Alpen Joins PGTI In the Quest to Sell Thin-Glass IGUs (to Competitors)

May 8th, 2024 by Drew Vass, Executive Editor

In November 2023, PGT Innovations unveiled Triple Diamond Glass—a subsidiary that manufactures and sells thin-triple and laminated insulating glass units (IGU) for use by other door and window manufacturers. Months later, another player is up to bat. Tuesday, Louisville, Colorado-based Alpen High Performance Products announced it’s selling thin-glass IGUs to other door and window manufacturers and glaziers—at the same time upending industry nomenclature (for “thin triples”), by offering quad-pane configurations. The company announced a partnership with Kensington HPP for east coast distribution via Pittsburgh, extending distribution nationwide.

Alpen CEO Andrew Zech tells [DWM] his company currently has three thin glass suppliers. Five years into production, “we’ve really mastered the manufacturing processes,” he suggests.

In February 2024, amid the opening of its new glass factory in Prince George, Virginia, officials for Triple Diamond Glass said awareness for thin-glass IGUs remained relatively low, despite patents dating as far back as the 1980s.

But Zech tells [DWM] his company detected a turning point recently, when peers and competitors began asking about thin-glass products.

Five years into producing triple- and quad-pane thin-glass IGUs, Alpen has deployed “millions of square feet of thin-glass units to all 50 states,” he says, via Alpen’s doors and windows. Meanwhile, “We get asked questions all of the time,” Zech says—including by other manufacturers. “’How is the thin glass going? Is it hard? Is it doable? Are people buying it?’ As we got more and more questions, we started thinking, ‘You know, automating this just for our own use is really missing an opportunity and an industry need.’”

While Alpen looks to capitalize on its new venture, Zech says thin-glass production has already been profitable, making up “probably more than 98%” of its current sales in doors and windows. At the same time, “Accelerating energy code standards and Energy Star 7 [requirements] are really putting a lot of stress on us window manufacturers,” he says. “And we North Americans like our windows narrow and thin. These thin-glass units are a way that you can use existing window designs, without changing hardware, no change to depth, no change to manufacturing processes—literally by doing exactly the same thing that you’re doing today. And without breaking the bank, which is something we’re also pretty proud of.”

AlpenGlass brand IGUs incorporate thin glass ranging from 0.5- to 1.1-mm. Quad-pane, 1-inch IGUs with two lites of thin glass produce R-15 thermal performance. When compared to double-pane IGUs, the additional weight and thickness is “negligible,” Zech suggests.

Regarding PGTI and its new glass company, “We view them as a collaborator,” he says. “They’ve been helpful. We’ve shared intelligence back and forth on the market, and we want to get the market familiar with thin-glass IGUs, because I think once the market is familiar with what they are and what they can do … I think there’s going to be a stampede. And we want that. I think it’s great if there are multiple players, so we’re not alone in the desert, trying to spread this … I think that there is a massive market hear that is way under-penetrated.”

Regarding energy efficiency, “I think this lifts all boats,” he says. “The drum that I’m trying to beat here is: Listen, guys, this is here today, and it’s cost competitive.”

For more insights into the market for thin-glass IGUs, look for an article in the May-June edition of [DWM] magazine.

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