When it comes to commercial design, architects and designers have wide and varied priorities, balancing structural integrity and performance with cutting-edge aesthetics. Throw in the need to design for increasing energy performance codes and standards, and things get even more complicated.
Just take a look at some of the novel methods being considered in the industry these days: photovoltaic glass, unmanned aerial vehicles for tough tasks on the jobsite and synthetic building insulation that mimics polar bear fur.
But it’s not all hyper-futuristic materials and methodologies. Sometimes architects are simply looking for cost-effective components that complement design while meeting performance targets. And when glass professionals help them identify such solutions, they’re typically all ears.
I wrote around this time last year that architects make up a critical audience for the commercial glass industry, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about once again as the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Conference approaches. Since that time, energy trends certainly haven’t gone backward and hitting targets depends on the investigation and adoption of new technologies. Passive House certification, for instance, continues to grow in prevalence—and architects need methods and materials to keep pace.
When it comes to windows and glass, that largely means framing and spacer technologies. And while those answers might sound obvious to those of us embedded in glass and glazing conversations every day, architects balance countless design and material choices throughout a building’s entirety. The attributes of modern fenestration materials might not always be at the top of their mind, so commercial glass professionals have the opportunity to educate.
For instance, vinyl framing demonstrates the necessary performance and plenty of advantages for commercial construction applications—heat stability, ductility, color retention and ever-increasing structural strength. And yet, many still default to the “commercial means metal” mentality. Meanwhile, flexible warm-edge spacer technology has flourished in commercial markets due to its efficacy in thermal performance. Automation and robotic spacer applications also enhance sightline aesthetics and drive down overall cost to help maximize benefits for dollars spent. Flexible spacers are also uniquely suited to curved and bent glass applications for boundary-pushing design potential
Continuing to engage the architectural community and helping them identify proven solutions are something we should be doing continuously—and not just once per year when AIA rolls around. They’re an important audience for our industry and ongoing collaboration among all stakeholders in commercial construction is perhaps more critical now than ever before. As we work toward meeting increasingly lofty thermal performance goals, wrestle with labor challenges, and look toward bringing innovative new designs to life, working together is a necessity.