Volume 40,   Issue 7                                  July 2005

Upfront and in Style
Storefronts and Entrance Styles Provide Function
by Brigid O'Leary

Nothing says style like a dramatic entrance. But, as it turns out, the glass and glazing industry is as equally concerned with practicality as it is with drama. The popular trends in storefronts and entrances today can be defined by the world in which we live and the needs (and desires) we have created for ourselves.

In Demand
So what are architects asking for by way of storefronts and entrances these days? Clark Folsom and the company with which he works, U.S. Aluminum, has seen a steady request for standard paint colors on glass and thermal systems. These trends are echoed by others in the industry.

“It seems the trend for me is [toward] finish color; [it’s] going to painted finishes. [For designers] to add a little personal touch or to put their name on the building,” says Tony Kamber, regional aluminum manger with Arch Aluminum. 

Steve Green with Tubelite agreed.

“A lot of architects are leaning toward special finishes and more customized hardware applications,” Green says. “They’re getting away from stock doors and frames and going to a customized or modified door.”

The demand for painted finishes caught Bill Sullivan by surprise. Sullivan, who is general manager with contract glazing company Heartland Glass Co. Inc., compared today’s market to the one of ten years ago.

“I didn’t anticipate the use of painted finishes would make up as much of our business as they have,” he says. “I credit the metal manufacturers for improving their painting processes, which has led to reduced pricing and decreased lead times to get painted products to the market place.”

Not everyone has seen paint grow to be a significant component to the industry. Penn McClatchey with Southern Aluminum Finishing Co. still sees more anodized and white finishes, than lots of color.

“I think ten years ago everyone thought paint was going to eclipse anodizing, and that hasn’t happened. My sense is that we may have reached equilibrium, which is why there aren’t many strong trends in the finishing department. Ten years ago, the thought was that paint was going to take over. I don’t sense that trend anymore, myself,” McClatchey said. 

However, customization is definitely the way to go for many architects, as Eddie Bugg, product manager with Kawneer, attests.

“It wasn’t long ago when the basic architectural door bore flat, extruded push/pull hardware, was often manufactured by the door supplier. Many of these entrances are obviously still found today. But now, it is more common to see ‘softer,’ more rounded, ‘wire’ push/pulls produced by hardware manufacturers. Other door hardware is more sophisticated too. Emergency exiting devices have evolved from ‘crash-bar’ design to ‘touch-bar’ style, providing more functionality while exhibiting European aesthetics,” Bugg says.

Safety First
Specialty designs, unique hardware and colors may be common requests in the industry but security products are also in high demand—maybe more so than anything else right now—and the shift comes as no surprise.

“The security issues were driven more from the last few years and what has happened with terrorist attacks and things along that nature, and a lot of it has become more important, the blast resistant and the application on the first couple of floors and some storefront applications. It was around, people used it, but it really became highlighted with 9/11,” says Green. “There’s more access control type hardware, security hardware, things of that nature, that are … driving a lot of building owners to look into systems like that.”

Events that have occurred since the turn of this century have certainly played a key role in shaping the industry across the board, something that is hard to miss.

“September 11 had an effect on a lot of people. [Now] you’re looking at blast-resistant systems that the government started [requiring], and the new codes on the coastal areas demanding more impact-resistant systems,” says Folsom.

Bugg also named security as one of the design trends shaping the industry right now.

“I don’t think anyone can deny the demand for enhanced security and protective glazing capability. Technical terms [such as] access-control, forced entry, burglar-resistance, bullet-resistance, bomb/blast-resistance, fire-resistance and hurricane impact-resistance are common in project specifications today,” Bugg says. 

McClatchey has definitely seen business change some where security is concerned.
“There is a greater emphasis on security now,” he says. “It hasn’t changed the way we do business, but we are getting inquiries for jobs where there is more emphasis on security, blast-proof panels and so forth. That would have been unheard of five years ago.” 

Know the Past, Know the Future
That the changing times dictate the trends in any aspect of the world, be it fashion, music or architecture, should come as no surprise. However, for the glazing industry, the market trends for storefronts and entrances have not been changing very quickly.

“From a storefront perspective, it hasn’t really changed over the last 10-15 years,” Kamber says. 

But things can and will continue to evolve. Right now, there is a growing interest in thermal protection. 

“You’ll see a lot more thermally-improved systems now than ten years ago. There’s more of an energy concern. And again, in doors and frames, there are more modified and customs, and specialty hardware that is required,” says Green, a feeling echoed by others.

“I think what you’ll find [is that] overall on the horizon there will be more emphasis on thermal improvement. We’re going to be asked to make our systems perform better,” says Kamber.

Sullivan thinks so as well.

“The use of thermally-improved entrances and framing will increase in the next five to ten years. I think the aluminum manufacturers will make improvements on their current designs that will make them more marketable to their customers,” he says.

The overall look of storefronts and entrances is changing, too.

“Entrances themselves—[they are] going to a more medium style configuration rather than the normal style, more for a durability perspective than anything. It’s probably important to note, though, that there is no such thing as a ‘standard door’ anymore, with all the new bottom rail and configurations,” Kamber adds.

It is sometimes easier to have an idea of where the market is going by looking back at how things have changed. 

“Generally speaking, architects are requesting storefronts and entrances that provide similar performance to other fenestration products, and sometimes more,” says Bugg.

“Gone are the days when architects and building designers conceded the storefront or entrance area to be the ‘weak zone’ of the building’s façade. Product technology now permits inviting architectural entrances with inherent performance, that no longer require compensating double vestibules and heat curtains.” 

Sullivan noted that Heartland Glass uses fewer clips than they did in the past, with architects wanting more “flush-glaze systems with medium stile doors.”

“I would say the development and use of multi-plane flush-glaze systems will continue to increase. Also, the use of medium- and wide-stile doors with their wider sight lines is preferred by architects in lieu of the narrow stile door. We rarely sell a narrow stile door anymore,” Sullivan adds. “I think the basic storefront systems will remain similar as they are today. They are readily available and easy to fabricate, which make them attractive to glazing contractors. I think the metal manufacturers will improve their current offerings in thermally improved entrances and framing, which will make them more marketable.”

Though future market trends can be predicted, to a degree, by knowing what was popular before and taking note of what the current trends are, prophesying the future still relies on a certain amount of speculation.

“Well, it’s a continuing innovation industry to me. You always have to be on the … look out to improve your products,” says Folsom. 

The Author:
Brigid O’Leary is an assistant editor of USGlass magazine.

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