NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- French building materials-maker Saint-Gobain is raising its profile in the United States in honor of the company's 350th anniversary. CEO Pierre-André de Chalendar credits the company's longevity directly 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, which changes color on demand when an electric current is applied to it.
"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 manufacture this high-tech glass at its electrochromic glass factory in Fairbault, Minn. The company will also 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 in hotels and offices -- has provided a great boost for the company.
Meanwhile, he says the recovery in Europe is real, with European Union GDP growth the strongest it has been in two years.