According to McGraw Hill’s Construction Outlook 2013, the construction industry is starting to show small signs of recovery. The caveat in the report is the improvements are contingent on avoiding a recession early in the year. Jeff Dietrich, a senior analyst for ITR Economics, takes a more cautiously optimistic approach in a recent Glass Magazine article, noting “2013 will see changes in taxes, but the economy overall is relatively stable and still growing, albeit at a milder pace than many would like…”
While it’s still premature to predict which way the global economy will teeter, we can be certain 2013 will be what the glazing industry makes of it. As Dietrich aptly states, “The world rebooted in 2008 for many industries, but did not die. Many are coming out stronger, wiser and more profitable than before. It can be done.”
Since the best defense is offense, don’t expect the economy to damper glazing innovation in 2013. The year is likely to be full of product breakthroughs, including for fire-rated glass and framing, and I think many of them will be driven by the following trends.
1. Greater design flexibility
Architects are no longer satisfied simply using fire-rated glass in individual windows, borrowed lites and small view panes in doors. Many want large, visually compatible glazed areas that extend from floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall, and across multiple stories. System solutions—glass and frames designed to work together as a cohesive unit—can help fulfill this desire by achieving a higher level of performance without sacrificing aesthetics.
2. Improved integration
Look for manufacturers to continue developing fire-rated frames that visually integrate with surrounding non-fire-rated assemblies. Advancements will include more finishing options, as well as enhancements to silicone-glazed (SG) fire-rated curtain walls. This is a trend we’re particularly excited about at TGP.
3. Increased lite size
Since extensive areas of fire-rated glazing can help improve views between spaces and better maximize light penetration, manufacturers will continue to push the boundaries of glass lite size. This is timely, as daylighting strategies increasingly include fire-rated glass.
4. A clearer view
Fire-rated glass with high optical quality is still in high demand since architects can install it in applications without altering the sophisticated look of modern designs. As such, expect to see the trend towards clearer fire-rated glazing remain strong in 2013. Just be sure to do your due diligence to ensure product claims prove true.
5. Improved fire and life safety performance
Manufacturers seeking to stay ahead of the curve will continue to develop new technologies for improving their product’s fire and life safety performance. This most directly applies to fire-rated glass assemblies, which require the frame, glass, seals and other components to provide the same type of fire protection (e.g., fire resistance or fire protection) and carry the minimum fire rating as dictated by code.
What trends do you think will impact fire-rated glass and framing design in 2013 and beyond?