Architectural Glass Usage Set to Rebound in 2021

By Nick St. Denis

Entering 2020, architectural glass usage was expected to moderate as construction starts slowed. Then came COVID-19, and that moderation turned to deprivation.

While contract glaziers remained busy with ongoing activity throughout the year thanks to existing projects and strong backlogs, the construction industry also saw a significant period of stalled construction starts. This resulted in a decline in demand for architectural glass during that time.

However, there is light ahead. An expected rebound in the economy in 2021 means a boon to construction starts and a return in demand for architectural glass—a welcomed sight for manufacturers and fabricators.

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The ever-important office sector also saw a significant decline, albeit at a
lesser rate of 19%.

Looking ahead, KMR projects that all commercial categories except lodging will increase by single-digit percentages. Office will bounce back with a 5% uptick in architectural glass demand, while retail and the “other” commercial segment will also see rises in demand.

Architectural glass usage in nonresidential and high- rise multifamily construction starts will increase 4% in 2021, following a 16% decline in 2020.

Glass usage in high-rise multifamily construction, which includes multi-unit residential buildings that exceed six stories and use nonresidential-style glazing systems, will increase 2% in 2021 after a 6% setback in 2020.

In terms of ongoing projects, the institutional segment of nonresidential construction pushed through 2020 with resiliency, as many of its sub-categories, such as healthcare, education and government buildings, were deemed “essential.” Starts in these segments, however, did suffer similar to the commercial side. Square-footage demand for architectural glass for institutional building projects declined 18%.

As with commercial, institutional demand will rebound modestly in 2021. The healthcare sector is expected to lead the way, with a projected 9% increase in architectural glass demand.

Nick St. Denis is the director of research for Key Media & Research, parent company of USGlass magazine.

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