Room for Glass Growth in Nonresidential

By Nick St. Denis

The U.S. architectural glass industry is in a healthy position heading into the New Year despite the somewhat skeptical outlook of the overall construction economy. According to Key Media & Research (KMR) data, the volume of architectural glass used in nonresidential construction will expand in 2023 for a second-straight year, albeit at a slower pace. KMR is the parent company of USGlass magazine.

In terms of project starts, some major sectors in construction are flattening or pulling back, including the previously hot residential category and industrial segments such as manufacturing and warehouse. However, the commercial and institutional areas most critical to architectural glass are looking at another year of growth, continuing an expansion that resumed following the pandemic-induced economic downturn.

KMR estimates architectural glass usage* in nonresidential construction (for projects starting in a given year) will increase by 4.7% in 2023 to 178.1 million square feet, following a 6.7% uptick the year before.

Institutional Building

Institutional building starts in 2023 will use 4.5% more glass than a year ago, following a year-over-year change of 4.2% from 2021 to 2022. The healthcare segment is the largest area of growth within institutional building, led by hospital construction. Educational facilities make up a significant share of the institutional building sector and will edge
down slightly this year after seeing a strong increase in 2022. Within the remaining “Other Institutional” category the small but very glass-heavy transportation terminal subsector will see the largest uptick on a percentage basis, while sports stadiums and convention centers will also increase, though very modestly.

Commercial Building

It is anticipated that glass usage in commercial building starts will follow an 8.7% increase in 2022 with a 4.8% uptick in 2023. The two primary categories that took the biggest beating during the pandemic—lodging and retail—are now key areas that are buoying demand for architectural glass. Retail was on a consistent downturn prior to the pandemic and plateaued in 2021. It finally turned the corner in 2022 and is expected to expand again in 2023. The lodging sector (primarily consisting of hotels) plummeted in 2021 but made a sharp turnaround this past year. The ever-important office sector has been flat for several years but is set to bump up in 2023, providing some additional support to the glass industry. Other remaining commercial segments, most of which are less important to the glass industry, will drop rather significantly in the year ahead after a strong 2022.

*The square footage of glass figures estimate the physical volume of fabricated architectural glass used in projects that start in a given year. For example, if a construction project that begins in 2023 will use 20,000 square feet of glass, that entire amount of glass will be accounted for in that year regardless of whether it is installed until 2024, or if only a portion was installed in 2023. KMR uses a variety of inputs, including construction
starts data from ConstructConnect, as a basis, and applies proprietary sector-based formulas to calculate glass estimates. Discretionary adjustments are made based on KMR expertise and analysis.

Nick St. Denis is the director of Research for Key Media & Research (KMR), parent company of USGlass magazine. To subscribe to his free Glass and Glazing Quarterly Review report, or for any other research-related inquiries, email nstdenis@glass.com.

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