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.
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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 MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com. 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.