Fired Up: Why we need to keep bridging the gap between form and function

Each year, manufacturers release dozens of smartphone models that boast new, sleek designs and cutting-edge screen displays. But, to claim the title of best smartphone, you know as well as I do, the phone better offer more than industry-leading design specs. If a smartphone doesn’t have good battery life, fit easily into the palm of your hand, have stronger glass than last year’s model, resist water, and sport a camera that’s inching closer to a Canon, it won’t make the best-of-the-best lineup. 

Steve Jobs understood this concept when he said, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” As I’ve been reminded with our country’s devastating natural disasters, Steve Jobs' philosophy doesn’t just apply to smartphones and computer tech. It holds equally true in the glazing industry. 

Architects are constantly looking for glazing products that provide both form and function. They don’t like to temper their design aspirations simply because an application is required to meet strict building codes. They also won’t dispute the value of glazing products that meet hurricane-related building codes, fire and life safety requirements and product certifications.

I believe our industry has recognized the design community’s need for products that deliver on both fronts, and we’ve responded with creativity and innovation over the last decade. The trouble is, many design teams are still under the impression that protective glazing products don’t look as good as they perform. 

While there are many reasons this disconnect can occur, I believe one key contributor is architects aren’t aware of the latest protective glazing products. In the last few years alone, we’ve seen a boom in multifunctional glazing products like silicone-glazed fire-rated glazing and design-forward options that meet strict Miami-Date County and state of Florida requirements. They combine performance with style in a way not previously possible. The glazing industry is aware of the value these new products provide. Is the design community? 

Another potential cause of this disconnect is firms aren’t familiar with the level of design support that manufacturers, suppliers and glaziers can provide. When in doubt, they go with what they know works. A recent AIA survey on architect specification supports this conclusion, stating approximately 75 percent of architects reuse specs from previous projects. This doesn’t have to be the case. If glass industry professionals are involved early during the design and specification phase, we can help design teams land on a new solution that achieves both their desired aesthetic and performance goals. 

It’s also important to be our own advocate and show design professionals that we hear their needs and are continuing to rise to the challenge. We’ve made great strides in offering higher performing, design-forward products. As Katy Devlin said so well in her latest Glassblog post, “Time and time again, the building community has looked to the glass industry to develop better performing, safer products that can stand up to unexpected disasters, whether environmental or man-made. And, time and time again, the glass industry has answered that call.” I’d add that we’ve responded to this call on the design front, as well. It is innovation when we provide products that allow people to walk by buildings without realizing the interior or exterior glazing meets strict building codes. Let’s make sure we are promoting it. 

David Vermeulen is the national sales manager for Technical Glass Products (TGP), a supplier of fire-rated glass and framing systems, and other specialty architectural glazing. TGP works closely with architects, designers and other building professionals, providing them with the state-of-the-art products, service and support to maximize design aesthetics and safety in commercial and institutional buildings around the world. 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.

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