The Glass Performance Days will officially kick on Thursday, bringing together some of the best and brightest of the glass industry.

 Often called the “largest international conference on architectural and solar glass,” the conference will feature an array of speakers focused on the industry’s immediate and future challenges.

Here’s a take from Guardian’s Earnest Thompson on what’s happening there:

There are two stories about Glass Performance Days (GPD), the self-proclaimed “largest international conference on architectural and solar glass,” that formally opens tomorrow in Tampere, Finland.

The most obvious is the extensive deep dive into the latest in glass technology and design by many of the best and brightest folks in the glass industry. The other is the getting there. Because whether you originate in Moline or Mumbai, Manchester (UK) or Munich, getting to this small town between two lakes an hour or so north of Helsinki, is an indirect experience.  As in “you can’t get there from here.”  But therein are its charms and the travel lore of many of the technorati in the glass industry. They usually meet in Helsinki, the last stop before Tampere. And finally connect from there.

The conference has been held every other year since 1992 in this gentrified factory town, the largest inland city in Scandinavia.  In strong years, it attracts nearly a thousand participants. This year, with much of the Eurozone still suffering from economic doldrums, attendance is expected at about 550.  The quality of the speakers and the companies represented on opening day and throughout the conference, however, remains top notch.

Guardian’s Flat Glass Group president, Scott Thomsen, and Viracon’s CEO, Kelly Schuller, kick things off on Thursday with speeches that will call for the glass industry to revitalize, innovate and keep glass a building material of top choice. DuPont’s global business director for advanced interlayers, Jonathan Cohen, and Dow Corning’s VP for high-performance building solutions, Dan Futter, will finish up the opening session with looks at trends in the construction market including portfolio management and product life cycles

GPD chairman Jorma Vitkula says challenging times have brought out the best in the glass industry elite.  “The need for cost-efficient innovation has seldom been greater than in these financially difficult times,” he said.  “This is a forum for sharing knowledge, stimulating discussion and healthy debate and advancing the technologies that will keep glass at the forefront of the industries it serves.

GPD actually kicked off earlier this week with two days of workshop sessions.  Industry pundit Bernard Savaete of BJS Differences built on his presentation at GPD China a few weeks ago with a talk on “What You Should Know About the World Flat Glass Industry & Business,” an overview of major primary glass manufacturers and global projects.  Other workshops looked at chemical strengthening, an intro to vacuum insulating glass (VIG) and laminated glass application in architecture.

Thursday’s parallel sessions cover coatings technology and applications; tempering and pre-processing; a scientific session from European glass luminaires representing a cross section of glass and material research; a forum of architects including a panel discussion to wrap up the day; and a session entitled “Innovations in Analytics.”  We’ll report on highlights from those sessions later in the week.

But for now, we just have that second story: the journey.  June gloom lingered over Finland as participants arrived throughout the day on Wednesday.  But even a steady rain couldn’t put the damper on the biannual “nerd-apalooza.”  Afternoon flights filled with conference attendees took off from Helsinki for the half-hour final leg of the trip.    Multiple languages mingled throughout the plane with “GPD” the most oft-recognized word.  Texts flew back and forth about who was at which hotel and dinner plans before the GPD begins Thursday morning.  By early evening on Wednesday, glass folks from throughout the value chain had gathered and the conference was ready to begin.

Stay tuned tomorrow for more about the opening speeches and afternoon technical sessions.