Glass Industry Poised for Growth as Demographics Shift, Expert Says

February 21st, 2024 by Joshua Huff

It’s been great weather for the 2024 FGIA annual conference at the Omni Amelia Island Resort, near Jacksonville, Fla.

The Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance (FGIA) 2024 Annual Conference is host to various industry professionals this week, at the Omni Amelia Island Resort near Jacksonville, Florida. The three-day event runs from Tuesday through Thursday. Among the many topics covered amid the first day of presentations were discussions on how changing demographics impact the door and window industry, the use of building information modeling technologies and the importance of surface preparation.

Demography is Destiny

The U.S. population is changing, said Ken Gronbach, a demographer and president of KGC Direct. Companies also need to change to embrace diversity. People don’t like change, but they need to embrace it head on, Gronbach suggested. The door and window industry must realize it is tied at the hip with population.

“If you’re not thinking outside of the box, you’re cooked,” said Gronbach.

Change comes in many facets for the industry, including shifting demographics. For example, the largest housing and construction market is on the horizon. That’s because more than 170 million people under 40 need homes, said Gronbach. This will be a boon for doors and windows, but only if the industry can handle expected demand.

Baby Boomers also remain a vital cog. They are aging at a rate in which one retires every eight seconds. To accommodate those changes, more condominiums, hospitals and retirement homes are needed, said Gronbach, which means more doors and windows.

“The U.S. is about to become a nation of Floridas,” he added, referring to the many Baby Boomers moving to the Sunshine State.

The industry needs to be prepared, he suggested.

Building Information Modeling Explained

Dan Luoma, president of Jailen Inc., said one way in which companies in the construction industry have accelerated production includes the use of building information modeling (BIM). Jailen’s company invested in BIM software in 2008 after officials learned about it at an FGIA conference, he said.

Presentations at the first day of the 2024 FGIA annual conference covered a range of topics including changing demographics, building information modeling technologies and the importance of surface preparation.

Luoma explained that BIM has undergone several iterations, including building description systems and building product models. The idea of moving out of the two-dimensional (2D) realm began in the 1960s, but technology wouldn’t develop until the 1980s when rudimentary parametric software became available.

Today, BIM uses a visual programming environment to generate and simulate the construction process. Luoma said the process includes pre-design, schematic design, design development, and construction documents. Manufacturing applications include frame profiles with 2D profiles, glass types and thickness, projection lines, or any fenestration product.

Though the technology has advanced rapidly in recent years, Luoma said storage remains an issue.

Importance of Surface Prep for Coatings and Sealants

According to Aaron Blom, a technical training specialist for FGIA, glazing surfaces must be free of moisture, dirt, grease, oil and other contaminating materials. The benefits of a properly prepared surface in a finishing line are smooth and even finishes, time and money, long-term performance and better adhesion, he said.

Generally, edge seal failures come from poor or inadequate proofing of the glazing cavity, insufficiently sized weep or vent holes, faulty glazing techniques, and excessive edge pressure, among others.

Blom said five steps are needed for proper joint prep and sealant application during field installation: cleaning, priming, packing, shooting and tooling. However, it’s challenging to control surfaces in the field. Dirt, dust and debris are everywhere, said Blom. There are even contaminants that you don’t see that can cause just as much harm, such as fingerprints, dirty water and frost, among others.

It’s also difficult to measure the surface quality of the product you are working with. It’s not something that a person can eyeball, said Blom. He added that many factors contribute to what seems like a common problem.

The last step of surface preparation is testing. This involves the implementation of a pre- and post-quality control system. Of course, the most essential rule is always to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

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