s not an easy task, but it’s very efficient and much more sustainable.”

She continued, saying we’ve gone from an era of these star buildings, and now it’s time to be more considerate. Question your clients, she said, of whether something is really needed.

“No building should stand idle.”

Make the Connection

Conversations, connections and networking are vital to any successful business relationship. Those also make GPD special, thanks to the generous coffee breaks and lunches between sessions, the conference dinner and closing farewell party (which for some lasts all night).

For most of us in North America, getting to Tampere isn’t a quick trip across the pond. There are usually two or three flights and a train ride or two to your final destination. But once you’re there, it’s worth it—24 hours of daylight and all.