After a three-year delay, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) National Conference on Architecture finally returned. The event took place in Chicago (what a great city for architecture) and you could feel how happy and excited people were as they headed into the expo hall. While there were fewer glass and glazing industry companies compared to years past, the industry was still well-represented. Here’s a look at some of my top takeaways from the event.

Chicago, with its glassy skyscrapers, welcomed the 2020 AIA Expo.

Play it safe: Products for safety and security glazing seemed to have a bigger place at the show than in the past. Companies such as Armortex and Total Security Solutions focused on glazing products that can provide added levels of protection. Not surprisingly, schools are a big market, and so are federal government jobs. Also, probably not surprising.

Armortex was just one exhibitor focusing on safety and security.

Big Glass is Still Big: Not just the big glass, but big doors, windows and openings. Companies like C.R. Laurence (CRL) and Nanawall featured their movable glass wall systems which help create seamless openings. The Palisades series from CRL includes folding and sliding options. The sliding system has an option for automation along with a sensor that prevents it from closing when movement is detected. Over in the Nanawall booth, it was good to see a new face with the company. Kevin Frisone, previously with Saint-Gobain companies Vetrotech and Sage Glass, had recently started with Nanawall and was excited to represent these new opportunities.

Nanawall featured its moveable glass wall systems for both interior and exterior applications.

Make it Pretty: Decorative and specialty glass didn’t have a big presence on the show floor, but the products are still in high demand. Dreamwalls featured its decorative laminated glass featuring a variety of interlayer materials, such as mesh, fabrics, foils and even leaves and grass. The result is a unique aesthetic that can also provide some privacy. For added function and options, the glass can also be laminated with a magnetic layer.

Out of the Box: “It’s like an Italian sports car.” That’s how Connor Leahy with ASSA ABLOY described the company’s new Box Track Glass Sliding System. The sleek, smooth-operating system is designed for interior applications and can be used with glass doors from 3/8 to ½ inch thick. Speaking of interior applications, Leahy agreed with a common theme among others in the industry, noting that glass is being used more and more in offices for walls.

Down to Two: If my memory serves me, back in 2018, when the show was in New York, AIA made the expo two full days instead of two full and a partial. They carried that over in 2019 and again this year. Personally, I think it works much better as a two-day show. Sure, the final day may still be a bit slower than the first, but you still keep a good crowd throughout the day.

Next year the show heads west to San Francisco, so mark your calendars for June 6-10, 2023.