Industry Experts Look Ahead to 2021’s Possibilities

By Jordan Scott

The COVID-19 pandemic and the U.S. election made 2020 a year of uncertainty. Glass and glazing companies had to navigate nationwide shutdowns and a sudden economic recession. While vaccine news has made many hopeful for a recovery in 2021, much is still uncertain. Despite those unknowns, several industry professionals have offered their insights into which issues and trends glass and glazing companies will have to navigate in 2021.

Helen Sanders: The Impact of Local Law 97

Helen Sanders, strategic business development at Technoform North America, predicts that states and large cities will continue to take the lead in driving energy and carbon efficiency standards for buildings in 2021. This will, in turn, continue to increase the demand for higher performance glazing and opaque envelope solutions.

“We will see further impacts of Local Law 97 as owners in New York City prepare to have to meet the requirements by 2024 in both new and existing buildings. This will drive the need for higher performance glazing solutions and easy to install glazing retrofit solutions,” she explains. “Similar impacts will be seen in Massachusetts, Seattle and Washington State, where codes are becoming more stringent, and the impact of envelope backstops will begin to have an impact on glazing specifications.”

She believes the building code trends in the Pacific Northwest and Northeast will also drive the adoption of Passive House standards, which focus on improving envelope thermal performance through high-performance glazing and on eliminating thermal bridging everywhere on the envelope.

As far as products are concerned, Sanders expects increased adoption of higher performance glass and glazing in places where code stringency is increasing, not-withstanding the pressure of project costs for value-engineering elsewhere.

“This means fenestration with wider, more complex thermal breaks, warm-edge spacers and high-performance low-E coatings. Where budgets are tight, the use of low-added-cost, thermal efficiency improvements for fenestration—such as using Argon and warm-edge spacers—will continue to grow for glass and glazing,” she says.

Syndi Sim: Shower Door Investments

Syndi Sim, vice president of marketing and business development for Diamon-Fusion International (DFI), believes the residential shower door market will “explode” in 2021.

“We have seen an increase in commercial fabricators starting or significantly investing in shower door divisions, including machinery,” she says, adding that DFI’s shower door manufacturers have said their business increased in 2020. “From what I understand, it is because of the shutdown, that people are staying home and investing in remodeling their bathrooms; they are not taking vacations, traveling, going out, etc., like they used to.”

Diana San Diego: Multifunctionality a Key

Diana San Diego, Safti First’s vice president of marketing, expects multi-functional glazing products to be a major trend this year, including fire-rated functions combined with bullet-, hurricane- or blast-resistance.

“As buildings are facing more man-made and environmental threats, glazing products will be asked to do more. We’ve already seen this evolve in schools, where, unfortunately, bullet/attack-resistance is being incorporated,” she says. “In Gulf States and some areas in the Northeast, hurricane glazing is becoming key. If that glazing is in a fire-rated area, we supply fire- and hurricane-rated glazing systems to meet the performance required
without sacrificing clear views. Government buildings such as court houses, airports, military bases, etc., are also starting to require fire- and blast-rated glazing systems.”

San Diego also anticipates that transparent barriers will continue to play a part in design due to the pandemic.

Michael Frett: More Demand

For MyGlassTruck account executive Michael Frett, the most significant glass transportation trend he sees is an increased demand for van, pickup and interior glass racks.

“Because of COVID-19 many companies are purchasing additional vehicles so their workers can travel in smaller groups or individually to jobsites to maintain social distancing guidelines. They were looking to purchase before year’s end to take advantage of tax incentives,” he says. “There’s also a trend toward purchasing pre-owned vehicles because they’re more readily available. New vehicle manufacturers are facing delays because of virus-related shutdowns, as well as difficulty getting parts from OEMs to complete units. This makes used vehicles a quicker option for glaziers to procure and upfit with glass racks.”

Devin Bowman: Glass in Renaissance

Devin Bowman, general manager of Technical Glass Products and AD Systems has several predictions for 2021, including that the commercial industry will turn to glass to preserve a sense of openness while addressing the need for compartmentation.

“Over the last several months, there has been an immediate need to sub-divide interiors to mitigate the spread of infection. As we move ahead with an eye for emergency preparedness, it is reasonable to think these temporary measures may become commonplace. Material selection will be key to the success of building compartmentation,” says Bowman. “Looking to transparent alternatives like glass to preserve a sense of openness will be central to creating interiors that are still light, bright and enjoyable. Fire-rated glass is one existing solution that is well suited for spaces requiring lasting compartmentalization, particularly those with stringent life safety and air quality control criteria.”

Andrew Forrest: Cooling Off, Then a Shift

For Glasshape, which specializes in the bent glass market, little has changed in the spend patterns of the market’s upper end of the spectrum, according to Andrew Forrest, sales director of Glasshape North America in Seattle.

“Albeit, the method of communications has fast moved digital. Our predictions are that 2021 will see a cooling off of the commercial sector with a shift in spend appetite in the top-end domestic market as more embrace working from home,” he says.

Sasu Koivumäki: Automation Integration

Glaston Corp. COO and deputy to the CEO Sasu Koivumäki expects the automation trend to continue into 2021.

“For the North American glass processing market, we anticipate the trend for increased quality to continue. In addition, the importance of machine uptime is ever increasing. Today our customers require flawless quality of the end product, and one could say that the North American glass processing market is shifting toward high quality safety glass
processing,” he says. “A higher degree of automation and ease of use are also clear trends as customers are focused on  growing their business with more advanced products and increased automation.”

Mark Seeton & Nathan McKenna: Re-imagined Commercial Space

“One of the trends we’re seeing in response to COVID-19 is the reconfiguration of offices to make them safer and more hygienic. This has generated interest in low-iron glass, in particular, because its clarity is ideal for maintaining the brightness and transparency designers seek with open office concepts without compromising today’s stricter health and safety protocols,” says Mark Seeton, vice president of sales at Vitro Architectural Glass,” adding it’s easier to clean and maintain.

Vitro’s director of marketing and innovation Nathan McKenna adds that demand for commercial glass will be slightly weaker this year. “… [However], we’ll continue to pursue greater operational efficiencies and operational excellence so that we can meet customer
needs more efficiently as well.”

Thomas Cornellier: Diminished Cash for Investments

Thomas Cornellier, chief strategy officer of TSI Corporations in Upper Marlboro, Md., expects the state of the economy to remain a major concern in 2021.

“This would cause owners and developers to shift capital away from investment into new projects and into a more secure cash position to weather the storm,” he says. “This, coupled with uncertainty in the office market, could shelve a number of planned projects which, for us, would translate into a weak market in the second half of 2022 and into the first two quarters of 2023. However, vaccine news is very positive, and we feel that developers and architects will continue to design projects through the dark days and once the economy stabilizes, projects will be released quickly.”

Janice Yglesias & Steven Saffell: No End in Sight to Labor Shortage

Janice Yglesias, executive director of the Fenestration & Glazing Industry Alliance (FGIA), says the organization expects to see the skilled labor shortage continue.

“Of course, with skilled labor shortages still plaguing industry companies despite continuously high unemployment rates, many are still struggling with having to wear multiple hats and cover work assigned to vacant positions,” she says. “Overall, with promising COVID-19 vaccines on the horizon, 2021 should bring some much-needed relief.”

FGIA technical director Steven Saffell says the pandemic has forced the industry to consider new technologies and to do business in often unfamiliar ways.

“… People have become more accustom and comfortable spending an hour on a Zoom call with someone halfway across the country,” he explains. “You will never replace looking someone in the eye and shaking their hand …, but we will be more conscious of lost time that can now be reinvested into productivity due to technologies like Zoom.”

Jordan Scott is an assistant editor for USGlass magazine. She can be reached at jscott@glass.com

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