Building the Industry of Tomorrow

In the past four weeks, I have witnessed a grand display of future-focused aspiration and innovation in the glass industry. This began at glasstec last month and will continue this week at GlassBuild America in Las Vegas, and it was the central tenant of last week’s 2016 Facade Tectonics World Congress.

The two-day façades conference, organized by the Facade Tectonics Institute, brought together academics, architects, engineers, manufacturers, façade contractors and more for high-level research based discussions on the future of the façade industry. The message of the conference was clear—the construction and design industry is witnessing a remarkable and fast evolution toward buildings that perform better, are made with more sustainable materials, and are healthier and more comfortable for occupants.

“What drives me is the recognition of the role the façade has in addressing the issues that affect our planet—climate change, sustainability,” says Mic Patterson, current president of FTI and director of strategic business development for Schüco USA.

“We are committed to the advocacy for high performance facades,” says Helen Sanders, incoming president of the FTI and vice president of technical business development for SageGlass. High-performance buildings of tomorrow will not only need to lessen the impact on the environment, but will also need to be healthier for occupants, she says. “By 2020, according to the World Health Organization, the top two health issues will be heart disease and mental health. Our challenge is to create a building that is healthy for people. The building envelope is part of that,” Sanders says.

These future buildings, and their façades, will be more complex; they will feature new materials; and they will push the envelope of what existing materials, like glass, can do. Meeting the demands of these projects requires collaboration among all players, from the architects to the glazing contractors. It relies on continued advancements of materials and changes in how those materials integrate with the building as a whole. This future building industry will present great opportunities to companies up and down the chain, if they get on board.

“The changes of the recent past are accelerating. We are seeing a fundamental change in material systems and how we use them,” says Bill Kreysler, president of panel fabricator, Kreysler & Associates Inc. “This is a time of change. The most dangerous thing you can do is not.”

“The drivers in our field are owners, manufacturers, architects, engineers, glazing contractors,” says Chris Stutzki, founder and owner of Stutzki Engineering. “It starts with the owner to push change to the architect and engineer. They have to push the manufacturers to make new products. They push the glazing contractors to learn how to install.”

Large-scale changes to the industry will be slow in coming. However, many smaller changes have already begun. Better-performing products, next-generation glasses, and more efficient equipment were discussed during the FTI conference and are on display at glasstec and GlassBuild America. These changes are all key to the greater evolution in building better buildings.

The time is now to get informed and get involved. In the words of Steve Selkowitz, senior advisor for building science at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: “think big, start small, act now.” 

Katy Devlin is editor of Glass Magazine. Contact her at kdevlin@glass.org. 

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