Maintaining Performance Long After Installation

In the commercial glass industry, we put a lot of stock in qualifying the performance capabilities of our products. It is, after all, increasingly important. Codes are becoming stricter, demanding higher and higher thermal performance targets for commercial glass. Our industry has also concerned itself with winning the “battle for the wall” by delivering that thermal performance while simultaneously offering occupancy benefits such as views, daylighting and more. We’ve done all of this in part by working with code committees to demonstrate glass’s ability to meet desirable performance targets in large-format glazing and curtainwall applications. We’ve also done it by utilizing proven technologies like warm edge spacer systems, low-E coatings, new kinds of framing, and more.

After all, the stakes of high performance are increasingly important. I wrote a few months ago about how buildings in New York will be required to cut their emissions by 40 percent by 2030, with certain progress required by 2024. That’s just three short years, and I’m expecting to see an uptick in window and curtainwall retrofit projects in the area as owners pursue these stringent performance targets. Owners in the city will face fines if buildings don’t meet the criteria; those fines on their own may justify the cost of these kinds of improvements.

This got me thinking—there’s a lot we do in our manufacturing facilities to certify performance. But what happens once those units and systems are installed? And what can we be doing to ensure that installation happens properly?

Proper installation is critical to commercial glass’s ability to perform as designed in the field, particularly in retrofit applications where the glass must be seamlessly incorporated into an older or even historic structure. It’s worth remembering here that the ongoing labor shortage in our industry has impacted the glazing community as much as it’s hit our plants. If a glazing crew lacks the right training or knowledge to do the job effectively, the glass’s performance could be compromised. What’s more, installation difficulties can mean a job takes longer than intended. Neither of these outcomes are good for the building owners who just invested their money for top-tier performance, or for the reputation of our industry.

While there is no substitute for good training and glazier certification, one thing fabricators can do is work to ensure that our commercial glass and window products are simple and intuitive to install, whether it’s for retrofit or new construction jobs. I’m a believer in eliminating complexity from any process. Fabricators have the opportunity to do this by adopting progressive technologies that make simplicity possible, and anything we can do to make the installers’ job easier is beneficial in today’s marketplace. If we can help eliminate complexities from our systems, we can help eliminate the opportunities for installation errors to occur. These kinds of design considerations should be weighed along with everything else when creating high-performance commercial glass, including thermal performance and long-term durability.

High performance products that can offer a simplified assembly and installation processes, combined with a continued emphasis on the importance of good installation practices, will be necessary to hit stringent new code targets. All of our industry’s stakeholders have a role to play in ensuring our collective success.

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