Volume 37, Issue 4, April 2002


The Disappearing Colors
       Finding a Way Through the Maze of Colored Glass
by Dez Farnady

The subject is colored glass—again. Over the years I have explored most of the colored glass options and suggested ways through the maze of performance specs. And now it looks as if I am going to be out of business because we are going someplace else again. It is neither common sense nor economics that seems to be dictating change. I guess it must be progress.

History Lesson
Let’s do a little historical review. Since I am a glass hustler and not a scholar, this will be short on research, long on opinion and far from complete. The first two hard-coat reflective tinted products were designed for reflective coatings on the outside only. When we first saw the third option, green reflective, it was offered on both the number-one and number-two surfaces. After the first success of the green reflective new manufacturers capitalized on the idea with new products and both first-surface reflective and second-surface reflective options were offered on other colors, doubling the number of products available on the market.

The real impetus for use of second-surface reflectives was the availability of deeper colors and better-performing tints providing an opportunity for a brand-new look. Led by the second-surface green reflective, all greens took off and appeared in commercial buildings everywhere, as architects became enamored with the color and tired of the mirror look of the first-surface pyrolitics and the sputtered products. Even the old non-reflective greens that had been around for years were finally accepted in the marketplace, with performance capabilities that had been there all along.

At about this time, the first green reflective was taken off the market, opening the door wide for the next guy in line. As the new multi-color market expanded, it started an avalanche. Every major float manufacturer came out with multiple greens, blues and blue reflectives, and some of them put coatings on everything they had. The color chase was in full swing. No two colors matched and every manufacturer was trying to out-do the others with new colors and new performance numbers. It got to the point where I could not tell you how to find your way through the maze. By the way, five years after the first green reflective went off the market and lost the opportunity for a lot of business, the manufacturer brought it out again disguised by another name.

The Present and Future
Now, we have dozens of blues and blue reflectives, a bunch of greens and green reflectives, plus all of the bronzes and various grays with or without coatings on number one, two, three or four surface offering hundreds of options. But maybe soon nobody will care. It is a safe bet that because of the color similarity and the performance duplications, some of the colors will disappear.

And, the worm has turned. Progress and evolution are off again in a new direction. A new, clear product has moved into the driver seat. It has 70 percent light transmission and is virtually indistinguishable from clear glass. This, the wave-length-selective coated product, is the glass of the future. Having taken over the residential market, the new hard coat as well as some of the soft-coat performance low-E products are starting to show up specified in the commercial market. Obviously, because of their performance capabilities, their first target is tinted and reflective tinted glass. Without having to sort their way through the color charts, it appears that the architects and glass contract estimators will now be able to go back to sleep.

DEZMAN Dez Farnady serves as general manager of Royalite Manufacturing Inc., a skylight manufacturer in San Carlos, Calif. His
column appears monthly.


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