The time is now for innovation, say GlassBuild America exhibitors
"We are in the worst economic market maybe of my lifetime ... [but] there is more change and innovation going on today than there ever has been in the history of the planet," said Quanex Building Products President and CEO David Petratis on the show floor at GlassBuild America: The Glass, Window & Door Expo, Sept. 12, in Atlanta.
Evidence of that innovation could be found almost everywhere you looked at the Georgia World Congress Center on Monday, when 393 companies in 1230 booths debuted new products and technologies at GlassBuild America 2011. As of press time, more than 6,000 total registered attendees were participating in the event, which runs through Wednesday, Sept. 14.
The show breakdown
International exhibitors: 118 companies from 17 non-US countries
New exhibitors: 73
Innovative Product Exhibitors: 37
Exhibit space: 123,000 net square feet
Sponsors: NGA, GANA, AAMA, IGMA, BEMA
"There is tremendous change coming to our industry," Petratis said. "I'm thinking about PV, BIPV and energy efficiency. There has never been a better time; you just have to seize it.
"Quanex and its acquisition aspirations continue to [focus on] emerging technologies, especially in regards to integrated technologies within the glass," he said. "We're thinking in terms of energy efficient systems that will help our customers prosper."
Energy efficiency and innovation also were top of mind for Kevin Surace, founder of Serious Energy, during his presentation at the annual Glazing Executives Forum, held concurrently with GlassBuild America, Sept. 12.
Each year, $2 trillion is spent worldwide on energy to heat, cool and light buildings. Addressing energy improvements in buildings should be a major focus for the industry, Surace said. "The opportunity for commercial glazing is in the 5 million buildings that are already built. ... We need to work to make buildings better, improve energy performance, improve occupant comfort," he said.
The products on display
The company has been developing several products that provide further efficiency improvements, including the iWindow interior replacement system that seals up against an existing window and improves R-value by 700 percent, according to Surace.
Additionally, Serious Materials plans to launch a dynamic glass product next year—Serious Transitions, based on liquid crystal technology. And in 2013, the company plans to introduce AdaptivE, a thermally switchable glass product.
The industry needs "disruptive change," game-changing innovations, Surace told forum attendees. "Steve Jobs is the epitome of disruptive innovation. This industry needs that kind of innovation; that kind of R&D," he said.
"We need people who are challenging us," agreed Lloyd Talbert, president, C.R. Laurence Co., on the show floor. "Hopefully ... we will get new innovators into the business that keep us all challenged."
From a competitive standpoint, innovation helps to raise the bar for industry companies; it also opens the door for the sharing of new ideas. "We don't have a monopoly on good ideas," Talbert said. "A lot of our new products, as far as tools go, [are the result of] glaziers who have come to us. The organic growth is really great ... Our whole existence [relies on] being able to innovate."
"Quit worrying that the end market is lousy," said Geoffrey Galow, vice president, investor relations and corporate communications, for Quanex Building Products. "We're strong; we're healthy; we have the wherewithal to go outside our comfort zone. Let's take a few risks and see what comes out of this."