GlassCon Global VE-Glass Expo VE Proved Next Best Thing to Being There

By Jordan Scott

GlassCon Global VE-Glass Expo VE gave attendees and exhibitors a chance to interact virtually in a way they hadn’t been able to during the COVID-19 pandemic. The two-day virtual educational program and trade show also provided plenty of relevant industry seminars and networking events. Just under 1,100 people visited the trade show floor during the event, September 9-10.

In a time when industry events struggle to find their places among websites and video conferencing platforms, the show was among the first to strive for an in-person feel, starting with a virtual lobby. From there, navigating to other “spaces” was as simple as following signs—the same as you would at traditional trade shows and conferences.

“I believe it is the responsibility of all of us in the glass industry to stay abreast of the current technologies and technologies to come. I am glad that GlassCon Global was able to move to an online format so we can still all share information during a time where it has become more difficult to get together,” said Michael Saroka, COO of Goldray Glass, who attended the event.

The Show Floor

The virtual show floor included 80 booths with downloadable product materials and resources. Attendees also had the chance to chat with booth representatives live during show hours.

“This is definitely way nicer and feels like you are actually with people than the other online trade show versions,” said Karen Kubicko with Chelsea Building Products.

Jesse Moy, a sales representative for Groves Inc., said, “… We had some time to connect with and catch up with some of our other industry associates, discussing different trends in the industry.”

Bryan Gallagher with McKeegan Equipment and Supply added that he was skeptical about the new format at first, but thought the layout was done very well.

“It’s just nice having an option in the new COVID-19 world to still be able to connect with current customers and new ones,” he said.

Many exhibitors were excited to speak with attendees about their latest products, especially those related to the pandemic.

“It’s so much different than being live and looking at everyone’s products,” said Leslie Vargas with PRL Glass during the event. “The glass partitions have been in high demand especially since we started offering glass and plexiglass.”

Morse Industries has also seen an impact on product demand due to COVID-19.

“Our focus when engaging with attendees is to let them know we are here for them in these uncertain times with the same passion and intensity and to provide excellent customer service. We also have a big focus on our life-saving safety shield products,” said Daniel Morales, customer service rep.

Jim Branagan from Security Lock Distributors added, “The latest hot item since COVID-19 appeared is anything touch-free and antimicrobial. We have a high demand for auto operators and touchless actuators.”

The Educational Program

The educational program included two tracks with a variety of session topics, such as vacuum insulating glazing; closers for glass doors; sloped glazing replacement with BIPV; artificial intelligence for the glass industry; large format glass facades; protective coatings; the visual quality of glass in building anisotropies in heat treated flat glass; bird-safe buildings; interlayer mechanical properties for use in laminated glass design; structural
sealant durability in cold bent glazing design; semi-probabilistic design of silicone adhesive joints; advanced fire-rated glazing technology; lightweight glass-plastic-composite panels; structural acoustic glazing; thin glass; two-side supported insulating glass units; tempered glass fragmentation testing; cantilevering; purchasing new equipment; and a glass industry outlook.

Dr. Franz Prettenthaler, director of the Life Institute for Climate, Energy and Society at Joanneum Research, gave the keynote address, “Climate Impact and Paris Lifestyle,” on the first morning. He talked about the causes and impacts of climate change as well as the role of glass in a sustainable future. His presentation began with an explanation of what climate change is and how there are natural geological factors as well as man-made factors such as carbon dioxide emissions.

Prettenthaler looked at the carbon dioxide emissions of different construction materials. When comparing global carbon dioxide emissions by industry sectors, steel produces 3 billion tons of CO2 annually compared to 1 billion tons of CO2 annually by aluminum and only 100 million tons by glass. He described glass’ emissions as negligible. However, when looking at a comparison of global average CO2 emissions per ton, aluminum produces by far the most due to its light weight.

In the Transatlantic Debate plenary sessions, panelists discussed how the architectural glass industry can have a positive effect on climate change. Bruce Nicol, head of global design for Merck Window Technologies, moderated the session with panelists Prettenthaler; Aulikki Sonntag, chief business development officer at Staticus; Dirk Schulte, pre-construction executive with Roschmann Steel & Glass Constructions; Kevin Hydes, CEO of Integral; and Graham Dodd, fellow/director at Ove Arup and Partners.

Nicol began the discussion with Prettenthaler, who noted two of the main impacts that pose the biggest problems throughout the world in terms of climate change. To start, he said, are the changes in the water cycle and flooding happening on coastal and river levels, which lead to flash floods.

Hydes followed and shared a perspective on creating better cities and urban spaces, and said there’s a collision going on between climate change impacts.

“For the last six months we’ve had COVID-19; so do we change how we’ve been thinking about buildings, cities and communities to think more about health and less about carbon? Then there is commercial … the economy … [with the] opening and closing of cities, in every industry everywhere there is a massive tension,” he said. “So we want to make sure that climate doesn’t fall off the list [of importance] because, at the end of the day, nothing is relevant if we don’t have a planet to exist and survive on.”

Relative to glass, Hydes said there is a lot to consider.

“Glass is very important. How can we be smarter as individuals, as organizations and as communities, testing what we are doing under these three lenses—climate, commercial and COVID-19,” he said.

The advice given during the live panel discussion, “You’re Purchasing New Equipment—What to Know Before You Buy,” was invaluable for those looking to buy machinery. Panelists included: John Dwyer, president, Syracuse Glass Co.; Nancy Mammaro, president and CEO of Mappi; Louis Moreau, head of innovation and technology with AGNORA; and Mike Rosato, western region machine sales director for Salem Flat Glass &
Mirror. The session was moderated by Ellen Rogers, editor of USGlass magazine.

The machinery suppliers and glass fabricators on the panel said it all starts with trying to understand exactly what the customer is looking for including volume produced, plant space and more.

Rosato said he begins with a series of questions that digs below the surface.

“We need to figure out what they really need, their current production levels, future goals, minimum and maximum sizes, weight capacity, facility requirements, voltage and amps available,” he said. “It involves a series of questions to make sure we don’t over or under sell.”

Mammaro added that visiting the potential customer to better understand what they need is also crucial. This includes looking at everything from the space available, the power in the area, and other factors.

When it’s time for a fabricator to make a purchase, Dwyer said it often coincides with demand.

“We put in a full custom laminating line a few years ago when the demand warranted it,” he said.

Moreau said AGNORA always looks to see if refurbishing is first a possibility, as he says the “brains are always the first to go.”

In “Glass Industry Outlook: Potential Impacts of COVID-19,” Nick St. Denis, director of research for Key Media & Research, parent company of USGlass magazine, gave an overview of how COVID-19 has impacted glass-related construction.

St. Denis explained that the value of glass and glazing work in U.S. nonresidential and multifamily construction during the second quarter of 2020 was down 0.5% from the same period last year, and that the second quarter of 2019 was down 1.3% from the second quarter of 2018. However, this represents projects that were already in progress. Construction starts, which include projects that are first breaking ground, were down 20% in the first half of the year due to COVID-19 delays, according to St. Denis.

The value of commercial glass and glazing activity in the U.S. was down 1.8% from the second quarter of 2020 to the same period in 2019, while the institutional subsector was up 0.6% and the multifamily subsector was up 0.3%.

Former GPD chairman Jorma Vitkala’s provided an overview of the trends that could impact the glass industry most based on recent GPD presentations. He emphasized how much of an impact digitalization will have on the industry, creating a higher level of productivity than electrification and automation have so far.

Other trends include an increased interest in timber curtainwall in the U.S., the desire for glazing systems to be as transparent as possible, more complex facades incorporating bending and screenprinting, free standing balustrades to create unobstructed views, transparent structural silicone, more renovation to improve existing buildings’ energy efficiency, BIPV, smart windows and efforts to mitigate anisotropy.

The virtual event was co-organized by Finishing Contractors Association International and USGlass and [DWM] magazines.

Social Networking

GlassCon Global VE-Glass Expo VE wasn’t all work. Attendees and exhibitors alike were able to participate in fun social events from the comfort of their own homes and neighborhoods while still feeling connected. The show opened with the Run for Glass VE 5K, which benefited St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Several industry professionals participated in the virtual run, including 26 employees from Wood’s Powr-Grip.

Participants also gained points by their actions at the show, which were tracked on a leaderboard. This turned into a $1,268 donation to St. Jude.

There were also three prize winners in the leaderboard competition: Keelan Hofferber from Wood’s Powr-Grip Inc. came in first and won a $200 Amazon gift card. Kelly Jackson from Guardian Glass was second and won a $100 Amazon gift card and Spencer Raymond from GGI was third and won a $50 Amazon gift card.

The event also included a virtual wine tasting, sponsored by Groves Inc. and led by the industry’s very own sommelier, Chris Fronsoe of DeaMor, morning meditation and yoga. Before wrapping up the show attendees connected at a closing happy hour where they discussed the show and caught up with each other.

Jordan Scott is an assistant editor for USGlass magazine. She can be reached at

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