On the Road with USGlass, USGlass

Trendspotting at BAU

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A show like BAU just serves to highlight what we already knew: that the Europeans are “lite years” ahead of North America in design, energy efficiency and quality. And the difference is readily apparent. As one colleague said to me, “this show really highlights the differences between American and European building styles. Europeans begin a project thinking, ‘how can we build the highest quality building that does what we want?’ Americans start a project by wondering, ‘how can we build the cheapest building that does what we want?’”

I was fortunate to spend two days at BAU2015 in Munich, Germany last week. The biennial six-day (yes, six) show attracts visits from all segments of the building trades. A new attendance record was broken, as more than 251,000 visited the event. Approximately 30 percent of them were from abroad. (Here’s the official press release from the organizers).

The show is divided into 13 different halls, and each hall has a theme. These include halls for stone, brick, floor coverings, chemical products and tools, parking systems, wood—you get the idea.

Obviously, I spent most of my time in Halls B1 and C1 (aluminum, including facades), Hall B2 (steel), halls B4 and C4 (locks, fittings and doors and windows) and, of course, C2 (glass).

North American representation among exhibitors was a bit spotty. There were many companies such as Roto, GU and NSG that are big players here but have their international headquarters in Europe. And there were other U.S. companies exhibiting, such at C. R. Laurence, yet others you would expect to see there were not. Perhaps the concurrent International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas had something to do with that.

So I came away from the show with a revised view of the international building universe, a real admiration for Munich (which is a beautiful city with gorgeous architecture and friendly people) and a glimpse at a number of trends I think we will see in the future:

  1. Shhh! Don’t make some noise. There was an increased emphasis on sound transmission and abatement among manufacturers there. And, while these included glass manufacturers, they also included cabinet makers and machine suppliers, as well. Ear pollution is out.
  2. Three and four de rigour: Façade and window systems with triple-glazing were common, and even quadruple layers were not unusual. What was noteworthy is how usual these systems are in Europe—and how they can’t understand why we don’t use more of them, especially in our Northern climates.
  3. More glass handling innovation: these ladders from Geda will transport glass and other material externally up the sides of buildings.
    More glass handling innovation: these ladders from Geda will transport glass and other material externally up the sides of buildings.

    Move it, move it: As glass handling robotics continues to advance, so too does the ability to move large lites of glass in tighter and tighter spaces. And the systems that can supply products and services to facades were also on display. One exhibitor showed me an external system that could be used to transport glass—as well as for window washing.

  4. Schuco CEO Andreas Engelhardt with the companys innovative  Parametric System in the background.
    Schuco CEO Andreas Engelhardt with the companys innovative Parametric System in the background.

    Custom is standard—or standard is custom, depending on your point of view. Suppliers of products for exterior walls and facades are working to create “semi-custom” products that allow a high degree of customization but are still able to be manufactured in standard ways. Schuco’s Parametric System is one such example. It allows freeform 3D facades to be designed and created through a systematized solution.

  5. Energy efficiency as a non-factor: Since energy efficiency is mandatory, it almost goes without saying because most of the products are just that efficient. It was interesting to catch a glimpse of what our country could be: a place where being energy efficient is assumed, and the outliers are those products that aren’t.
  6. There’s no hard in hardware—in fact, the hardware displayed was more art than anything else. Beautiful rich finishes, sleek designs and precision efficiency were the marks.
  7. It’s a hard-lock life—but not if you are using some of the newer locking technology I saw on display. Walk up to the apartment building and wait while your fingerprints are checked or retina scanned, and then the door magically opens. Or control your tilt-turn windows from your iPad and change your level of security from afar. The technology was on display at BAU.
  8. Well, it’s better than Craigslist: The show was also a job-seeker’s dream, as many of the larger exhibitors held happy hours or had separate hospitality areas for those who might be interested in job changes. One exhibitor even had a separate tavern area devoted exclusively to those who might be interested. What a great way to ferret out new talent.

    The metal, railing and grill work at the show was outstanding.
    The metal, railing and grill work at the show was outstanding.
  9. You know the grill: In this case, grills, canopies, overhangs, railings were some of the highest quality and neatest designs I’d ever seen. I can’t wait til they get to the states.
  10. It sure beats the last pub crawl: The BAU organizers out together a fun activity on Friday evening called the “Long Night of Architecture.” It included 11 different routes that stopped at an average of five locations each. The 50 stops in total included landmark architecture, modern public spaces and a number of hotels and restaurant with libations for those who attended. Wunderbar!