During the last 10 years, the architectural industry has transformed from a business of two-dimensional drawings and standard systems, to a 3D world with custom demands and consistently increasing performance expectations. This complexity in the design world has been matched by accelerating R&D from building product manufacturers, along with widening product offerings and system possibilities.
In no industry has this been truer than the glass business, where manufacturers have rapidly grown their glass and framing options to provide better performance and more aesthetic possibilities. An architect now has a million potential glass and glazing system combinations to choose from when specifying products, according to estimates from industry officials during the opening panel at the Glazing Executives Forum, held in conjunction with GlassBuild America last week in Las Vegas.
The proliferation of product options pushes the envelope of what is possible on the façade. However, it also opens the door to confusion, mis-specifications and frustrations. And, that can lead to glass-clad buildings that don’t meet energy-performance expectations, which harms the whole industry.
“In some areas of the world, we’ve lost the ‘Battle for the Wall,’” said GEF panelist Jay Phillips, commercial segment director, Americas, for Guardian Industries. In South America, for example, architects are looking to alternative materials for their building facades due to concerns that glass buildings won’t be able to perform, he said.
Educating the design industry about the best use of glass products on the building will be critical to combating misuse of glass products and misassumptions about performance potential, the panelists emphasized.
“We need to be thinking about educating the industry at large,” said Mic Patterson, director of strategic development for Enclos Corp., during the GEF panel. “We need to be collaborating as an industry. … We need to be figuring out how to do this better [in terms of performance], and taking it to the street. And we need to make sure that the technological improvements and enhancements are appropriately utilized.”
At every level in the glass industry—from manufacturers to fabricators to glaziers—companies need to make sure their architectural reps and project managers are familiar with the most up-to-date product options on the market. They need to be aware of the best ways to ensure performance and cost-effective product solutions. They need to assess the needs of each project individually and be able to communicate the best product options to the architectural team.
“It’s not a single product, or what the product can do. It’s the need—what is the design intent, and what are the design requirements,” said Glenn Miner director construction, flat glass at PPG Industries, during a recent interview. “I ask architects to tell me what they are looking for. I don’t want a [performance] number. Say ‘I wish I didn’t have morning glare, or I want the view in the afternoon, or I wish I had more control.’ We can find you glass solutions to fit your needs.”
—Katy Devlin, Editor, Glass Magazine
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