From Testing and Legal Contracts to Components, BEC Sessions Cover Range of Topics

Wei LamA range of subjects, all designed to help grow and improve business for contract glaziers, were discussed earlier this week as part of the 2013 Building Envelope Contractors Conference (BEC), which took place at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.

One presentation provided a look at fenestration performance testing from a consultant’s perspective led by Wie Lam and Dale Fuhr of Wiss, Janney, Elstner (WJE) Associates. As Lam explained, some of the main areas consultants look at are structural loads, water penetration and air leakage, of which Lam noted, “If you’ve not dealt with [air leakage] yet you will soon.” Other testing areas include thermal performance, seismic performance, windborne debris, impact resistance, thermal movement and sound control.

Lam explained they often look to AAMA 501 methods of tests for exterior wall field testing. This includes coverage of quality assurance, diagnostics penetration, air and water for windows, air and water for curtainwall, etc.

“Now we have the ability to do dynamic testing in the field … tools are becoming more accessible,” said Lam.

The presenters next looked at typical structural tests and explained it’s important to ensure that lab performance can be duplicated in the field. Typical structural tests include ASTM E 330-02 (2010), Standard Test Method for Structural Performance of Exterior Windows, Doors, Skylights and Curtain Walls by Uniform Static Air Pressure Difference, as well as AAMA 501.4, Recommended Static Test Method for Evaluating Curtain Wall and Storefront Systems Subjected to Seismic and Wind Induced Interstory Drifts.

Speaking of air leakage test methods, Lam explained they are seeing lots of changes as to how buildings will be evaluated by codes in terms of whole building leakage.

Lam said as glazing increases/decreases “it’s important to understand what leakage is occurring from glazing versus other parts of the building.”

Presenters also noted that both ASTM International and AAMA have documents pertaining to water penetration testing. Some questions to consider include determining the right pressure compared to product criteria; the frequency of testing and the right time to test (10 percent completion, 50 percent, etc.), as well as the requirements for retesting and who owns that when there are failures.

The presenters also looked at thermal performance testing, explaining that for the most part they are not testing per project but existing systems. There are also special criteria testing that are sometimes done. This can include frost point testing, zebra board/flatness tests, polarized filters/quench patterns and UV/VL transmittance tests.

“All of our testing is just part of one set of loads to one part of the building,” said Lam, who added that they are working to stay ahead in the trend toward energy performance.

“We’re looking at energy performance criteria in project specifications and as a consultant … we’re looking at every opportunity to raise the bar with energy efficiency and looking at all the different components and how they are evaluated.”

Speaking of the importance of quality assurance, Fuhr added it’s important to embrace this and have it not just be a piece of paper.

“Take ownership from the shop to the field,” he said.

Attendees also learned about legal contract issues when Shannon Briglia of the law firm Briglia McLaughlin talked about “how to protect your company in a troubled economy.” She explained she wanted to cover some basic topics to help contract glaziers. For example, she noted to understand whether there is a binding contract, negotiating key terms and knowing the key terms.

“Can a subcontract be held to its bid to a general contractor?” she questioned. “Yes … if the bid is unequivocally and reasonably relied upon; if it’s an ‘implied-in-fact’ contract with the main terms agreed upon; if it’s a firm-offer; and also if it’s an option contract.”

She further discussed implied-in-fact contracts. Here, she explained, there is no written agreement necessary to find the bid binding; sufficient evidence of communications and conducts between the parties can show that they intended to be bound.

“Arm yourself with knowledge; know and understand what’s in your contract to mitigate against the losses,” she said. One key area to do this is the payment provision area.

“You want to know the barriers to getting paid … what do you have to fight?” she questioned.

She then looked at a number of payment provisions. Pay-if-paid clauses, for example, shift the risk of the owner’s non-payment to the subcontractor.

“There are a lot of places/states where these not enforceable,” she said, but added, “but are enforceable in the bulk of jurisdictions across country.”

So, what should a subcontractor do if there is a pay-if-paid clause? Briglia said to ensure the subcontract terms are incorporated downstream.

“Perfect your condensations lien and bond rights; look to prime contract clause for ambiguities,” she said.

She added there are other key contract provisions every project manager should know at project commencement such as disputes provisions; time limits; interest and attorney’s fees; notice requirements; and waivers and exculpatory provisions.

Speaking of waivers, she added that in order to get a progress payment you have to sign a lien.

“Be careful when you sign waivers because you could be giving up your rights,” she advised.

The BEC Conference also included a panel discussion that looked at the “connections between the components.”

Lam from WJE talked some about the inner-connectivity between components, as well as some potential concerns and challenges. Continuity issues to consider include the primary Seal Connection (i.e., air and water), thermal enclosures/boundaries, as well as existing building construction. Challenges can fall within areas such as design complexity and material compatibility.

There can be a number of consequences due to component discontinuity, he explained. These can include high energy costs, poor thermal comfort, uncontrolled indoor environment, such as humidity and outdoor contaminants, large forces for rain penetration and increased sound transmission.

He was followed by Patrick Schmidt of Halfen who reviewed curtainwall anchoring. Schmidt talked about different connection types and said the most common are welded, drill-in and adjustable bolted.

With welded connections, that is embedded weld plates, he explained, some considerations include there can be safety hazards from sparks and fume, as well as potential damage to installed aluminum and glass. He said this type can also be time-consuming to install and require up to four people for welding. There is also limited adjustability. Drilled in connections, post-installed anchors, he continued, typically require some coordination with general contractor. Other considerations he mentioned include potential damage to post-tensioned slabs; the necessity for power tools; and they, too, can be time-consuming.

Speaking of adjusted bolt connections, Schmidt said these are cast-in channel applications and require coordination between the glazing contractor and general contractor. He said many sizes and capacities are available for different applications, and the anchors are adjustable to accommodate construction tolerances and reduced field labor. They also do not require onsite welding or drilling.

Peter Poirier of Tremco discussed sealants as well components as well as water-barrier materials. He noted the importance of compatibility among materials such as the sealants and other water performance materials to ensure a tight application. His presentation included numerous slides, drawings and videos to illustrate how the materials best work together.

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