GlassCon Global Conference
In early September, Jim Rathbone and I attended the GlassCon Global Conference in Chicago. This biannual event is described as “North America’s Premier Technical Conference for the Glass and Glazing Industry” and it was attended by several hundred people from fifteen countries involved in all aspects of our industry. Represented were academics, engineers, architects and manufacturers as well as fabricators and glaziers like us. The general theme was around innovation and this is the third event that has been held in the USA. It’s based on a longstanding technical conference that happens every two years called GPD, held in Tampere, Finland. That conference was started twenty-eight years ago by the oven manufacturer, Tamglass (now named Glaston) in the town where they manufacture tempering ovens, including the one KGa bought from them recently. I have been to that event three times and it’s excellent as well.
The intention of these conferences is educational, and the format is that there are a series (five in Chicago) of large rooms, each with a continuous program of thirty-minute presentations on different topics. Some are about specific design projects, some are highly technical material testing processes, results and analysis. Most were focused on specific aspects of projects, like details of facade design and installations or testing of glass members and adhesives for specific installations. In all, there were over sixty presentations.
I tend to prefer the presentations about design and new uses of materials and saw some great talks like one called “Century Project Glass Design-Opening the Aperture” about reglazing the Space Needle in Seattle where they added a glass floor to the rotating observation platform. The presenters were the design engineers who figured it all out and the amazing thing was that it is a protected, historic structure and the finished product had to look exactly the same from the ground after it was all done, even though they added a lot of visibility from the top. In addition, they did it all without closing the observation deck to visitors!
There were many other interesting things that we saw, but our biggest takeaways from the event were:
- Glass is getting larger and more technical every day
- Double glazed facades (two separate walls) are becoming the standard worldwide
- Glass as a structural component is finally becoming well understood and architects and engineers are losing their fear of designing innovative facades, floors and structures
- Active or Dynamic glass (glass that changes optical density or reflectivity) will be used in most exterior facades in the future
- By utilizing innovations in technology like vacuum insulating, transparent facades can achieve higher insulation values than traditional masonry construction
- Laminated glass will continue to grow in use because of it’s structural, acoustic and blast mitigating capacities
- Curved glass will make a huge impact on architecture now that it’s more technically achievable and prices will go down
- Unitized construction will become the standard, not only for facades but for interiors as well
- Glass will become thinner for increased sustainability and weight reduction, especially in transportation
- Adhesives will continue to replace mechanical fasteners to save time and money
Overall, it was a great event and I’m glad to see that this conference is starting to overcome its early shaky start. It is inspirational to mingle in a group of people who are as excited as we are about where our industry is heading.