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Reports of U.S. economic revival swirl around GlassBuild

October 16, 2014  By Rich Porayko

Well attended. Fun. Educational. GlassBuild America 2014, held Sept. 15
in Las Vegas, was everything you look for in a trade event.

Well attended. Fun. Educational. GlassBuild America 2014, held Sept. 15 in Las Vegas, was everything you look for in a trade event.

Modelled after TED Talks, the free Express Learning seminars were well attended. 


Over and above the refreshingly positive atmosphere, this year’s show featured two significant differences over previous years. Most notably, the excellent 20-minute Express Learning sessions held right on the show floor that were free and open to everyone. And then there was the outstanding smartphone app which helped attendees navigate the show and maximize time for the frequent seminars and demonstrations that took place for all three days.


Tipping the scales as the largest glass, window and door show in North America according to its organizer, the National Glass Association, this year’s GlassBuild welcomed 7,200 glass professionals and 375 exhibitors.

Always a highlight of GlassBuild is the Glazing Executives Forum (GEF). This year’s opening panel discussion, moderated by Rick Hamlin of Cupples, did not disappoint.

“Are far as the market is concerned, wow, what a difference the last 12 or 18 months has been,” said Oliver Stepe, senior vice-president of YKK AP America. “It’s been quite a transformation. The level of this market is still far below where we came from at its recent peak in 2007. We should be happy but it’s not time to break out the champagne. There is a lot of growth to catch up on.”

Fellow panelist Mic Patterson, vice-president of strategic development for Enclos concurred, “I think cautious optimism is appropriate but a lot of the market fundamentals are not as robust as much as a lot of people think they are. Recovery has been spotty in a lot of areas.”

“The market has started to heat up,” said Jay Philips, Americas commercial segment director for Guardian. “It has gotten more consistent in more areas however there has been a hesitance for major investment. Overall industry capacity hasn’t expanded significantly. You are seeing it out there with long lead times becoming worse over the last three or four months. With the volume of projects that are coming out now and moving forward into the construction phases, looking at the overall supply picture, I don’t see those lead times improving considerably. For a company to be successful, they need to have a better handle on their supply chain than anyone else. He who has the best supply chain will win.”

Steppe agrees, “There is not an appetite from major investors for North America. They’re focused on emerging markets in India, China in South East Asia. We’re talking countries with populations of almost two billion people each. The long term opportunities for those investors are not necessarily in North America.”

According to Philips, the trend that Guardian Industries is seeing most is “Bigger, bigger, bigger. As big as you can make an opening. We’re seeing a lot of glass come in from Europe because of the size requirements. Guardian sold three projects in Washington D.C. where the openings were 10 feet by 14 feet.”

“The dominant trend that I see driving change is an increase in geometric complexity,” said curtainwall innovator Patterson. “Ten years ago everything was flat with right angles. Now, everything is curved and we spend a lot of time on geometrical optimization.”

Patterson adds “Performance standards are being increasingly dictated through legislation. It’s a good and necessary thing. It’s a pain but it’s forcing some real change. Architects and industry are trying to figure out how to meet these new U-Factors. This is just the beginning. It is going to get bigger. And legislation will be the dominant directive.”

According to Philips, retention is one of Guardian’s top priorities, “The market is improving. Companies are hiring. In the past, we might have talked about recruitment, now we have to focus on retaining the people that are most critical to the success of our organization. At Guardian, the number one issue we are looking at is retention of employees. People’s phones are ringing with opportunities.”

Jeff Dietrich of ITR Economic presented his much-anticipated and usually accurate predictions for the economy and construction marketing in “Ahead of the Curve – 2015 and Beyond.”

“How do you know that this economy is stable?” asked Dietrich. “You look at all the leading indicators that we look at and what you see is an economy that is relatively strong and self-sufficient. What’s amazing about the economy and growth that we’re seeing is that we are doing this at time when China is sluggish, Europe is coming out of its second recession in four years and Japan is in recession.”

“One of the ways to take advantage of growth is to stop doing things you shouldn’t be doing. Access capacity. Not only from you but from your suppliers and make sure that when that order comes, that you have the workers, cash, line of credit if you need it, and everything you need for increasing activity because that’s what we see coming.”

Good information indeed.

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