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Innovation Sparking Building Materials Boom Says Saint-Gobain CEO

6/02/15 7:15 PM EDT
French building materials-maker Saint-Gobain is raising its profile in the United States in honor of the company’s 350 year anniversary. Saint-Gobain CEO Pierre-Andre de Chalendar says the company’s longevity is directly attributable to its focus on innovation. 'We provide a range of high performance materials for industrial applications whether it is for automotive, transportation, life sciences or aerospace,' says de Chalendar. 'And we try to bring technological advances in these high performance materials into the building materials market.' De Chalendar says a good example of Saint Gobain’s innovation is its new glass that that changes color on demand through an electric current. 'It gets blue so you don’t have glare or need shades, so you can significantly reduce your air conditioning needs making it a truly an economical proposition,' says de Chalendar. 'I think it’s a very significant technological change and progressively it will gain its place in commercial and then residential buildings.' Saint-Gobain, which has over $50 billion in global sales, will be manufacturing this high-tech glass at its electrochromic glass factory in Fairbault, MN. The company will soon open a new multi-million dollar North American Headquarters and R&D center in Malvern, PA. Saint Gobain’s main brand of building materials in the U.S. is CertainTeed. And de Chalendar says the uptick in commercial construction in the U.S. - particularly hotels and offices – has also provided a great boost for the company. Meanwhile, he says the recovery in Europe is real with E.U. GDP growth the strongest it’s been in two years. 'Depending on the specific country, and our product portfolio there, we see different results, obviously,' says de Chalendar. 'Collectively, we’re strategically diversified enough that while we’re encouraged by a ‘comeback’ in the E.U., our company is doing very well because we’re succeeding in so many markets.' Saint Gobain is currently listed solely on European bourses so U.S. investors need to do a bit of legwork to find it. De Chalendar says he has no immediate plans for a U.S. listing, yet does call it an 'attractive' investment for those who seek it out. 'We have more U.S. investors in Saint Gobain than any other country so we can obviously attract many of them despite being listed in Paris,' says de Chalendar. 'Maybe we will change our mind on that in the future, but for the time being we will remain listed in Paris.'
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