Be a team player
Jockimo worked closely with designers at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston on a set of thick glass doors for a conference room where the board of directors meets. The hospital wanted to allow light into the space while providing privacy. The glass is darker at the bottom to provide the required privacy. Photos by Ryan Siemers Photography.
Jockimo supplied its ThickGlass ColorFuse glass for the MD Anderson Cancer Center. The doors consist of 10-foot-tall lites of the glass—normally used for countertops—with large bubbles raised throughout the surface. Photos by Ryan Siemers Photography.
Gong Glass Works developed a 54-foot-long curved decorative glass wall for the Rochester Institute of Technology's Administrative Services Building/Innovation Center. The client and architect wanted the wall to provide a connection between two distinct areas in the building, and to allow natural daylighting and views to the outside. The piece, titled "Science and Life, What is the Question?," is made of 13 lites of 5/8-inch clear tempered etched and hand-chipped glass. Photos by Don Cochran, courtesy of Gong Glass Works.
It's a new world out there for glass fabricators, particularly when it comes to decorative products. Glass companies are no longer looked to as order takers, but as collaborators that
offer a critical source of design ideas for the architectural community.
"Like it or not, the old ways of just taking orders and processing glass are over. Those who buy our end-use glass products want more," says Kris Vockler, vice president, operations, ICD High Performance Coatings. "Glass has become a medium that says 'we can do anything you want.' Because of this, we have become a resource for architects and designers, helping them to create their vision. They simply can't know all that is possible, but we in the industry do."
"Working together as a team with the owner, and identifying the budget, aesthetic, functional and emotional response desired are all key to successfully integrating decorative art glass into a great space," says Nancy Gong, glass artist, Gong Glass Works. "Bringing a glass [professional] onto the team can save time, money and help create a successful design project."
To serve the design community most effectively in this collaborative manner, fabricators need to be educated, organized and out in front of architects. The following is a list of tips for glass companies of any size that are working with designers on decorative glass projects.
Top tips for working with designers on decorative projects
Increasingly, the decorative market is leaning toward custom solutions. Glass companies that offer minimal stock options miss out on value-added and custom work.
Know the design community.
Fabricators need to get in front of designers—at trade shows or during box lunches at architect offices—to offer education about the capabilities in decorative glass. "We ... have an architect program, where we spend time showing the great possibilities [of glass]. This builds an authority, which is really what you want. You want someone to call you and ask if [a design
idea] can be done," Vockler says.
Know your suppliers.
Glass artists and fabricators alike need to look to their suppliers to know what is possible from the top of the supply chain. This can be critical for glass fabricators that might not have the ability to produce decorative products in-house—or at least, not a wide variety. A close supplier relationship can enable fabricators to take advantage of many decorative opportunities.
"The average fabricator would do well just to listen and ensure their sales staff is aware of what their supplier can do. Asking a supplier for a solution is just as easy and good as doing it in-house," Vockler says. "Most would be surprised at how a supplier is dying to help their fabricator with a technique or process."
Glass fabricators might want to take the collaboration one step further and work with their supplier to educate architects. "Ask your supplier what they are doing with architects, and if you can be a part of it. This might mean joint visits or even presentations," Vockler says.
Know the options.
Oftentimes, an architect's decorative glass vision can be achieved through several different glass options. Glass companies can act as a consultant to help determine which glass type—whether laminated, back-painted, screen printed, etc.—is best suited for a given application.
"An artist and/or studio that focuses on architectural art glass can be a valuable resource in navigating through all the technical processes and the results they yield," Gong says.
Publicize what's possible.
Decorative glass suppliers are constantly pushing the envelope of what's possible. Make sure architects are aware of these advancements. Send press releases and sample boxes, and have complete product information—in addition to project photos—readily available online.
"The main thing that architects want to know is what the newest project or product is," says Tim Casey, owner, Jockimo. "We just launched a new site that highlights our recent work. On the site, we have fullsize project images in the background, a whole page of videos on projects and products, and complete information about the new products we're launching."
Keep up on trends.
Glass companies need to be aware of emerging decorative trends worldwide. "The world of decorative art glass is changing very rapidly. As an example, photovoltaic glass is the current hot bed, and photovoltaic art glass is already happening," Gong says. "In addition, colored laminated glass with no lead is a new interpretation of stained glass, and has just entered the U.S. market. New design possibilities are just rolling themselves out. Architects and designers need to keep in touch with art glass designers who keep up with technology in the field worldwide," she says.
Provide technical design support.
Designers look to decorative glass to provide aesthetics and performance, from energy efficiency to impact- and fire-resistance to structural capabilities. "We are often brought onto
projects shortly after an architect has been awarded a job to, for example, help design a glass flooring system—something which few architects know how to design or plan for," Casey says.
Gong adds that glass companies should also be able to provide support and source products that can help earn points within the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.
Protect the glass on the project.
Know the threat value engineering poses, and work to ensure glass is not taken out of a project for budget reasons. Know product costs and talk about price with designers and owners up front.
"One of the biggest reasons glass is [value engineered] out of a project is that the price wasn't accounted for properly," Casey says.