Architectural Glass Usage to Moderate in 2020

By Nick St. Denis

Architectural glass usage in the U.S. has begun to level off but remains at a very healthy point entering 2020, according to the annual forecast by Key Media & Research (KMR), USGlass magazine parent company.

Commercial Glazing

The square-footage volume of glass used in 2019 nonresidential building construction was nearly flat compared to the previous year, with a very slight increase of 0.1%, KMR estimates. Several key commercial segments, including lodging and retail, saw decreases, while glass usage in the office sector remained strong. Commercial as a whole witnessed a 0.3% dip in 2019.

In 2020, the commercial side of nonresidential glass usage will edge down just 0.1%, thanks to more moderate declines in glass usage across the major segments. While office building has buoyed activity levels, new retail construction has held the commercial sector back. However, retail continues to see an uptick in renovation construction, which has partially offset declines in new building starts in this category.

Institutional Glazing

The institutional sector has strengthened as commercial is settling down, helping keep glazing contractors and glass suppliers plenty busy. The largest subsector in institutional—educational building—is largely responsible, as it posted a 5.3% increase in glass usage in 2019 and will see another strong uptick of 3.6% in 2020.

The healthcare sector is set to rebound in 2020 with a 4.3% increase, having pulled back 5.8% in 2019 despite showing strength in recent years. The “other institutional” category should descend a bit in 2020 following several years of solid activity, partially thanks to a surge in transportation projects that include large spans of curtainwall and interior glazing for airports.

Multifamily Glazing

Glass usage in highrise multifamily construction, which encompasses multi-unit residential buildings that exceed six stories and use glazing systems similar to non-residential, will dip 8% in 2020 following a more than 5% decline in 2019.

Value of Glass-Related Construction Still Increasing

Despite the flattening and moderate declines in the volume of architectural glass usage in construction depending on the sector, Key Media & Research (KMR) projects overall architectural glass sales to increase slightly in 2020 Annual overall dollar value of glass-related work continues to increase thanks to the perpetual use of higher value-added glazing applications, cost/price increases, and a rise in renovation work among
glazing contractors, among other factors.

Nick St. Denis is the director of research at Key Media & Research, parent company of USGlass magazine. He can be reached at

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