Volume 50, Issue 7 - July 2015


Pedal to the Metal: Look Past the Glass for Ways to Drive Your Business

Glass might be the No. 1 focus, but there are plenty of other ways glass shops and contract glaziers can add some extra dollars to their bottom line.

“Over the past year or two, we have noticed many more glass contractors crossing over into exterior metals. We rarely saw this until recently, but now we’ll quote a glass contractor a few times a month for flush or corrugated wall panels,” says Mike Petersen, CEO of Petersen Aluminum in Elk Grove Village, Ill. “We think this is because they are already so close and familiar with those products through their glass work, that they’re packaging it together.”

Gary Sprague, vice president of design for Los Angeles-based C.R. Laurence Co. Inc., says he is also seeing an increase in the level of work that glass shops are taking on involving metal in the façade. He describes some of these applications as “highly unusual.”

“One of the interesting facades had perforated triangular projections with inconsistent patterns that resembled facets, but more commonly stainless steel wired mesh with a top and bottom tensioning system applied to improve a structure’s appearance,” he says. Another project he describes features panels that hinge open over the entire face of the building to provide shading from the sun. “Some are fixed and some are operable to allow in light or help improve views out of the window.”

Petersen adds that the use of metal wall panels is another popular option.

“We’ve seen an increase in this trend over the past two years, and don’t see it slowing down. We’ve also seen architects use products such as standing seam panels, which traditionally are used on roofs, applied vertically oriented on walls, columns and other exterior building elements.”

Russell Lindstrom, manager/inside technical sales in Firestone Building Products’ Anoka, Minn., office, says aluminum plate rainscreen panels seem to be a top choice when durability is imperative.  

“Architects really seem to like the sharp, crisp edge of a no-return or no-reveal panel,” he says. “In some cases, intricate geometry is desired, and a panel manufacturer design team needs to get involved early in the process to come up with a viable solution.”

This increasing interest in metal products, Petersen explains, is not necessarily because the products are changing aesthetically, but more because architects are getting creative and innovative with their designs.

“As architects’ designs continue to evolve in interesting ways, metal products look better and better on their buildings,” he says. “We’ve noticed the use of long, narrow flush wall panels either as accent elements or to create a large, smooth, clean pattern on walls.”

For contract glaziers that want to get involved in the architectural metals market, there are a number of considerations to keep in mind. Lindstrom says that communication and coordination are also important.

“Since metal wall panels are always the last products on the building and are fabricated to such tight tolerances, the manufacturer generally can’t start fabrication until the building can be field measured and essentially ready for panels. For this reason, lead time tends to become a critical issue if all parties involved are not communicating and planning strategically ahead of time.” 

For some companies, the thought of venturing into products with which they might not be familiar can be intimidating. But Sprague says there are resources and suppliers that can help.

“Don’t be afraid of more elaborate metal construction, because there are companies that can support you and allow glaziers to do those installations,” says Sprague.

—Ellen Rogers

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