April 27, 2017

Making Way for Vinyl in the Architectural High-Rise Market

by Eric Thompson

Not too long ago, the idea of PVC windows in high-rise applications might have raised eyebrows. A viable and in many cases preferable option for residential applications, surely, and even in some light-commercial and multifamily structures. But high-rise?

Thanks to both technological advancements and the real-world results that vinyl systems have demonstrated, that perception is slowly shifting toward acceptance. And there’s significant opportunity for builders and architects to take advantage of this changing mindset.

Why are we rethinking vinyl for commercial applications? Because the performance benefits couldn’t be clearer—vinyl offers a way to achieve the low u-factors without resorting to more complex conventional window systems. And beyond performance, vinyl has leveled the playing field. It installs like conventional systems, it offers the same aesthetics, and it’s just as structurally sound.

So it’s worth asking: Why isn’t vinyl more prominent in the high-rise commercial space? And what needs to happen for that to take place?

Performance beyond perception.
One of the biggest reasons vinyl came first came to prominence was its generally lower price point for residential construction, and the material has had to outrun that reputation ever since. Overcoming its reputation as a cheap is significant hurdle, since “cheap” tends to correlate with poorer performance.

The truth is that today’s vinyl systems, and the applications where they make sense, deliver proven performance at a competitive price point. Builders and architects who have worked with vinyl systems in the light-commercial and multifamily space have realized these benefits, and its slowly becoming evident what vinyl can bring to even more demanding applications.
Supply and demand.
Vinyl’s perception issues stretch further. In my recent experience, there seems to be a pervasive mindset among fabricators that architects don’t want vinyl for their building designs. In some cases, that’s true, but it’s a feedback loop. Fabricators don’t supply it, architects find scarce availability, and thus fabricators think demand isn’t there.

But a break from this cycle is inevitable. Between architects who are educated on the benefits of vinyl and fabricators using the material to create some market separation from their competitors, vinyl’s proof of performance in new applications is nearing a tipping point.
Architectural education.
The architectural community by its nature is one that puts an emphasis on evolution and progress. Building design thrives on innovation, whether through new aesthetic trends or building materials.

The fenestration community therefore must continue to communicate the benefits of vinyl, specific to commercial and high-rise applications. It can bring value and performance to meet demanding new architectural frontiers—and architects need to know about it.

Quanex Building Products will be attending the 2017 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Conference this month, April 27-29. Learn more at Quanex.com/AIA.

Questions or comments? Contact me directly at Eric.Thompson@Quanex.com

For more information about Quanex visit www.quanex.com
Posted: April 27, 2017 by Eric Thompson Filed under: commercial, vinyl, windows