Retailers create opportunities: Glazing makes mixed-use developments, rehabs inviting
Even the magnificent natural beauty of Hawaii can benefit from man-made innovation. The area between downtown Honolulu and Waikiki in Hawaii gets a much-needed face-lift, thanks in part to a new mixed use development currently under construction. The design team at ELS Architecture and Urban Design in Berkeley, Calif., was hired by developer General Growth Properties of Chicago to create a mixed use urban village, bringing retailers and residents to the area and revitalizing the neighborhood.
Victoria Ward at 1120 Auahi St. in Honolulu, features 160,000 square-feet of retail and restaurant space on the first two levels. The residential section of the development includes 170 units spread across 16 floors, and a 1,000-car parking structure. When completed, the project will be a showcase for how glass can be used to bring outdoors in, and enhance shopping and living experiences.
The growing popularity of mixed use development numbers among several retail trends that fuel architects’ increased use of glass in nonresidential construction. This article studies those trends, including retail rehabilitation, the use of glass in designs that invite shoppers into stores, and energy conservation efforts.
Mixed use development
In a mixed use facility such as Victoria Ward, architects often find it difficult to meld different structural, energy and aesthetic requirements of residential and retail sections into a single cohesive design. Because of Hawaii’s building codes and the commercial and residential mix, Victoria Ward’s architects must follow the International Building Code for commercial construction and the International Residential Code for residential construction. The project also is governed by the International Energy Conservation Code, local ordinances specifying reflectivity levels and consumer and retail preferences, each with a different design priority. To meet these challenges and create an aesthetically cohesive and beautiful structure, architects at ELS turned to glass.
The architects specified tinted insulating glass assemblies with low-emissivity coatings for the residential towers, while retail storefronts and structures feature spans of clear laminated glass with low-e coatings. The curtain wall is 1600 Wall System 1, and the storefront is IR 501, both designed by Kawneer of Norcross, Ga. Center Glass Co. of La Mesa, Calif., will fabricate the glass, and the glass manufacturer is currently being selected.
Victoria Ward numbers among thousands of retail construction projects currently underway or planned in the United States today, and many economists say this is just the beginning of a retail construction boom. A flourishing retail construction market creates many opportunities for glass companies throughout the glazing industry. Furthermore, increased interest in design elements such as daylighting and transparency challenge the industry to provide creative glazing solutions for architects and developers.
Redevelopment of existing structures and shopping centers also represents a significant construction trend, says Jim Haughey, chief economist at Reed Construction Data in Norcross, Ga. In redeveloping older malls to make them more accessible and customer-friendly, glass emerges as a key element. Owners update many older shopping centers to include more “lifestyle” features by reconfiguring center layouts to put glass storefronts and entrances all the way around, and adding secondary anchors, says Suzanne Mulvee, senior real-estate economist with Property & Portfolio Research Inc., Boston.
Westfield Group, with U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles, one of the largest owners and operators of shopping centers, has embraced the company’s signature Hy-Style design for redevelopment of many of its centers. This innovative concept combines characteristics of lifestyle centers, such as exterior entrances and al fresco dining, with elements found in traditional malls like soaring skylights and gleaming two-story glass entries.
While redevelopment focuses on changing existing properties to adapt to population growth and evolving consumer spending habits, new construction attempts to precede population growth, creating facilities in new locations. Mixed use developments and “power centers,” clusters of big-box retailers, grocers and neighborhood centers, also grow in popularity, especially in suburban areas, Mulvee says.
As one of the only structural products that offers clarity and color neutrality, retailers appreciate the ability of glass to showcase products in storefronts. This becomes especially important in areas that may have signage limitations. Victoria Ward’s region of Honolulu, for example, has ordinances limiting signs and billboards. With this in mind, architects created glass storefronts to feature merchandise and draw consumers into the stores. “Clarity and color neutrality are especially important in retail because clear glass gives customers the best and most realistic view of merchandise,” says Edward Nolan, associate principal at ELS. Even Whole Foods is installing a solid glass storefront in its Victoria Ward grocery. David Petta, principal at ELS, says that giving consumers a glimpse of the merchandise makes many come inside, and retailers consider the ability to draw consumers indoors highly valuable.
Let the sunshine in
“Everyone is demanding more daylighting,” Petta says. As a result, “retailer developers will never argue against using glass. Research has shown that having natural light inside makes shoppers feel better about shopping.” Even big-box stores, famous for cookie-cutter concrete designs, experiment with the concept and have achieved positive results.
In 1999, Heschong Mahone Group Inc. of Fair Oaks, Calif., conducted a daylighting study as a part of San Francisco-based Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s Daylighting Initiative. In this study, sales performances of 108 stores were compared. Two-thirds had daylighting, while the remaining one-third did not. Monthly gross sales per store were averaged during an 18-month period, and statistical analysis was used to control the influence of other variables. Ultimately, the study showed that daylighting boosted sales by an average of 40 percent.
Daylighting also helps stores reduce energy consumption by lowering use of electric lights. Even in climates such as Hawaii, where increased glazing generally translates into an increase in cooling costs, daylighting soars in popularity. However, architects are challenged to add light without adding heat. In Victoria Ward, for example, Petta and Nolan added a north-facing clerestory to the retail facilities. Doing so “brings in light in the evening when people are shopping,” Petta says. “This creates friendly, cheerful and inviting interiors without taxing the cooling machinery.”
Glass visually unifies and decorates projects, especially mixed use facilities. In these developments, residential and retail design often have drastically different priorities. Residential developers seek to maximize views and tenant privacy and minimize energy costs. Retailers, on the other hand, want increased access and visibility into the stores and not worry about energy costs much. These differing priorities create challenges for architects looking to create a cohesive development. However, different glass applications serve many purposes.
In Victoria Ward, for example, architects specified Viracon VE3-2M insulating glass units, with laminated glass up to 60 feet. The units combine low-e coatings with a light gray tint to achieve resident privacy without shades and high thermal performance with low exterior reflectivity. The retail sections of the project use PPG Solarban 60 glass, allowing for visual clarity and enhancing thermal performance through a low-e coating. Even though glass types differ, the presence of glass throughout the project visually unites the development. Architects even brought the glass indoors to enhance project identity. Clear glass enclosures around escalators are decorated with fritted graphics, and the interior design can be seen from outdoors, creating visual interest.
Challenges of glass in retail
The current retail construction boom, along with the increased popularity of designing with glass, present three design challenges the industry must address. Architects and owners alike voice concern about these three factors: glare, condensation resistance and energy performance.
“Anti-reflective glass products help mitigate glare,” says Tony Kamber, national architectural manager at Arch Aluminum & Glass in Tamarac, Fla. “Thermally broken products improve energy performance and resist condensation resulting from dramatic temperature differences inside and out.” Low-e coatings also help to increase energy performance without dramatic tints. Soft-coat low-e coatings such as Guardian SN68, PPG Solarban 60, and Viracon’s VE-2M begin to replace traditional hard- coat or pyrolytic low-e coatings. While they are slightly more expensive, soft coats provide lower shading coefficients and better U-values than hard coats, contributing to reduced energy consumption.
Warm-edge spacer technology has become another key factor in improving energy performance, says Christine Schaffer, marketing manager at Viracon in Owatonna, Minn. Used in insulating glass units, warm-edge spacer material can effectively reduce the difference between the center-of-glass U-value and the edge-of-glass U-value of insulating glass units.
Continued innovation and creativity in affordably meeting these challenges sets companies in the glass industry up for success in retail construction, rehab and sales for years to come.
While retail sales growth has been high, retail vacancy rates have been low. According to economists at PPR, first quarter 2006 saw a vacancy rate of 9.9 percent, matching the market’s previous low record reached in 2000. Low vacancy rates occur partially due to subdued levels of new construction during this period of record retail sales growth. According to PPR’s Retail Market Trend Report, during “the past two years, inventory has grown by an annual pace of 1.9 percent per year, well below the market’s average historical pace and well below the pace of 2.6 percent per year set during the last cycle, when retail sales growth also neared 10 percent.”
However, thanks to record retail growth and sustained low-vacancy rates, retail construction rates rise rapidly. “Today, real-estate investment is flooding the market, driving up pricing and making development more attractive” Mulvee says. The researchers estimate that completions will jump this year, with more than 130 million square feet due to be completed, up from 105 million in 2005. This trend will likely continue.