What to Do about 22?

It’s the most common refrain I hear from contract glazing company owners and managers when I ask how they are doing. “We are okay—for now.” “We will be fine this year.” Or “We actually had a good 2020, all things considered and are on course for the same in 2021.”

Every single one of these comments, however, is followed by a big BUT. BUT 22?  What about 22?

The 22 in question is, of course, 2022, the year when the backlog that was in place before the pandemic hits becomes depleted or close to depleted. As projects move from backlog to jobs in progress to jobs completed, they are usually replaced by new projects and the cycle begins anew. The objective is to replace and grow backlog in the usual or faster timeframe.

Most glazing contractors with whom I have spoken feel they will be able to replace their backlogs, but they know the type and mix of projects will look different. Fewer new office buildings will be built for a while. Commercial space will be replaced with flexible space. Even the fast-growing downtown condo market has slowed as more people work from their current homes in the suburbs.

One of the few measures of this is the AIA’s Architectural Billings Index (ABI), which (loosely) is a measure of how much work architects got paid to design. Increases in the ABI signal more projects on the architect’s drawing board which will, in theory, turn into jobs in need of glazing. USGNN™ reports on the ABI every month.

And while I am on the subject of contract glazing, USGlass magazine will once again release its annual “Top Contract Glaziers” in the February issue. I will leave that report to your reading but wanted share two quick looks at the total market. As we have tracked the top 40 (now 50) glazing contractors for years, we also track the value of the jobs they do. It’s an interesting historical look at the market expansion and contraction.

Source: Key Media & Research and USGlass magazine
Source: Key Media & Research and USGlass magazine

COVID-19 will lead to re-imagining and re-inventing the spaces where we live and work. Luckily, glass is integral for all such types of buildings but we will all be required to navigate a tough pivot to this new reality in order to succeed in ’22 and beyond.