U.S. architects look to glass for projects in China

April 3, 2007
COMMERCIAL

High-performance glazing gains ground in the country

The growing number of American architects working in China has opened the doors for U.S. glass companies to become involved in the exploding Chinese construction market, according to representatives from PPG Industries of Pittsburgh.

“There is more construction in China right now than anywhere else in the world,” says William Klingensmith, director of international business development for PPG Performance Glazings. “For the glass industry, there are many opportunities to provide services in support of that construction … as architects design and develop new buildings—more energy efficient buildings—that use more Western technologies.”

Twenty-one percent of U.S. architectural firms are building in China, and brining energy-efficient glazing technologies into the country, according a recent architect survey by PPG. The company released the survey results March 28.

“The world is getting to be a smaller place. There is more flow of information and products, and it helps [glass executives] to understand what’s happening in China and look for ways to participate,” Klingensmith says. “Look at our supplier community—the people who make the equipment—they are very active in China.”

While U.S. glass fabricators need to be aware of the Chinese market, the current involvement opportunities are currently not as great for that segment of the industry, says Max Perilstein, vice president of marketing for Arch Aluminum & Glass Co. of Tamarac, Fla.

“The input in China is more from the primary companies,” Perilstein says. “There are so many fabricators in China. It’s not a great opportunity for anyone over here to go over there.”

However, Perilstein suspects that India might offer more opportunities for U.S. fabricators in the future. “They have an exploding infrastructure, but don’t have the plants set up like China does,” he says.

Klingensmith agrees. The ever-growing number of Chinese glass companies adequately serves the commodity glazing market, he says. “To a great extent, [Chinese glass companies] satisfy requirements as far as fabricated products,” he says. “For glass substrate producers, there is an opportunity for specialty products, and an opportunity for services that support construction there.”

While, most Chinese projects still feature monolithic glazing, Klingensmith says the demand for those specialty products, such as low-emissivity, low-iron and tinted glass is growing as energy efficiency becomes a priority.

“There is an intense focus on energy conservation and energy prices in China,” Klingensmith says. “[The government] is developing regulations and driving the need for [insulating glass] and low-e products across all regions in China.”

Last year, PPG started its International Certified Fabricator Program—an extension of its Domestic Certified Fabricator Program—in the Chinese market to help architects find higher performing products says Annissa Flickinger, leader of PPG’s international architectural services team.

“We’re showing architects that they same products—like Solarban 60—that they get in the U.S., they can also get through sources in China,” she says.

— By Katy Devlin, e-Newsletter Editor, e-glass weekly