Key to capitalizing on the growing construction market is meeting changing customer demands. This was clear on the AIA Expo 2015 show floor, as glass and glazing companies demonstrated product innovations that meet the needs of the architectural community.
What do architects want from their glass and glazing? According to glass company exhibitors, they want two things: performance and custom aesthetics. However, those two concerns are far from mutually exclusive, as designers seek glass products that marry performance and aesthetics, and offer both within budget.
From the AIA Expo floor, here are seven ways glass and glazing companies are adapting to meet evolving demands and profit from a changing industry.
1. Change manufacturing to keep up
“The design community continues to challenge us,” says Joanne Funyak, coated products manager for PPG Ideascapes. “They’re asking what’s new and when can I get it? We’re making capacity improvements. We have to look at the equipment we have and what can be made more easily to deliver and deliver faster as everything is picking up.”
2. Build relationships with owners and builders, not just architects
Many in the industry are seeking ways to “drive the adoption of the product,” as Erich Klawuhn, vice president, product management for View, puts it. One way to increase awareness of new products is building relationships. “Architects can’t always make the decision [for building products]. Our relationship with builders and owners is equal to architects.”
3. Invest in customer-centric technology
Technology is a top priority for many glass industry companies, with firms making updates and innovations often with the architectural customer in mind. Guardian Glass Analyticss, for example, allows architects and other customers to integrate products into their perceived design digitally. “We want to help architects in specifying products. We’re constantly adding on technology components to make our products easier to see,” says Chris Dolan, director of marketing for Guardian Industries.
“We have to make using our product easy for [the customer],” adds View's Klawuhn. View introduced Intelligence Version 2, a connective predictive glass that uses weather feeds to clear or tint. “We’ve updated the technology to gratify the customer.”
4. Anticipate demand
Viracon’s Garrett Henson, vice president of sales and marketing, says the industry is seeing a lot of activity again. “Customers are challenging us from an engineering standpoint to come up with reliable, safe technology to get more glass. We have to produce and invest capital to keep up with the desire.”
5. Invest in process for today and for the future
Building sustainability has been a theme for architects and the building community for many years. Mike Turner, national operations manager for YKK AP America, says resiliency is an upcoming theme within the industry, and notes YKK AP’s investment into resilient buildings. “We’re trying to design structures that consider how you maintain them after warranties run out. How easy will it be? How accessible will the parts be?” he says.
6. Produce products that answer the question: What do you want it to do?
“Architects have challenged us with design, to see if we can do it,” says Alan McLenaghan, CEO of Sage Electrochromics. “Now we’re asking ‘what do you want it to do?’ I want to help architects achieve their dream. By listening to the voice of customers, we’re adapting product for how it will be used in the space. It has to fix the problem.”
In a similar way, Kawneer Co., in conjunction with its partner companies Reynobond and Traco, offers architects complete solutions for all major market segments. “By adapting our products, we can give architects the flexibility to work them into any design,” says Karen Zipfel, director of marketing for Kawneer's parent company Alcoa Building & Construction Systems.
7. Educate at every stage
More product education is needed across the industry. As a result, David Potter, Northeast regional sales manager for Pella EFCO says manufacturers have had to make an investment in their web presence. “Architects first go the a company’s website to learn about products. With an effective website, customers can be highly educated after one view. Then, still try to get them into the office for education on proper application and determine the right solution.”
Kevin Norcross, general manager for Vetrotech, says with a niche and technical product like ceramic fire-rated glass, education for the architect is key—in terms of codes, specifications and life safety of the product. "We are always getting more questions from the architectural community, especially about [Environmental Product Declarations] and [Health Product Declarations]. It’s very important that we continue to educate the community.”
—Bethany Stough, managing editor, Glass Magazine
The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.