Guardian Insights

Happy 25th Anniversary, SunGuard!

August 10, 2020

We've reached an important milestone for a critical building block for Guardian Glass. Twenty-five years ago, we launched Guardian SunGuard® advanced architectural glass as our primary coated product strategy for the commercial segment.

We dusted off a 1996 issue of Guardian World and found this quote from our former president and CEO William "Bill" Davidson: "Late in the year [1995], we were pleased to announce the development, at our Carleton plant, of a new coated solar control glass product called Sun-Guard, which it is believed has tremendous market potential for us in architectural and automotive applications worldwide."

Tremendous, indeed! I've asked Chris Dolan, Commercial Segment Director of Guardian Glass North America, to talk about the early days and the growth and impact of SunGuard over the years.

Rick Zoulek, Executive Vice President, Guardian Glass Americas

Initially branded as "Sun-Guard", this family of products started with a new Guardian coating called "BC 23", which stood for bendable coating with 23 percent light transmission. BC 23 was produced at our Carleton, Michigan plant on the G-49, one of our first coaters. It might be surprising to know that the first coating of what was to become an award-winning global portfolio of high performance coated architectural glass was mostly… an automotive product!

​It quickly became clear that BC 23 was not a compelling name, so after an internal naming contest, Sun-Guard became the product name, and then through time, the overall brand name. The bendable glass was unique for architectural applications and customers liked the ease of fabrication since the coating could be tempered, so the Guardian team worked to expand the product offering with a focus on architectural applications. Within a few years SunGuard Plus was launched (now called Silver 32) followed by SunGuard Silver, which is now called Silver 20 and is still available today.

That initial R&D came from the great minds that would make up the Guardian Science and Technology Center (STC), which officially opened in 2000. Many STC resources were focused on glass for commercial architecture, and it accelerated the pace and the breadth of Guardian Glass product development.

An example of STC innovation is that SunGuard coatings were designed to effectively withstand the heat-treating process and still keep a pristine aesthetic. This key innovation opened up commercial architecture to any fabricator who could cut and heat-treat SunGuard coatings, and it also put the final fabrication much closer to the construction site where the glass was to be installed. Guardian was one of the few companies at the time offering a full complement of post-temperable coatings.

Our customers were excited, and sales doubled between 2004 and 2006, but the fabricators wanted more: More product, more tech support and more specs. In response, we completed a formal and comprehensive relaunch of the SunGuard coated glass products in 2007. We now had the products and the supply chain to attract the interest of the architectural community. Sales doubled again in 2008 and have continued to grow significantly since that time.

Over the past 25 years, the success of the SunGuard coated glass products is due to many factors including: ​

  • Guardian investing in a new coater at every US float plant.
  • A mindset shift from commodity-oriented sales to value-added sales.
  • The launch of the Guardian Select® Fabricator program in North America.
  • The launch of SunGuard SNX 51/23 coated glass in 2014. With triple silver performance and exceptional aesthetics, this product set the standard in commercial projects and found immediate success.
  • The launch of a new jumbo coater at Carleton in 2018 to position Guardian for further growth in the largest sizes of coated glass available to customers.
As a result, a business that had historically been relatively small for Guardian has grown significantly over the years.

Guardian's European team also saw the potential for SunGuard coatings and initially imported Guardian SunGuard from the U.S. before launching a full complement of SunGuard coatings in Spain and Luxembourg, taking advantage of the initial Guardian research and development and the opportunity to expand its customer base with a similar strategy in Europe. Today, Guardian SunGuard advanced architectural glass is produced and sold in all of our regions and is our most globally recognized brand. ​

The teams at STC, in the plants, and in sales and marketing have the know-how, hard work and dedication to continue this exciting progress. Together, we're taking to heart "see what's possible™" when it comes to SunGuard advanced architectural glass.

Chris Dolan

Chris Dolan is commercial segment director, Guardian Glass U.S. and Canada. He is responsible for growing Guardian’s presence and participation in the commercial construction market segment. Prior to his current position, he was Director of Marketing for Guardian U.S. and Canada. He has been with Guardian for 29 years in a variety of sales management and business development roles.