Glass Magazine's annual Top 50 Glaziers report (which you will get to check out in the upcoming June/July issue), gives the editors a great opportunity to check in with glazing contractors--large and small--about a range of issues. This year, I was curious about research and development. The near four-year-old recession has left companies strapped for cash, making any investment difficult. An investment in something that can't guarantee a payback is an even tougher commitment. However, about 20 percent of contract glaziers surveyed, with annual sales ranging from about $5 million to almost $200 million, said they are investing in R&D, and in some very diverse ways.
As expected, contract glaziers' R&D activities focus on product development and advancement. Companies are aiming to improve and add to their existing offerings. National Enclosure Co., Pontiac, Mich., for one, is furthering the development of its unitized curtain wall offerings, and Carmel Architectural Sales, Anaheim, Calif., is developing rain screen systems.
Companies also are going custom. Officials from CBO Glass in Alden, N.Y., reported the company is designing, engineering and testing custom CBO glazing systems, and Heinaman Contract Glazing, Lake Forest, Calif., is developing custom unitized curtain wall utilizing advanced technology integration.
Several companies said they are focusing on component systems. Bacon & Van Buskirk, Champaign, Ill., for example, developed Bacon's Architectural Muntin systems for storefronts and curtain walls.
The green arena is driving development at companies such as Juba Aluminum Products Co., Concord, N.C., which is getting involved in photovoltaics.
And some contract glaziers report they are branching out even more with their product development. Architectural Wall Systems, West Des Moines, Iowa, for example, has been developing unitized brick panels.
The slow economy hasn't slowed code development, or the need for protective and aesthetically pleasing systems. In response to this demand, two Florida-based contract glaziers report they are developing new hurricane products. Crawford Tracey Corp., Deerfield Beach, Fla., developed ProTech 9SG and ProTech 15SG, curtain wall impact glazing systems that achieve large vertical spans and allow for wider vertical mullion spacing. And Palm Beach Glass Specialties Inc., West Palm Beach, Fla., is developing impact systems that provide architects with more design freedom, improved thermal comfort, increased natural daylighting and minimal glare; in addition to systems that allow for glass widths from ¼ inch to 1 5/16 inch, and shop-glazed systems.
Companies haven't forgotten about the "research" part of R&D—they are continuously looking at what the market and their individual customers need. Key Glass LLC, Bradenton, Fla., for example, found through its research that there is significant growth in the small project and service arena. To respond to the growing demand, the company is developing a custom program to track these requests.
Katy Devlin is senior editor for Glass Magazine. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.