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Industry Experts Look Ahead to Next Ten Years

Future of Glass

Now that the world has entered a new decade, people within the glass industry are making predictions about what they expect to be the biggest issues and advances facing the industry over the next ten years.

Energy Efficiency

One trend continuing into 2020 is the focus on energy efficiency and how that will impact codes and product development. The market environment in which the glass industry will do business will likely change even significantly in 2020, according to Helen Sanders, strategic business development at Technoform North America, in response to the need for more sustainable buildings and changing labor market needs.

“Twenty years after the introduction of the LEED certification program, the conversation has moved beyond recycled content and above-average energy performance. In addition to addressing lifecycle impacts such as embodied carbon and end of life, the focus is on how the built environment affects people’s physiology and psychology,” says Sanders. “While the mantra of ‘first, do no harm’ is a good place to start, there’s so much more at stake when we spend 90% of our time indoors. The focus on ‘building for people’ will continue especially with the U.S.’s continued reliance on the knowledge economy.”

Sanders expects to see these trends culminate in an increased focus on how glass and aluminum products are manufactured (what energy source was used, energy intensity and sustainability of materials used) and where they are manufactured (how renewable is the electric grid).

“Fabricators will need to pay more attention to these issues, improving the sustainability of their processes and providing transparency to the market (which will likely also result in cost savings),” she adds.

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Paul Bush, vice president of quality and technical services at Vitro Architectural Glass, anticipates a major emphasis on how codes drive development in the glass industry over the next ten years.

“Without question, current code drivers, such as sustainability and the demand for energy-efficiency, will accelerate over the course of the next decade. Just as glass coatings and other technologies have advanced to bring us to where we are today, it is likely that we’ll see a continued evolution in products and processes that improve glazing performance, most notably U-values. While triple glazing, vacuum insulating units, dual facades and multiple coated surfaces are already in use, we can expect to see an increased market penetration of these technologies,” says Bush. “Now that the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) has added energy to its mission, industry advocacy for the adoption of higher-performing glazings will result in more and better energy codes across the country. The drive to net-zero buildings has only begun. In addition, as newer building codes emerge, states and large cities begin to address other environmental factors, such as bird-safe glass, acoustical performance, global warming potential and security, opening up niche opportunities for glass fabricators.”

While Chuck Knickerbocker, curtainwall manager at Technical Glass Products, sees code changes impacting the glass industry this decade, he also foresees having to fight for its place on the façade. He expects bird-friendly glass to make it into the International Building Codes after inclusion into some city’s codes, and also anticipates more retrofitting of existing walls built prior to the 2000s.

“The battle for the wall will turn into a war,” he adds. “We have to get a handle on cleaning up the NFRC approach (or better yet exceeds NFRC) that realistically models and accurately predicts wall performance, including spandrel areas, insulation and materials used in windows/curtainwalls other than glass.”

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The Labor Shortage and Project Efficiencies

Some, such as YKK AP America Inc. marketing and communications manager Steve Schohan, expect the labor shortage continuing to impact manufacturers and contract glaziers into the new decade.

“Shop fabrication, unitization and ultimately on-site fabrication are trends that we are likely to see given today’s budget constraints, increasingly tight schedules, the need for rapid building close-ins and the shortage of skilled labor,” he says. “Labor shortages in the U.S. and across the globe will continue to challenge glaziers as well as manufacturers. This will drive research and development efforts into innovative construction technology like robotics that will address these challenges and enable more rapid building close-ins.”


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but several aesthetic trends have cropped up in the architectural community in recent years. Industry experts expect some of those trends to intensify while others have the potential to shift over the next decade.

“‘Maximalism’ is a newer trend that is gaining traction after many years of minimalist design,” explains Schohan. “These more intricate designs are likely to replace boxier designs that have been the standard for several years. Manufacturers will continue to focus on innovative product development to enable these intricate designs to work in lower-cost buildings.”

Schüco USA president Attila Arian anticipates that the interest in oversized glass will continue to drive development in the industry.

“The architectural demand for big glass and maximum transparency will drive the development of new operable systems including windows and sliding door systems to go in tandem with custom curtainwalls,” he says.

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Impacting Glaziers

Arian also expects that developers will engage more directly with glazing contractors in the next decade and demand for them to not only cover the initial installation, but the maintenance of the building envelope. He also predicts that the development of installation robots will impact pricing and scheduling of glazing installations.

Knickerbocker says he hopes to see more parametric generation of parts drawing directly from the architect’s 3D models of the project.

“Somehow, the present architectural contract documents to submitting shop drawings for review and approval then preparing part drawings before fabrication starts, that whole process can and should change, significantly cutting lead times to when glazing systems are installed onsite,” he explains.

“Collaborative ‘integrative design’ will slowly replace the design-bid-build process, which has thus far hindered the speed of innovation and technology adoption, to support the need to manage the complexity of delivering higher performance buildings,” adds Sanders. “Digital design and construction tools will continue to improve efficiencies and allow the complex to become constructible. Outsourcing of curtainwall design to specialty consultants and delegated design to glazing contractors will become increasingly widespread, as the complexity of systems increase.”

For the Fabricator

Arian also says digital fabrication methods will enable fabricators to build complex facades at competitive pricing over the next ten years.

“This will, however, lead to a larger concentration of fabrication capacity in the hands of fewer companies,” he says.

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