Is the glass shortage a reality?

Is the glass shortage a reality?

Is the glass shortage a reality?

If you’re thinking about a home remodeling project that involves glass, you may have read about a “glass shortage.” Is there really a glass shortage, and if so, what will be its impact on your project?

The short answer is “yes and no.” Some construction projects are being slowed by a shortage of a specific kind of glass known as curtain wall glass. This type of glass is used to cover the exterior of commercial buildings. Unless you’re building a skyscraper, your project isn’t likely to be derailed by a lack of glass.

Some industry experts even question whether “shortage” is the right term to despcribe what’s going on. A shortage exists when a material is in demand, but simply isn’t available. A better description of what’s happening for curtain wall glass is that glass factories are having difficulty coming up with enough glass to meet industry demand today. They have enough raw materials to produce the glass, but not enough production capacity to fill everyone’s order “on-demand.”

In particular demand is low-e glass, which we recently blogged about. Low-e glass is so attractive to commercial builders because it’s a key part of their buildings’ energy consumption plan. Additionally, building operators that are seeking LEED certification must use energy-efficient materials in construction. New buildings would be exceptionally inefficient, and would be unable to meet the requirements for LEED certification if they did not use low-e glass.

Adding to the concern about glass availability is the reduced number of float glass plants that operate in North America. Currently, North America is experiencing a construction boom, in part because many building projects were delayed in response to the recession. Another consequence of the recession is that nearly one-quarter of the float glass plants in North America closed between 2007 and 2014. Their closure put additional pressure on the remaining float glass plants to meet pent-up demand.

Even if you intend to replace all of the windows in your home, you should have ample access to all the glass you need to complete your project. There is some disagreement about whether and how much the cost of replacement windows will rise, but most glass industry experts believe that any “shortage” will be short-lived. Glass producers will likely invest in production upgrades and automation that will help increase their production capacity without significantly increasing their costs.

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Photo Credit: Karen P., via