In Debra Levy’s preview post for the upcoming American Institute of Architects (AIA) Conference in Orlando, she noted that “the glass industry secretly loves architects.”
Indeed, the architectural community is a critical audience for glass fabricators and component manufacturers. Every building meets specific needs, whether it’s multifamily housing, a giant commercial high-rise structure, a hospital, or anything in between. The architect’s job is to balance beautiful design with functionality, comfort and purpose. Architects are charged with specifying products that suit those needs all while staying on budget, and glass and window systems are a major part of the equation.
The challenge, of course, is that architects are involved in so many different aspects of building design that it can be difficult to break through the noise. Lighting, heating and cooling, interior components, glass and glazing—all must be considered within a building.
Nevertheless, when the right solution comes along that balances aesthetics, performance and cost, architects pay attention. And there are several areas of opportunity where our industry is in a unique position to deliver.
The sustainability imperative. While we might not see many federally backed green building efforts coming anytime soon, the environmental performance of commercial buildings remains critical. Occupancy comfort and energy savings are simply good business for property owners, and that means architects’ eyes are always open for building materials that can help deliver on these needs.
Emerging, cost-effective technology. For all the ways in which architects seek to push design into new frontiers, they remain a justifiably risk-averse bunch. What good is design if performance doesn’t stack up?
Among fenestration technologies on the cusp of greater acceptance in the commercial space are high-performance vinyl window systems. These products have seen success in light-commercial and multifamily construction for their ability to drive down u-factors and boost performance without excessively complex conventional systems, all with the same installation, aesthetics and structural performance.
But vinyl has something of a perception problem, due to decades of being viewed as a “cheap” option. The truth is that it’s a cost competitive technology that can meet the toughest commercial demands, and continuing to educate the architectural community on the benefits can open new opportunities for commercial window OEMs.
Never forget aesthetics. And of course, glass itself continues to evolve, and so do the ways in which architects put it to use in their designs. High-performance glass enables architects to continue to break boundaries and push the limits of what’s possible in commercial structures.
And for these reasons, performance and aesthetic beauty must always go hand in hand. Our industry has done a tremendous job of heightening glass performance through coatings, insulating technologies, and more—but we can never rest on our laurels.
I’ll be attending this year’s AIA Conference, and I’m excited to learn and interface with the architectural community. Quanex will be exhibiting at the show as well—stop by and say hello at Booth #3725!
Joe Erb is a commercial sales specialist at Quanex Building Products.