inyl has long been a major player  
in the residential window sector,  
and for good reason.  
The thermal properties of polyvinyl  
chloride (PVC) are superior to alu-  
minum, and the smaller-scale applica-  
tions in single-family homes require  
lower structural performance com-  
pared to other building types.  
Alternative Material  
Looks to Emerge on  
The commercial glazing segment has Commercial Scene  
been a different case, as products and  
by Nick St. Denis  
technology haven’t been available to  
support the use of vinyl in any signifi-  
cant way.  
However, some in the industry have used for a typical storefront application, InCtahrleMWilleor rokf sTab Glass & Window  
given diligence to the idea, and the use the PVC mullion would require costly  
of vinyl in larger commercial applica- structural steel reinforcement while the Corp. in Clearwater, Fla., believes vinyl  
tions such as storefront—and even aluminum mullion would not,”he says. could be a viable product in low-rise  
curtainwall—is not as outlandish as it “PVC simply does not have the struc- commercial or high-end residential. A  
may have been perceived just a few tural strength required for typical large few years ago he spoke to representa-  
years ago.  
span openings on storefront and cur- tives at Rehau,a vinyl fenestration sup-  
tainwall projects.” plier, about the possibility of creating a  
Williams says tooling cost “for each curtainwall product.  
PVC extrusion profile is approximately “It’s a vinyl system that has to be  
AtInWlohokaintgCatotshte practicality of this  
potential technology, cost is a signifi- ten times more expensive than for each steel-loaded with intersects to meet  
cant consideration. identical aluminum profile.” He adds some structural and windloads. But  
JD Williams, president of Aluminum that custom profiles for curtainwall and thermally, it’s superior, and it’s sustain-  
Fronts, says over the years he has con- storefront systems can become prohib- able and green,” he says, joking that  
sidered substituting PVC systems to re- itive due to short lead time and tooling “this would probably get me in trouble  
place typical storefront and curtainwall cost, and that “finishing cost must also with my metal suppliers.”  
systems.While he concedes the thermal be evaluated based on the multitude of  
benefits of the material, he says com- colors required by architects.”  
(Editor’s note: USGlass contacted  
Rehau for comment on curtainwall, but  
parative material costs and structural  
analysis are challenges.  
The vinyl industry, however, thinks the company declined and said they are  
there’s potential for expanding vinyl in not currently in that market.)  
Miller thinks if given the chance,  
vinyl “should be able to meet some in-  
“Assuming an identical profile of a the commercial market—storefront  
PVC and aluminum mullion were to be and curtainwall, included.  
USGlass, Metal & Glazing | April 2016 Reader Poll:  
What is the likelihood vinyl catches on  
in large-scale commercial applications?  
Likely in window  
wall, storefront  
and curtainwall.  
Not likely at all.  
Likely in  
wall and  
Likely only in  
window wall.  
The Glazier’s  
Quanex has developed vinyl window products for large-scale  
commercial applications and is exploring the possibility of the  
material in larger applications such as storefront and curtainwall.  
“It has been my experience that  
economics govern these decisions.”  
That’s how Walters and Wolf  
teresting specifications”for nonresiden- nity and get ideas about growth oppor- chief operating officer Tom Black  
tial applications. tunities, Quanex has hosted focus views the potential for alternative  
Eric Thompson, commercial product groups with architects on the concept of glazing materials in large-scale  
sales specialist for Quanex Building vinyl storefront.He says it was met with commercial applications.  
Products,says his company recognized a early skepticism, but as he continues to  
“If the slope of increase in ther-  
few years ago a big opportunity for vinyl attend architectural conferences and mal performance requirements con-  
in the storefront segment and, eventu- build connections,it is gaining traction. tinues at its current rate, we will, at  
ally, in the curtainwall arena.  
some point, exhaust the economics  
Quanex has since released its AW- TiTmhee tvoinAylctcommunity recently of the current applications/tech-  
rated window product for window walls  
and punched openings for highrise ramped up efforts to address the com-  
buildings and is working on concepts for mercial market.  
a non-metallic PVC storefront system.  
nologies.” he says.  
If vinyl becomes a solution, he  
thinks it will be in the form of a  
Mark DePaul,Royal Building Products’ composite material. Its success, he  
Thompson says that while PVC itself businessdevelopmentmanagerof window says, will likely depend on whether  
is not structurally sound enough to and door profiles,chairs theAmericanAr- it can meet structural calculations,  
make a curtainwall system without re- chitectural Manufacturers Association’s is silicone compatible, has an ar-  
inforcements, in some cases, neither is (AAMA) education task group. He says chitect-friendly range of color avail-  
aluminum. “There are a lot of applica- AAMA’s vinyl material council has bol- ability, high thermal performance  
tions where aluminum storefront and stered efforts to help its members enter and is cost-effective.  
curtainwall utilize steel reinforcements, the commercial vinyl window sector.  
as well,” he says.  
“Never underestimate the free  
enterprise system to spawn inno-  
vation,” he says.  
To educate the architectural commu-  
continued on page 61  
April 2016 | USGlass, Metal & Glazing  
Wood curtainwall is a growing trend and a result  
of architects seeking new aesthetic possibilities  
and alternative glazing material options.  
Who Wood’ve Thought?  
hile vinyl seeks its place in Plaza in Pittsburgh.  
the commercial market, an- Gensler principal Ben Tranel, who 20-foot-mark, we have a horizontal  
other alternative material worked on the architectural project structural member to kind of tie it back.”  
has found a niche. team for PNC, says the wood design was Being in its infancy, the technology  
feet. “Usually when we get to the 18- to  
Wood curtainwall has gained traction “one of the main drivers with the client” poses unique challenges.  
in North America over the last half- due to its “hospitable feel.” He says he  
The fabrication process is complex,  
decade, particularly in Northern regions can see wood curtainwall as a technol- requiring certain equipment and  
methods of cutting, laminating, coat-  
“We’ve looked at it in a number of ing and sealing. Solar has an entire  
across the United States where the nat- ogy that could emerge in the future.  
ural look of wood is popular.  
Solar Innovations has responded to projects,” he says. “In some, we’ve ac- building dedicated to its wood prod-  
demand with its “Timberwall.” Presi- tually taken it through bids and had ucts, as the processes are much dif-  
dent Greg Header says the technology competitive prices. The results were fa- ferent than aluminum.  
evolved simply out of desire from the ar- vorable … So I think that’s a real posi-  
Header says wood curtainwall comes  
at an approximate 30-percent premium  
chitect and design community.  
tive thing.”  
“Like any new technology,” he adds, compared to aluminum, though his  
Six years ago, the company began re-  
ceiving inquiries about wood curtainwall, “it will be applied to smaller projects company’s engineering team works  
the first of which was an impact glazing and will get bigger from there.”  
with clients to analyze U-value, cost ef-  
project in New Jersey. At the time, there Header says the hospitality and of- ficiency and payback. Additionally, he  
was no impact wood curtainwall on the fice markets provide big opportunity for believes cost will eventually go down as  
market, but Solar Innovations designed, wood, as well as museums and restau- suppliers become more familiar with  
manufactured and produced a system rants. “We’ve done residential and the types of wood required.  
within six months to fit the bill.  
commercial,” he says. “It’s really be-  
Ultimately, Header thinks adoption  
Since then, Header says interest in come mainstream because wood is a will grow with more education and fa-  
the product rose, and the company very green, renewable resource with miliarity among the design community.  
began marketing it. Solar recently com- very good thermal properties.”  
pleted 30 stories of wood curtainwall Header says a typical wood curtain- tion,” he says. “It continues to gain trac-  
for the interior of the new Tower at PNC wall wouldn’t go much higher than 24 tion every day.”  
“It gives architects another great op-  
USGlass, Metal & Glazing | April 2016  
continued from page 59  
“We need to understand the market  
better, so we put together a fairly large  
committee to address the user needs  
and buyer value in the commercial  
market—whether it’s architects, own-  
ers, contactors, etc.,” he says.  
That has prompted AAMA to read-  
dress its installation documents. The  
committee is working on rewrites to  
make them more“material neutral”and  
inclusive of vinyl in the commercial  
sector. It is also working to “level the  
playing field” from a code perspective  
by addressing things such as com-  
bustibility and how vinyl relates to fire  
codes,for example.DePaul is also head-  
ing the creation of a new AIA course  
called “Vinyl Windows and Doors for  
Commercial Applications.”  
Quanex has already seen success  
with its AW-rated system in the com-  
mercial and mixed-use sector. Thomp-  
son says the systems is suitable for  
window wall and punched openings in  
high-rises, and that it is currently the  
only non-metallic AW-rated operable  
window in the world.  
“Our engineering tells us we can do  
design-pressure ratings of DP40 up to  
eight feet high in a totally nonmetallic  
system,” he says. “We’re already offer-  
ing a totally nonmetallic product to  
perform at industry-standard struc-  
tural levels.”  
He says highrise multi-family con-  
struction is the biggest market for large-  
scale adoption of vinyl,and that he’s seen  
it applied in places such as churches,  
schools and college dormitories.  
“It’s just a matter of education,” he  
says.“We’re focused on getting the mes-  
sage out about these capabilities.” s  
N i c k S t . D e n i s is  
an assistant editor for  
USGlass magazine. He  
can be reached at  
April 2016 | USGlass, Metal & Glazing