Volume 50, Issue 9 - September 2015

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know …
About the Future of Architectural Glass In One Place
by Ellen Rogers

Kai-Uwe Bergmann with the architectural firm BIG opened GPD 2015 with a keynote session titled, “From Hot
to Cold.”

Most keynote speakers typically offer a message focused on success. Kai-Uwe Bergmann, a partner with the Danish architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), is not your typical keynote speaker.

“Let’s fail together,” suggested Bergmann, during his Glass Performance Days (GPD) opening address. “It’s in failing that you move forward.”

Bergmann provided one of the keynote discussions during GPD 2015, which took place June 24-26 in Tampere, Finland. He explained that with rapidly evolving technology and innovations, perhaps failure is a mind-set that the glass industry should consider.

Just as Bergmann may not be a typical keynote speaker (see box on right), GPD is not your typical conference. The program is comprised of in-depth discussions covering the gamut of architectural glass, from trends to technologies and new developments. More than half of the 500-plus participants at the bi-annual event were there for the first time.

“It’s truly exciting to see that we have more than 500 participants this year at the Tampere Hall, the home of GPD since 1992,” said Jorma Vitkala, chairman of the organizing committee. More than 11,000 delegates have attended during the years to listen to more than 1,000 speakers providing more than 3,000 presentations. “There’s something for everyone in the whole supply chain,” said Vitkala.

This year alone included more than 120 sessions, many of which ran concurrently.

“With the compressed timeframe and all the concurrent sessions, it was difficult to get to many of the interesting topics,” said Julia Schimmelpenningh, global architectural application manager for Eastman Chemical. Speaking of the high caliber of the sessions, she added, “It’s probably better to want to be in four places at one time than to not want to be anywhere, though.”
An Architectural Perspective

As an architect, Kai-Uwe Bergmann, with the Danish firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), brings a unique perspective to the table. He studied glass blowing and also apprenticed under Dale Chihuly. After experiencing glass as an art form, he studied to become an architect. In the realm of architecture, he said, glass has an
interesting role.

His GPD keynote discussion, “From Hot to Cold,” focused on how his firm approaches design.

“Our architecture,” he said, “is formed from its climates, where it’s built. We work in the hottest to coldest of climates. It’s interesting to see how glass can perform as a facade element and how the quality of light moves through it and the different performance elements you can have.”

When speaking of advances in technology, such as 3-D printing, and how these are impacting architecture and design, Bergmann said, “I think as architects, there is pleasure in being naïve because you can dream up things that don’t exist yet.”

He continued, “In every industry, there are pioneers of doing things. We just have to be prepared to fail.” He added that the fear of risk is what often prevents us from making and implementing change on a large scale.

André Noël Chaker (far right) moderated the opening ceremony panel discussion that included, from left to right, Arto Metsänen, Glaston; Johann Sischka, Waagner-Biro Stahlbau AG; Jean-Paul Hautekeer, Dow Corning Corp.; and Jonathan Cohen, Kuraray Glass Laminating Solutions.
That was Then, This is Now

A lot can change in two years. So when a group of opening-session panelists was asked what they see as the most significant change the industry has seen since GPD 2013, the answers varied. Those in the hot seat included Jonathan Cohen, global business director of Kuraray Glass Laminating Solutions; Jean-Paul Hautekeer, global marketing director of Dow Corning Corp.; Johann Sischka, senior vice president, Waagner-Biro Stahlbau AG; and Arto Metsänen, CEO and president of Glaston Corp.

Cohen commented on increasing globalization, while Hautekeer pointed out that energy discussions have evolved to be more focused on climate change.

“The climate is becoming the key topic,” he said.

Sischka noted the increasing development of thin glass technology. Metsänen agreed about thin glass developments, but added that the significant change for him involves the increasing change of pace. “Things happen faster … we need to develop new (technologies) faster together; to start doing and moving faster.”

Word of Mouth

The U.S. represents a significant number of those attending GPD (see chart on left). Global companies such as Eastman Chemical take part in the event, recognizing it for the many benefits it offers. Schimmelpenningh chaired the laminating session, and said it was nice to have a couple of speakers on almost all of the topics from rheological testing to structural glass calculations and acoustics.

“The other items that were brought forward such as welding of interlayers, glass fin design and high-impact testing allowed the audience to understand the growth in the use of laminated glass products to fulfill needs far beyond basic safety glazing.”

Terry Collier of 3M Company was one of the first-time attendees; he was also a presenter, discussing ceramic pillars for efficient vacuum insulated glazing.

“GPD 2015 was a great event that brought so much of the glass industry together. I could learn, present and also connect with people in both formal and informal settings to understand needs, and collaboratively create opportunities and address challenges.”

Collier also took part in the pre-conference workshops, which are intense, day-long sessions that focus on specific areas.

“The content was very good, and I particularly appreciated being able to take classes with colleagues who have a range of issues to solve, which created great discussions both in the class and throughout the rest of the conference. I walked away from GPD having a wide range of perspectives from architects, glass engineers, window makers and suppliers, structural engineers and others all working to create better buildings and the understanding of how and connections to continue to help.”

Some U.S. fabricators also made the trip, including Chris McGrory, president of McGrory Glass, who attended for the second time.

“The benefit I personally receive is the face-to-face interaction with many international manufacturers and glass processing companies. The wide variety of seminars and presentations provides an assortment of topics to meet almost anyone’s requirements,” he said. “The speakers are quite knowledgeable in their respective fields and are open to conversation during and after their specific presentation. The entire event provides a relaxed business environment.”

He added, “On top of all that, the event is well run, which I am sure is no easy task.”

Schimmelpenningh agreed and added that the conference venue and the networking opportunities are plentiful.
“The significance of such a conference is the mixing of academia with industry, theory with practice, veterans with greenies and designers with engineers,” she said. “By putting these people all under one roof, eyes see different opportunities and ears pick up messages that can be mulled over and turned into innovation. Education is also a huge part of what this conference is about—education on the basics, asking ‘why?’ and seeing things from a different perspective. It can be hard to innovate with tunnel vision, and the mix of people, questions, answers and daydreaming are all great seeds.”

Natural Disasters and Design Resilience

A keynote address came from Dale Sands, senior vice president, environmental business with AECOM, who talked about the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters—and raising awareness to improve design resilience. He urged participants to combine innovation and design to help make buildings more resilient.

“Over the last 20 years alone, there is an increasing trend of natural disasters with more intensity and frequency. This is coming from our accelerating rate of urbanization. Today, 50 percent of the world’s population lives in cities. By 2050, this number will rise to 70 percent. China is creating 2.5 cities every year the size of Chicago with a population of 10 million; India is creating one city per year. And we’re not prepared,” he said. “We need to make facilities more resilient and work together with the public and private sectors to change building codes and innovate ways to build in more resistance.”

He continued, “The question of climate change leads to an inconclusive debate. Instead, we need to focus on the changing weather patterns. Therefore, it’s up to us to make the world more resilient and manage risk rather than disasters. In this way, we can withstand the disasters, recover quickly and continue to prosper.”

What impact will this have on the glass industry? “I think it creates a positive opportunity for the glass industry to make a contribution to building more resilient products,” he said. “Solutions will drive what’s achievable in the codes.”

the author
Ellen Rogers is the editor of USGlass magazine. Follow her on Twitter @USGlass and like USGlass on Facebook to receive updates.

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