7 Curtain Wall Trends to Watch in 2021
The year 2020 has tested the adaptive capabilities of the industry like never before. Should we expect a return to the way things were before, or do we just have to get used to the new normal?
While we don’t know what the future holds, we’d like to draw your attention to seven key trends and their impact on the glass and glazing industry. Some had already caught our attention in 2020, while others are a direct consequence of the changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. SUPPLY CHAIN WILL BE REDEFINED
The supply challenges that began in 2020 and continue to this day have made us realize how interconnected our world is. The slightest disruption in the supply chain creates a domino effect with a devastating impact.
The COVID-19 pandemic serves as the perfect example, but it could have been an earthquake, social uprising or any other unexpected crisis. The recent situation merely underscores how important it is to establish a more resilient and agile supply chain.
In 2021, glaziers will probably reassess their partner networks so that they no longer depend on a single supplier or a particular region. They will also seek to surround themselves with more nimble suppliers to face unexpected challenges. A good risk assessment will pinpoint supply risks.
2. GLASS PARTITIONS EVERYWHERE
A ReportLinker study predicts that the pandemic will continue to stimulate global demand for the movable walls market.
The market should be worth approximately $5.4 billion by 2025 and is essentially driven by three factors: new constructions, renovations and the increasing number of flexible workspaces to limit virus propagation.
At the beginning of the health crisis, many turned to plexiglass, but glass is a more environmentally friendly choice and offers more interesting properties, especially acoustic glass. This makes it ideal for use in hospitals and office towers.
3. GOING BEYOND ENERGY EFFICIENCY
In recent years, many initiatives aimed to improve the energy efficiency of buildings. This included using building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) technology to collect solar energy, and designing double or triple-skin facades to improve thermal insulation.
The challenge, however, was that the return on investment could be hard to justify in countries where the cost of energy remains relatively low.
Recently, and even more so with COVID-19, architects consider the impact of the building envelope on the occupants’ health, productivity and quality of life.
High-performing glazing systems can not only improve energy efficiency, they can also provide greater access to daylight and promote social interactions while minimizing health risks. In this view, the return on investment is much more attractive than energy efficiency alone.
4. AI IS TRANSFORMING THE WAY ARCHITECTS WORK
One of the advantages of AI is that it can process more data at a faster rate than the human brain. It also recognizes patterns that help make better predictions.
These two attributes are incredibly useful for architects working on complex projects. Not only does it save them precious time, it also enables them to test different ideas to make better decisions throughout the entire architectural design process.
In particular, parametric design allows them to specify key parameters, such as environmental factors and building materials, to explore more options and find ingenious solutions to aesthetic, acoustic and thermal problems.
5. PUSHING THE LIMITS OF OVERSIZED GLASS
Architects continue to take advantage of oversized glazed areas to bring in more light and provide unobstructed views of nature.
Although the use of jumbo glass comes with its own set of challenges, continuous advances in glass and glazing technology and manufacturing enable designers and architects to stretch their imagination and come up with ever more daring concepts without sacrificing building efficiency.
This trend is expected to continue to grow as more and more architects and developers want to use large glass panes in iconic buildings.
6. RETROFITTING INSTEAD OF REBUILDING
There is no doubt that some of the measures that governments are taking to stimulate the economy post COVID while also promoting sustainability will lead to more renovation projects.
By improving the energy efficiency of the building envelope, retrofit projects contribute to reducing carbon emissions and providing occupants a healthier living environment.
If only there was a way to reduce the cost and complexity of retrofit projects to increase their scalability. As it turns out, there is. The city of Chicago is piloting an industrialized approach to the retrofit process, to reduce the payback period and make it more attractive to investors.
Such initiatives will encourage other cities to follow suit, thus accelerating the green architecture trend.
Related article: Spotlight on a retrofit projec
7. EXPECT STRICTER BUILDING ENERGY CODES
As of January 2021, 195 countries had signed the 2015 Paris Agreement, which sets out to limit the global average temperature rise to between 1.5 and 2°C in an effort to tackle climate change.
To meet these targets, governments are encouraging more efficient building construction through the adoption of stricter building energy codes. Ideally, all buildings should be net zero carbon by 2050.
Meanwhile, the codes will gradually become more stringent and governments at all levels will start enforcing them.
ACTION IS REQUIRED
While the future is uncertain, these trends are pointing to opportunities to create stunning, sustainable high-performance buildings that also improve occupant comfort, health and safety.
It also means that the increase in design complexity will push the use for even more advanced software and manufacturing technologies and require architects, glaziers and contractors to collaborate earlier in the process.
It is up to you not to be a mere spectator and watch the change from a distance. Use these trends as a conversation starter to combine your expertise with that of your suppliers and clients to ensure success.
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