Volume 40,   Issue 7                                  July 2005

They Love Thick Glass
and Things
That are Lively...
Architects Eat up All AIA Exhibitors Had to Offer on Glass
by Ellen Girard Chilcoat and Charles Cumpston

In Las Vegas, plans for new hotels, resorts and condominiums seem to be unfolding faster than you can say “hit me” to a blackjack dealer. Considering this current construction boom, there probably was no better city to host the 2005 American Institute of Architects (AIA) National Convention, which took place May 19-21 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino. According to show organizers the event drew a record number with nearly 25,000 registrants reported by the last day—a more than 10-percent increase over last year’s Chicago showing. The number of exhibiting companies reached 860.

Many glass professionals will agree: when it comes to specifying materials for a job, their biggest competitors are not necessarily other glass companies, but other building products manufacturers. Fabricators and glaziers alike recognize the critical role architects play in the design and construction of buildings, and are taking strides to see their products are specified. 

What the Architects Asked For
When it comes to glass and related products architects came to the AIA show looking for a variety of information and products.

Mark Honchell, a registered architect in Towanda, Pa., whose firm MH Design does a lot of work with hotels such as Hilton, Marriott and Intercontinental, came looking for information about energy efficient glass. 

“Hotels are interested in this technology because glass is the major source of heat loss in these structures,” he explained. They’re also interested in environmentally-friendly design, he added. “We’re using geo-thermal technology and design and we need better glass to go along with it. I want to know what energy-efficient products are available.”

Honchell said that “maybe we’re not as sophisticated as we should be in terms of what we spec.”

Jeff Sullivan, an architect in Naples, Fla., said that he is looking for a type of glass that he saw on television that mixes the glass with metals like stainless steel. “I thought I saw something like that. Who makes it?” he asked. 

“It was like on one of those scientific shows, I think,” he added.

Sullivan, who does high-end residential houses, said he was looking for glass that is “out of the norm,” but that “clients, because of the cost, are reluctant to use sometimes.”

Maybe getting glass from China would be an option, he said.

He had one final question: “Can they fabricate tempered or bent glass in the field? If they could, it would change the whole industry!” (And he gave a thumbs up.)

Joseph Iuviene, of Architectural Bureau in Chatham, N.Y., whose firm does a lot of restoration work on historic buildings, said he was in the process of doing his first curtainwall. 

“I’ve been reading about bricks for 30 years and I’ve looked at some of the glass stuff but never really paid much attention. Now, I need a quick course in how to build a curtainwall,” he said.

He was at the show to talk to exhibitors to see what answers he could get to his questions. 

“We know glass, but we don’t know this application,” he stated. And he was optimistic that his visit to the AIA show would help him find the answers and start to get the knowledge that he needed.

Answers from Glass Companies
Education, information, options—according to glass companies that exhibited these are areas in which architects are interested when it comes to glass. 

According to Jerry Razwick, president of Technical Glass Products (TGP), architects want glass to do more, and when it comes to fire-rated glass many options are available. 
“It can meet energy codes, it can be impact resistant and can even be decorative,” said Razwick. He explained that TGP has recently begun working with Joel Berman Glass Studios to offer a decorative fire-rated product.

“There are lots of options now. The world of fire-rated glass has opened up and it’s limitless.”

Also on the fire-rated scene was Schott Glass, which introduced its Pyran® fire-rated glass to the North American market. While Schott has offered fire-rated products in Europe and Asia for more than 25 years, the launch of Pyran marks its introduction into North America.

“It was designed uniquely for this market,” said Barbara Augenblick, director of marketing communications in North America. And when it comes to architects, “new” is what they are looking for. “They also want to make their designs stand out,” she added, and explained one option they offer to allow architects to do so is through their OKACOLOR digital color printed glass. The process uses a glass coating technique that can reproduce both black and white and color images on heat-strengthened or tempered glass.

Providing education was also a priority among exhibitors.

“We’re starting to market more to the architect because our product can be specified,” said Michael Vennix of Azon USA, a first-time exhibitor. “We want to educate them about spacers, and our product is of interest because it can be used in commercial applications, and may be somewhat new to them.”

Joe Erb of Edgetech I.G. also said educating architects was important for his company. Through its AIA continuing education program, Erb said they were able to train eight new people during the course of the show. 

“We made a lot of good contacts, so being here was definitely good for us,” said Erb.
Another company offering continuing education was Vistawall. The company offered a 15-minute program on daylighting that architects could take while visiting the Vistawall booth. 
“We’ve had lots of good traffic and this show has been excellent for us,” said Fred Grunewald, research and development manager.

The Primaries
Four of the domestic primary glass manufacturers were on hand with lots to offer. Pilkington North America launched OptiView, its new anti-reflective glass. 

“While anti-reflective glass is not new, Pilkington’s online manufacturing process removes most size limitations, and opens the door to a wide array of application possibilities,” said Stephen Weidner, vice president of sales and marketing for Pilkington Building Products North America. 

There are a number of potential OptiView glass projects in the works, one already underway is Falcon Wharf in London, a 17-floor, 124-apartment and restaurant complex. Glazing is scheduled to be completed this summer. The company also said that the glass would be used at the airport in Montreal.

PPG Industries Inc. was promoting its Building Renewal Program, which is designed to give building owners and facility managers a one-stop resource for coatings, glass and paint products, and information needed to revive the appearance of older, weathered commercial buildings.

In its booth, AFG Industries Inc. was showing for the first time its new heavy pattern, low-iron Heavy Krystal glass. The spelling of the name is designed to connect the pattern glass with the company’s K glass, explained Mark Montgomery of AFG. The 10-mil glass is available in five patterns, and AFG is also setting up a fabricator program called Pattern Masters for the product.

Michigan-based Visteon also exhibited and promoted the color and versatility of its glass products, and its range of sizes.

Fabricator Front
Arch Aluminum & Glass, Oldcastle Glass and Viracon, North America’s three largest glass fabricators, all exhibited as well.

“We’re trying to increase our exposure and trying to introduce more people to the range of products and services we offer,” said Max Perilstein, director of marketing for Arch.
Oldcastle Glass had a similar objective in exhibiting.

“[We want to] build our brand awareness with the architectural community,” said Shawn Donovan, vice president of marketing.

Christine Shaffer, marketing manager for Viracon, also said being visual to the architects is important.

“We exhibited to have a presence with the architects and to show new products and technologies in the glass industry.”

Once the architects were visiting the fabricator booths they had lots of questions.

According to Perilstein, architects were interested in decorative glass, hurricane-resistant glass and the company’s green efforts. He said they were trying to show architects the many functions of laminated glass. Along these lines, the company was projecting a video onto glass that was laminated with a 7-percent white interlayer. “There were a lot of people who didn’t realize they could use laminated glass in that way.”

In Oldcastle Glass’ booth laminated glass was also a hot topic as well.

“There was certainly a lot of interest in hurricane glass from architects all over the country,” said John Bush, director of laminated glass products and developments. “It’s becoming a national topic, as there are architects in Chicago designing buildings for the southeast,” he said. 

Kathy Finney, an architectural sales representative with Oldcastle Glass said she was seeing architects interested in large glass openings.

“Architects were interested in clear, thick glass and less metal,” said Finney.

Finney added that she noticed an increase in the number of general contractors and glazing contractors at the show.”

They are also looking to see what architects want so that they can be on the same page as them,” she added.

For Viracon, Shaffer said they also talked to many architects about a variety of glass products.

“We had a lot of inquiries for low-iron glass and the low-E coatings that are continuing to evolve,” she said. “They [were also interested in] translucent glass products.”

Creative Thinking
Architects have always been well known for their creative thinking. There are numerous options for using glass as a design element, including decorative glass. Several exhibitors at the show displayed decorative glazing products, and agreed that architects are eager to use the materials in their designs.

Bertrand Charest of Think Glass, a thermoforming glass company based in Montreal, said they had talked to many architects during the show interested in their products.

“Architects are interested in something new, they love thick glass and things that are lively,” said Charest.

In the Think Glass booth attendees could see glass sculptures, walls and countertops.
“We’re starting to see a lot in the kitchen and bath as well,” added Charest. 

BJ Katz with Meltdown Glass, a cast glass manufacturer based in Chandler, Ariz., also said the show was excellent. She said one of the biggest themes they are seeing with architects is the use of more color. She also displayed a colorful glass structure in her booth.

But thermoformed glass and cast glass are not the only types of decorative glazing products available. Arch Aluminum & Glass showed a number of laminated decorative products in its booth. Arch’s Perilstein said architects visiting his company’s booth were amazed at the possibilities.

Hot Stuff
Fire-rated glass manufacturers were another group on hand at the show reporting lots of interest from the architects.

“It’s a changing and evolving market,” said Peter Lindgren, president of Aluflam North America LLC. “There are more products and more competition. One of the big feedbacks we get from architects is that they appreciate there being more options.”

The changing building codes related to fire ratings is also a concern for architects.

“Architects are concerned about the codes and how they are being interpreted,” said Brian Brunette, national sales manager for Vetrotech Saint-Gobain. “There is so much confusion and such a large array of products, but architects don’t know how to apply them.

Mike Haskell, director of strategic partnerships for SAFTI agreed.

“The architects are interested in understanding what is going on with the codes for fire-rated glazing,” Haskell said. “They’re looking for information and they are hungry for it.” 

Bottom Line
Glass, in all its many shapes and forms, is in big demand among architects. And those who perused the aisles of the AIA show found more than their fair share.

But there’s still more to discover. We can only imagine what exhibitors will offer next year when the AIA Show travels to Los Angeles, June 8-10. 

Two Walls in One: Double-Skinned Glass Walls

Why haven’t double-skinned glass walls achieved the popularity in the United States that they have in Europe? This was the question asked in several different ways by audience members after the presentation on the subject by William Braham and Ali Malkawi, both associate professors in the Department of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, during an AIA seminar.

The response was very practical: Energy costs. But it was also conceded that cultural issues have played a role in this as well.

After all, Braham pointed out in his presentation, the concept of double-skinned walls had been very popular in the United States in its early stages.

The presentation was titled Active Glass Walls: A Technical and Historical Account. It was both—technical and historical.

Le Histoire
Le Corbusier is credited with constructing the first double-skinned structure in 1912, a house in the Alps. Not much of significance happened after that until the Loomis house was built in Tuxedo, N.Y., in the 1950s. Then the movement gained strength in Scandinavia in the 1960s and 1970s. 

Next came the energy supply crisis of the 1970s and 1980s, which morphed into the popularity of double-skinned buildings in Europe in the 1990s.

As Braham pointed out, one of the things that makes glass walls so interesting is that they make visible the interaction of the building and its environment.

Technically Speaking
The point of double-skinned walls is the desire to build glass structures that can control the climate so that it is comfortable for the occupants.

While this type of construction has become popular in Europe, the speakers pointed out, there has not really been that much research done on how effectively these skins fulfill the expectations that owners/architects have for them. (Malkawi made the point that there has been resistance in Europe to going back to the buildings to determine how effectively they are operating.)

This is where the work at the University of Pennsylvania comes in. The Building Simulation Group is trying to “take it to the next level,” as the speakers phrased it, by doing research to find out what the variables are with this type of wall and to develop computer models to show how it performs.

Malkawi gave examples of such on-going work being done on Levine Hall, which is on the school’s campus and constructed in 2003. 

The Authors:

Ellen Giard Chilcoat is the editor, and Charles Cumpston is the contributing editor for USGlass magazine. 

© Copyright 2005 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.