We sat down with Vincent Smith of Interpane to understand further as to his view of the direction of the industry.
How long have you been in the industry, what’s the size of the market and where do Interpane see themselves in relation to it?
I’ve been in glass for 28 years now and started my career with Pilkington before moving onto Hansen Glass and now with AGC Interpane where I’ve been for 8.5 years. I’m the UK & Ireland Sales Manager for AGC Interpane in Lauenförde and Plattling, a global business focussing on worldwide commercial projects. As to the size of the commercial market, I can’t put a finger on it – it’s huge and we have a good portion of it.
I genuinely would see AGC Interpane at the pinnacle of the UK Commercial market when it comes to glass processing. Our capabilities as an IGU manufacturer stand out particularly when looking at unusual glass requirements; big, thick, complex, technical etc, and then we’re renowned also for the consistency of our product quality. Testament to this is some of London’s landmarks that have our glass – The Shard, 20 Fenchurch Street or the ‘Walkie-Talkie’, 1 Bank Street, 240 Blackfriars, 70 St Mary Axe and 22 Bishopsgate as well as many others.
If you asked me what my personal favourite was, I would have to say Greengate, Manchester. 4-5 years ago, AGC took a controlling stake in our business and as a result we have increased our product range. On this project, there was a specific challenge in terms of performance and visual quality (flatness) – 3.7m heat strengthened laminated units we used, for the flat glass elements, our Stopray Vision 50 coating on cut sizes. For the curved elements our Stopray Vision 50T was used. The Project looks fantastic.
What are you seeing as the top challenges for those specifying glass currently?
AGC Interpane have a very large specification team worldwide working everything from interior glass to envelope glass on category A projects.
I’m involved in specifying at architect and façade engineering level, but my main responsibility is to offer solutions for performance specifications with façade builders.
The majority of specifications I’m working with are performance based but in addition we have to liaise with our customers to ensure that all structural and of course acoustic requirements are met. I find one of the main challenge’s is to make ensure all parties, client, architect, façade consultant/engineer are in line in terms of what is required. Once this is achieved finding workable solutions can be achieved. This is critical when a level of compromise is required to achieve the resolution. If the façade builder is willing to bring us in early, this process of course is easier. AGC Interpane have a 55 strong team assisting developers and architects in specifying glass requirements, but it goes beyond that. It’s no good simply specifying a coating; a key glass processor needs to be at the table to advice on size limitations, shape complexity, structural build ups etc. This is where AGC Interpane really wins – specification ability, coating knowledge, and practical manufacturing possibilities.
As to façade consultants, I love them in a bizarre way! The same way I like assisting a customer to build loyalty, if you can offer support technically to the consultants, they can be your biggest ally. I think if they enter into a project with the mindset they want the project to be built successfully rather than pushing the boundaries on spec alone, then great! There is a danger that consultants are trying to make changes to an industry that are not so necessary. Can’t deny we wouldn’t be where we are unless we had consultants and architects who pushed for change, but certain things introduce unnecessary cost and complexity.
In your opinion, what specifying guidelines are the least understood within the industry?
This isn’t answering your question directly, but I discussed with my Director 3 years ago when seeing a trend of reduced quality for reduced cost, ‘should we follow?’ And without pause the answer was, ‘absolutely not, stick by it, we will win through, quality and performance in managing the projects from start to finish is key!’
This forced us into a drive of pushing for earlier involvement in creating specifications to give us more of a chance in bringing some differentiation through. It’s not so easy to say which is the least understood in specifying glass as each project is so varied, but if you enter early enough into the discussion you can view the whole project in a considered and structured way.
How important do you see early involvement in schemes at planning stages for a glass manufacturer?
Very important! You know how this works in your own business and Colorminium & AGC Interpane have a good example in Market St, Maidenhead. You committed to us early to help build specifications and inform your tender return which maintained through to delivery. This project worked well and looks great.
The benefits of early engagement are obvious to us as a Supply Chain member, and I believe there are a number of benefits for Colorminium you work a successful supply chain, Benefits for all! I believe it’s key.
Any comments on the future of the façade industry within the UK construction market?
Key thing to watch now is whether the market slows down and I think Brexit will get blamed for it. I feel a slowdown is possible and maybe I can feel this slightly now, but it’s key to not talk ourselves further into it – although the media will do that themselves, just whatever suits their situation! I do find it interesting how everyone takes a view of London as dictating the market trends, but we are hugely active in Manchester, Birmingham and Cardiff for example…it’s not all about London.