Monday, April 14, 2014

We can debate the merits of programs like LEED until we’re all blue in the face. The bottom line, though, is the performance and sustainability of the building when all is said and done. And while the various green rating systems are pivoting and making efforts to evolve their programs into ensuring long-range success, there’s one process that guarantees it: the Net Zero building.

Slowly but surely Net Zero is taking off. It's important in the glass industry, because the process rewards the glass/glazing performance and basically will force those pesky HVAC guys to size their efforts correctly. Too many times we get blamed (unfairly I must add) for the oversizing of HVAC units because there’s no trust in fenestration. With Net Zero, we’re all working together and the playing field does level. There’s a ton to this process, and it's still pretty raw, but I do believe it will be in the mainstream sooner than many think.


  • Speaking of sustainability, one of the great champions of the effort in our industry is Mark Silverberg of Technoform. Last week he was named to the AAMA Sustainability Steering Committee. Can’t get a better man than that to be a force in the effort!
  • The energy of the trade show/industry conference is the hottest in years. So far 2014 is showing a major uptick in attendance and excitement. A couple more regional shows are coming up to be aware of. The 27th Annual Mid Atlantic Glass Expo hits April 30th in Greenbelt, Md.  Then in Canada, the Canadian Glass Association's Glass Connections conference in Nova Scotia (would love to go, birthplace of the great Sidney Crosby) comes through on June 4-5. Both events will provide excellent learning and networking potential. And don’t forget about the granddaddy of them all, the biggest show in all of North America: GlassBuild America, in September in Vegas. That floor is filling up nicely, and it will be an incredible event not to be missed.
  • After a hiatus in doing interviews on the blog, we welcome that segment back. One area of the business that I am always fascinated by is switchable glass, specifically  liquid crystal and suspended particle products. These products are growing in usage thanks to the boom on the decorative glass side. It’s surely moving up from the “niche” category. So it was great to catch up with Anthony Branscum, director of architectural sales at Innovative Glass Corp. in New York, and talk with him about the growth of the product, some of misconceptions out there and more.

MP: What do you think is driving this positive direction and usage?

Anthony Branscum: I think it’s mainly because the products have come a long way and are now beyond the “Proof of Concept” stage. Architects around the country, and the world for that matter, are realizing the practical benefits of using these products in their designs. Perhaps more importantly, they have gained confidence that the technology will last when it gets out there. They have become educated consumers. 

MP: Speaking specifically on the liquid crystal product, there’s been talk recently in different circles about uneven performance and products failing. Do you think such talk is legitimate or is it being overblown?

AB: I have heard and read some of the same things you are alluding to. There’s a lot of posturing going on within the industry right now. Some suppliers of switchable glass are spending a lot of time bashing their competitors instead of talking about their own virtues. They believe it makes their product appear as if it’s “the best”, but what they’re really doing is hurting the industry at large. They’re creating a perception out there that the product won’t last.  It is simply not true.  When fabricated properly, one can expect many years of service from liquid crystal technology. Of course, there are companies that don’t produce a great product, but they are not the majority, and time will eventually run out on them.

MP: What should buyers do or look for to make sure they are dealing with the right people?

AB: They should make sure whoever they are dealing with can provide them a functioning sample. They should ask for a copy of the warranty. They should definitely ask for references and perhaps ask to see a job local to them where the glass has successfully been installed. If the vendor can’t satisfy these requests in a timely fashion, they should think twice about going too far with them. 

MP: You and your company have been in the switchable space for more than a decade. What are some of the biggest changes you have seen with the product offerings?

AB: The biggest change has been the advancement in the clarity of the LC films when they are in their clear state. The industry has come a long way in achieving better clarity. The second notable advancement would be the film widths. The product is available in wider widths than ever before. This helps satisfy most of the common architectural sizes we come across.

Read on for links and video of the week...

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications.

E-mail him at 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.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Do you have any people around you that like the negative? You know, the folks that always look for the dark cloud looming instead of soaking in bright shiny day? Today for this post, it’s going to be me. This past week, both the USA Today and the New York Times ran stories predicting a crash in the markets. The USA Today piece put a date on it, predicting that in mid-May the market will reach 1,311 trading days since the bull market began, meaning, based on past history, the market will crater. The entire story, with details and statistics is actually pretty interesting. Add in last Friday’s drop, and this theory may have some legs. So will this happen? Let’s hope not….but surely a worry given the coverage popping up in the media.


  • More good news on people, with new gigs this week. I was thrilled to see the story on Chris Cotton at Dlubak Specialty Glass. Chris is a class man, and I think he'll do well in his new role. I feel a connection with Chris on another area as well, as he has to deal with what I do every day. That is the adventure of having a more popular brother in the industry. 
  • One news item that deserves more focus is the “Product Category Rule,” as it plays a big role in the latest version of LEED and is a big component people are looking for when it comes to sustainable building practices. The Glass Association of North America just finished a PCR for flat and float glass, and it’s a tremendous first step for our industry. Props to Urmilla Jokhu-Sowell and her team at GANA for a job well done. Believe me you will see the acronyms PCR and LCA a ton more in the coming months and years.
  • I noticed Glass Magazine added a new blogger last week with the addition of Jeff Razwick of TGP. I am a big fan of Jeff (and his company overall), and he’ll do a super job in that space. It’s a real thrill/honor for me to share spaces with guys like Jeff, Bill Evans, Rod Van Buskirk, Chris Mammen and the great writers of Glass Magazine. 
  • A great follow on Twitter is @TedBleecker, as he always has good and interesting links. This one on the look differences in NYC storefronts in just the last 10 years may be one of the coolest stories I have ever seen. Great piece! 
  • Kind of ironic that in the week I write my BIPV Boom or Bust column, a new report says that market will grow to 2.7 billion in 2019. I guess that would be boom, eh? I did get several e-mails on this subject, and most people are still very leery of the possible success of BIPV, specifically on the curtain wall and storefront sections of the building envelope. 
  • Next week, if all goes well, I plan on having an interview in the space with a player in a market that is growing quite a bit. So, stay tuned. 
  • Last this week… Don’t forget the Glass Magazine Award nominations are due April 17th. This is the most prestigious award program in our world, so do not miss your chance to recognize the people and projects that deserve it!

Read on for links and video of the week...

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications.

E-mail him at 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.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Time is running out to nominate your best product, project or employee for the 2014 Glass Magazine Awards, with the deadline to submit nominations coming up next Thursday, April 17.

This year marks the return of the Best Installer, Best Sales Rep, Best Project Manager and Best Production Supervisor awards. To view candidate criteria and submit a nomination, click here. And remember, after determining the finalists in each people-centric category, the editors of Glass Magazine will open voting up to the industry on, where winners will be determined by popular vote. Thousands of glass industry members voted last year, and we're hoping for even more participation in 2014.

In the most innovative product and project categories, Glass Magazine Awards will be given for the following:

  • Most innovative curtain wall project
  • Most innovative curtain wall product
  • Most innovative storefront/entrance project
  • Most innovative decorative glass project: commercial interior
  • Most innovative decorative glass project: commercial exterior
  • Most innovative decorative glass project: residential
  • Most innovative decorative glass product
  • Most innovative energy efficient glass project
  • Most innovative energy efficient glass product
  • Most innovative specialty glass product (fire-rated, security, hurricane, etc.)
  • Most innovative specialty glass project
  • Most innovative machinery/equipment 
  • Most innovative commercial window 
  • Most innovative website 
  • Most innovative software

More information about the 2014 product and project categories―in addition to instructions for submitting nominations―is available here

Devlin is editor of Glass Magazine. Write her at

Monday, March 31, 2014

Who out there still believes in building integrated photovoltaics? I follow a few people on Twitter who are still loyal to the cause and I know several companies that are confident their product will be the one that hits it big. The reason I bring this up is that this past week I saw a news report that Heliatek reached a new world record in efficiency with its transparent solar cells. I chuckled, because back in my past life I was involved with a product, not too different than the Heliatek one, that I believed and still believe could have been the gamechanger. The effort is still ongoing, but here we are five or six years later, and BIPV is not near the mainstream yet. Will it get there? I still believe that there are too many parts of the building not active and that with the push for net zero and net positive, BIPV is a must. The question is: When will the right product, with the right efficiency and at the right price come to fruition?


  • Meanwhile, the numbers for traditional solar installations are interesting. In 2013, solar-generating capacity beat wind-generating capacity for the first time. By 2023, solar is expected to dwarf wind, almost doubling its output. What’s the reason? Major utilities are jumping on board and pushing it. Clean energy is undoubtedly something that has not reached anywhere near its potential yet.
  • Congrats to my good friend Mike Dishmon of Virginia Glass Products on his recent appointment as VP of Sales and Marketing. Mike’s a great and talented person who will do tremendous things there.
  • Last week I wrote on VUCA, and all week I heard various thoughts and opinions on it.  The main theme was no one had heard of VUCA before, and now that they’ve heard of it, they are fascinated by it. I have to admit, I am too. Really interesting mindset to have.
  • The Architecture Billings Index was a little flat last month, but given how insanely bad the weather has been, with across-the-board complaints on the effect the weather has had on construction, it's not a surprise. I believe good things are still to come.
  • Spring, however, will not be coming. I’m convinced of that. I just think we’ll go right from winter into next winter.

Read on for links and video of the week...

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him at

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.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Last summer we invited a group of architects to Technical Glass Products to discuss strategies for improving building envelope performance. One of the questions on the table was how to optimize curtain walls and façades to address peak loads and total energy usage. While solutions ranged from hyper-insulated glazing that could be operated by users, to improved energy modeling, the success of these strategies kept coming back to how the building is used. 

Too often, high-performance glazing applications miss the mark because performance and use don’t align. This directly impacts people’s perception of glass. If a building has an expansive, double-glazed curtain wall with exceptional solar control and insulating capabilities, but all people remember is the heat and glare that enters through a different window near their desk, then glass loses credibility. 

So, how can the industry develop better glazing solutions that don’t favor performance outcomes over people? An important starting point is to engage the building owner and design team on how the building will be used.  

The more complete your understanding of how a building owner or architect envisions occupants using a building, the better your ability to tailor glass and framing products to meet multiple needs like occupant comfort, task and performance goals such as energy efficiency and life safety. Providing key decision makers with glazing solutions that provide widespread, functional value can also help products from being value-engineered out of the project later. Ultimately, this helps ensure the right product is used for the job.

Honest talk in the planning stage can also help the building owner and architect set realistic expectations. How often will people be near the perimeter of the building? How will user control for operable windows or shades get communicated to building occupants? Is reducing the glazing area necessary to improve energy efficiency? Glaziers and suppliers that identify and work through these questions are better equipped to make product or design adjustments that get the system closer to design and performance goals. 

As Whitney Austin Gray, research and innovation director for international architecture firm, Cannon Design, said in a recent Glass Magazine article, “energy versus health should not be a tradeoff.”

By getting involved early, the glass industry can work to ensure future buildings will have large windows and curtain walls, be filled with warm, natural light and support energy efficiency goals and occupant wellbeing.  

Jeff Razwick is the president of Technical Glass Products (TGP), a supplier of fire-rated glass and framing systems, and other specialty architectural glazing. He writes frequently about the design and specification of glazing for institutional and commercial buildings, and (past) chairs the Glass Association of North America’s (GANA) Fire-Rated Glazing Council (FRGC). Contact him at 800/426-0279.

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.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

When I boarded my plane to New Orleans last week to attend Glass Processing Automation Days, I expected to attend an informative, well-organized event where I would make connections with a wider net of companies and learn more about fabrication equipment. And I did. 

But, when I found myself walking with GPAD sponsors and attendees down the middle of Canal Street in a police-escorted jazz band parade headed to the Creole Queen riverboat, I quickly―and happily―adjusted my expectations. While GPAD is designed to educate attendees on the latest glass processing equipment and software technology, it also presents an opportunity for attendees to foster the family-like relationships of the glass industry. Competitors walking side by side, sharing stories of the past, present and future of the glass industry they all love. 

“The world isn’t standing still; if your business isn’t moving forward, then it’s going nowhere,” said Ron Crowl, president of GPAD organizer FeneTech, during his opening remarks at the 2014 GPAD, held March 20-21 in New Orleans. By the end, one presenter summarized the event, saying, "you can assess if you want to be on the cutting edge, sit back and watch others take the lead or end up on the bleeding edge." 

This year’s 101 speakers and attendees—from as far as Australia and Italy to as near as New Orleans—were a testament to improving business. From the thorough presentations complete with videos and live demonstrations, to the shared memories, jokes and stories from a whole group of what we at Glass Magazine like to affectionately call “glass geeks,” the tone of the event was positive and refreshing, focused on diversification to make business better. 

New-to-the-industry Chip Rogers, president of Woonsocket Glass & Mirror Co. in Rhode Island, perhaps said it best: “It feels great to be with a company that’s actually doing well and growing.” For him, GPAD was precisely what event organizers strive for: a great learning experience. “We made many friends and future business partners. We plan on attending more industry events in the future where we can share our 60+ years of experience with others while learning which directions others are heading.” And isn’t that just what we need?

Stough is assistant editor of Glass Magazine, write her at

Monday, March 24, 2014

How can you really tell when talk is cheap or genuine? To me, when it comes to talking about the economy or the success and quality of business, there are usually telling signs. When people use words like “hopeful” or “looking like it’s going to be…” when asked how business is, those are signs of cheap talk, in my opinion. When times are truly good, the answers are emphatic and the energy is real. At BEC, I am happy to say, the positive nature of attendees' body language and comments was clearly real. While not everyone in our industry is rolling along yet, and we know we have some sore spots, I think we are finally, really, headed in the right direction.

More from BEC…

  • As for the event itself, it was a major success. I have said all along that events like BEC and GlassBuild America have to be supported and successful for the good of the industry. So if you came to BEC, we’ll see you in the fall at GlassBuild, and if you missed BEC, you simply can’t afford to miss GlassBuild now. 
  • I learned a lot from all of the strong speakers. Before the conference, I had never heard of VUCA, but Dick Beuke of PPG explained the process in his BEC presentation. VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity, and all of those items have a serious effect on the business climate. Understanding them, working through them, and overcoming them are crucial for success. The other main highlight for me was Mic Patterson of Enclos, who provided very insightful and meaningful information that had every attendee talking afterwards. I got to meet Mic in person for the first time after and that was very cool. While we sometimes end up on opposite sides of issues, I have immense respect for him. 
  • The day two keynote speaker, Ron Jaworski, sponsored by Guardian Industries, did not disappoint. The energy and enthusiasm he shows on ESPN is not an act. The guy just brings it. And his piece, mixing football stories and business lessons, was excellent. It was a speech that those of us who are not Ivy League grads could really grasp and understand. He imparted lessons that could be utilized in everyday business.  
  • At the end of the day, all of the speakers brought value, and that's huge. Congrats to the brilliant Jon Kimberlain of Dow Corning, who as head of the BEC division did a great job in pulling it all together and making it work. I wish Henry Taylor of Kawneer (past BEC chair) could’ve been there to see it, as Henry skillfully steered the ship through the roughest waters possible, and he would’ve been excited to see this year's event.
  • Others I saw and spoke with: I flew in on same plane as the Guardian team, all good folks with a company that continues to support our industry. One of my new favorites for most intelligent and biggest credit to our world is John Wheaton of Wheaton Sprague. That guy is tremendous and a true plus for our industry. He was on a consultant panel that also included Stephane Hoffman and Tony Childress. That panel could’ve gone on for hours. Also, always nice to see the classy Tracy Robbins of Walters and Wolf, as well as old friend and sports savant Joe Carlos of TriView. Seeing Dave Helterbran out and about was especially awesome since he’s battled some health issues. He looked great and had that classic smile going as always. Mark Spencer of SAPA was in the mix and I know at least one person did confuse him for football star Howie Long. Running into Garret Henson for the first time in a long time was a pleasure, as well as getting to see his Viracon cohort Seth Madole. The Pacific Northwest is always well represented, especially with the new Washington Glass Association leader Bill Coady of Guardian working the room with style. Seeing and working on the fabrication panel with my old co-worker Kirk Johnson was a joy, as was seeing and talking briefly with his Hartung Glass company-mate Nick Sciola.
  • The day-and-a-half event went too fast, and I wasn't able to talk with everyone I wanted to. Hopefully, I will catch up with them at GlassBuild America in September if not sooner. Once again though, the bottom line is these events matter. Being able to learn and network matter, and if you want to grow your business and yourself, you simply can’t miss these.

Read on for links and video of the week...

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him at

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.

Monday, March 17, 2014

“Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” —Peter Drucker

Who is the 'indispensable man" within your organization? Are you that key person? Can you become the leader who makes the difference in your business day in and day out for years?

This afternoon, I will attend the visitation for Bill ‘Chillie’ Childress, who was Bacon & Van Buskirk’s general manager, production manager and glazier for more than 50 years and three generations of family ownership. Chillie was a wild, ornery, outgoing, Arkansas-born kid who was raised in small-town Midwestern corn country, found discipline in the Marine Reserves and construction industry, and rose up through our ranks as shopman, glazier and into the office to become that Indispensable Man.

Known to enjoy his time off as much as he did his work, Chillie was a tall, gregarious, salty, larger-than-life S.O.B. who barely made it out of high school, and knew everyone in Central Illinois he ever met. Chillie loved the routine of rising early and jobbing out the glaziers, pushing the shopmen to get the trucks loaded towards the end of the day, and annoying and harassing the office staff. He loved being organized, telling hilarious stories, enjoying the attention to detail we must have in this business, and doing what he could to keep the general contractors happy.

Was Chillie perfect? No, and he’d be the first to say so. As a kid, he loved basketball but had to go to two different high schools to finish up. In his teen years, Chillie and his buddies would go out at night and get drunk. The next morning, my grandfather would have to go to his house to drag him into work. Chillie would sneak out his back window and beat my grandpa back to the shop, as if he had been there for awhile. In time, his humor, big personality, and the Marines helped bring out Chillie’s natural leadership qualities. When it was obvious he had a passion for the business, had found personal discipline, and had that unique trait that others looked up to, Chillie was given opportunities to learn the business…and he made the most of them.

Chillie’s consistent competitive drive, attention to detail, outgoing personality, desire to learn and day-to-day leadership made him that key person from the late 1960’s through the early 1990’s who helped take Bacon & Van Buskirk from a small paint and glass shop to a strong regional, commercial storefront, curtain-wall and window business.

If my grandfather and father had the vision and business acumen to buy the bus, and others sold the tickets, Chillie was the bus driver. He’d make the personal phone calls or meet after work in the bar to sell the work; he got the submittals together, ordered the material, got the glaziers together, ran the jobs and billed the jobs out with a single invoice. He did it all, got it done, and put a sense of urgency to it. They were HIS jobs, and you knew it. Get with the program, or get out of the way…NOW.

Effective leadership in business changes. Today, the contract glazing business seems like it’s more about risk, complicated construction techniques, effective teambuilding, division of responsibility, sophisticated decision-making, pay requests and pursuit of accounts receivable.

The urgent, personal "handshake is your bond" sales methods, dictatorial ‘Mad Men’ authority style of management, and singular do-it-all aspects of the business have given way to market analysis, constant price-shopping, CAD, BIM, endless transmittals and resubmittals, emails, and multiple responsibilities by team members.

Could Chillie adapt in today’s contract glazing world? Yes. He helped bring on computer estimating and finally understood the advantages of shop fabrication versus field fabrication. Chillie probably would have always had problems with email, though. The older folks in our business recognize the larger-than-life ‘Chillies’ who led the transition from the plate glass business of the 20th Century into the modern, technical 21st Century. Let’s appreciate those who paved the way for us in the industry today and let’s learn from them.

Leadership is a gift that few have naturally, or can develop. Decide now that you’ll become the leader, and make the difference for your organization. Chillie made the difference for Bacon & Van Buskirk, and did it for decades.

“Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.” — General George Patton

Rod Van Buskirk is the third-generation owner of Bacon & Van Buskirk Glass Co., with locations in Champaign and Springfield, Ill. A past NGA Chairman, Rod looks quarterly at the industry from the middle of nowhere, steals ideas from anyone he can and pretends to know what he’s talking about. Rod invites your comments as you are certainly smarter than he is.

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.

Monday, March 17, 2014

I think it’s pretty obvious that I am a very big “support the industry” sort of guy. I believe that the stronger our industry is as a whole, the better it is for all. I believe the industry support—especially in the past year or so—has been great, but it needs to be better. We need more participation at all levels, big and small. So if you are not coming to events like BEC or GlassBuild America, you are not only hurting yourself, but hurting the industry, too. So thank you to all who are involved. To those who are not, I’d love to engage in a conversation with you on why not, and get you on board.


  • This week, it’s the first of two parts from the BEC event in Las Vegas. The kickoff to the event is the technical meeting, and in a change from the past, the meeting brought in a few speakers to mix up the normal committee-style agenda. All three speakers were excellent, and the presentation from Jim Benney of NFRC had potential to explode into a major debate, which I found refreshing since I honestly thought most people had given up questioning why things are the way they are. Kudos to Chuck Knickerbocker of TGP for making the session really special.
  • Seen at the conference: Attitudes were VERY positive about the current market at the Sunday night reception. It was great to see Joe Erb from Quanex, no one more welcoming than him. I also saw for the first time in many years Greg DiVona of Prelco. That was cool to catch up. Chatted with Steve Cohen of Schott and hung for a few minutes with the Argentinian heart throb Hernan Gil of Global Security Glazing. Plus, for one split-second I did see one of my favorites, Cameron Scripture, from Viracon. He’s so popular now I think I have to make an appointment for the next reception. Last but certainly not least, it was great to see the awesome pairing of Jan Rogan and Joanne Funyak of PPG. They, as always, are awesome. 
  • Next week, I’ll recap the rest of the event including the two panel sessions that I am honored to be moderating. To be on stage with the folks on these panels is mind blowing to me. These are really sharp, talented folks who are all huge assets to their companies and the industry. 
  • I just finished the second best “inside story” business book ever, “Hatching Twitter” by Nick Bilton. This was a fantastic read and one that gives great insights into how a startup works, how boards can be seriously dysfunctional and how some ideas just connect when others don’t. The inside stories told were amazing, and how this author got access to the stories has to be a massive coup. In any case, want a great business nonfiction read? This is it. The best of all time remains “The Disney War” by James Stewart. That book will be almost impossible to top; this one came close.
  • Last this week, March Madness is here. Once upon a time I would not miss a second of the action. But as I’ve grown older and busier, it does not have the same draw for me. I won’t even fill out a bracket this year, which is pretty unbelievable to those who know me. In reality, I am getting more and more like that with all sports. Between the priorities of real life taking precedence, and being soured on the expense/salary/cost model of major sports, it’s just not important to me like it used to be. 

Read on for links of the week...

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him at

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.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Researchers working in the windows unit of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Building Technologies Department are perhaps the luckiest people in the window and glass industry. Not only is the view stellar—the various lab buildings are nestled high in the Berkeley Hills, overlooking San Francisco, the Bay, and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge—the work coming out of LBNL’s Building Technologies Department is paving the way for the future of energy-efficient buildings and windows.

LBNL’s Windows and Envelope Materials Group, led by Steve Selkowitz, hosted attendees of the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance 2014 Winter Conference at the beautiful lab site last week, for a guided tour of the various window activities. LBNL has done work in the window industry for more than 30 years, collaborating with industry to “make windows smarter at the level of the window; make windows smarter at the level of the home [or building],” Selkowitz said during the tour.

LBNL conducts a wide range of research, development and performance testing with the goal of converting “windows from net energy losers to net zero, and then becoming energy suppliers to buildings,” according to the group’s resource guide.

At the lab campus, the LBNL windows group operates a number of test facilities, including: the Advanced Facades Testbed; Mobile Window Thermal Test Facility; and the Quantitative Infrared Thermography Facility. However, the main attraction of the LBNL window facilities tour was FlexLab, or Facility for Low Energy eXperiments in Buildings.

According to LBNL officials, the FlexLab will allow users to:

  • Conduct focused research or product development on single components or whole-building systems integration
  • Replace any building system such as exterior building envelopes, windows and shading systems, lights, HVAC, energy control systems, roofs and skylights, or interior components such as furniture, partitions and raised floors.

The lab, which will be operational later this year, contains four 600-square-foot test beds, including one that rotates. Because nearly every building component of the test bed can be replaced, a designer or building owner could essentially create a project mock-up to test every aspect of building energy performance, from HVAC to daylighting. Individual product manufacturers, or industry groups, could use the facilities to test performance of a range of products in varying situations.

“FlexLab embodies everything we’ve learned over the last 30 years,” Selkowitz said.

Visiting the lab was fascinating. However, the real excitement will be watching how activities at LBNL, particularly in FlexLab, pave the way for better and better energy efficiency in windows and whole buildings.

Devlin is editor of Glass Magazine. Write her at

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