U.S. demand for advanced flat glass products is projected to increase 9.1 percent annually from a weak 2009 base to 745 million square feet in 2014, valued at $7.0 billion. This is according to a recently released study, Advanced Flat Glass from The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland-based industry market research firm.

“It is expected that residential and automotive will be the drivers in demand for the production of flat glass,” says Russell Huffer, chief executive of Apogee. “They have always represented the dominant demand.

Non-residential demand will increase over this time frame as well, as it fell to such low levels of demand in 2010 and is not expected to increase significantly in 2011.”

According to the report, the growth in flat glass products represents a significant improvement over the 2004-2009 period, when advanced flat glass consumption suffered from the combination of a weak economy, crisis in financial markets, the bursting of the housing bubble and a sharp downturn in motor vehicle production. Going forward, a rebound in residential construction and motor vehicle production from low 2009 levels will spark strong growth in demand for advanced flat glass products, according to the report.

“Guardian is bullish on the North American glass industry and reports like this one only serve to underline our measured optimism,” says Earnest Thompson, director, Guardian marketing and brand management. “There remain challenges but trends over the next few years are positive. The companies making sound business decisions today are in an excellent position to enjoy new growth in advanced glass products across the board during the coming years.”

Safety and security glass accounted for nearly three-fifths of demand in value terms in 2009, reflecting the widespread use of these products in motor vehicles (laminated windshields and tempered window glass) and in nonresidential construction (laminated security glass and tempered fire-rated glass). Growth in demand will be paced by safety glass used in vehicular markets and laminated hurricane glass, although the latter will remain a regional product, the study says.

Consumption of solar control products is forecast to increase more than 12 percent annually from a weak 2009 base to $2.1 billion in 2014, according to the report. Low-E glass has emerged as the most widely used product in manufactured window units, particularly the double-pane units that now dominate residential window applications.

Electrochromic mirrors comprise the largest smart glass product category and will post outsized growth due to a strong recovery in vehicle production and growing market penetration, the report says. Other smart glass products, such as electrochromic windows, suspended particle device windows and liquid crystal display windows, will make some market inroads, although demand is predicted to remain relatively small through 2014. Demand for other advanced flat glass products is projected to increase 7.7 percent annually.

“Solar control, use of low-E, will in my opinion, continue to grow in its use,” adds Huffer. “I believe that new products that control visible light to lower levels will be successful in non-residential construction. Nonresidential buildings have a significantly different heating/cooling balance than residential construction. High light levels with larger glass to wall ratios are proving to be not as energy efficient as lower light transmission glass applications. I believe that recent measures still had low-E at less than 60 percent of the nonresidential market. It is very cost effective to use low-E in these applications and there are no service or capacity limitations to meet this increasing demand.”


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