Volume 40,   Issue 5                                 May  2005

ARCHITECTS are from Venus
GLAZIERS are from Mars

What Architects Like - and Don't Like -
About Contract Glaziers
by Charles Cumpston

When it comes to creating, designing and building, architects play a crucial role to the glass industry. They have to be aware of the different types of glass and the different performance characteristics of each. They also work closely with contract glazing companies to see that their designs are built as they are envisioned. Ever wonder what they think of glazing contractors? 

Borrowing a popular shorthand phrase for describing relationships between two different sets of people, you might ask if one is from Venus and the other from Mars.

For years, contract glaziers have cited the architects’ lack of product knowledge, unclear designs and specifications as some of their biggest complaints. But what do architects think about the contract glazing companies with which they work? USGlass asked several glass-savvy architects for their thoughts. 

I Like You, You Like Me

“What I like about working with contract glaziers is that they can provide positive technical insight into a project,” explains Christopher P. Stoddard, AIA, senior associate principal LEED AP, for Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) Associates PC in New York.

“We often try to reach out to glaziers during the design phase to help the design team develop buildable designs. This helps to minimize changes and conflicts in the design down the road,” he says.

Keith Boswell, a partner with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) in San Francisco, echoes those sentiments. “The ones [glazing contractors] I like working with are the ones with a ‘can do’ attitude. I also like it when they try to understand the design intent—this includes design and technical issues.”

Boswell goes on to characterize the working relationship between architects and contract glazing companies in this way. “I find the working relationship very professional when the following things happen:

1. The architect understands the working/contractual relationship of the glazing contractor, general contractor, etc.; 
2. The architect does his or her job to define the design intent and the performance criteria; and
3. There is a level of respect for what each group does and is responsible for.”

Stoddard takes a similar view. “Generally we have had positive relationships with glaziers. Our interaction usually revolves around the storefront component of projects,” he explains. 

Jim W. Sealy, a Dallas-based architect and consultant to the design, codes, construction and legal professions, also cites positive experiences with contract glazing companies. 

“I have never had a difficult working relationship with a contract glazier. Generally, I have found that all glaziers understand that the products they install have a tremendous impact on the success of the project (visually). There have been a relatively few who have caused problems on a project, but there will be those problems no matter what.” 

Different project variables can also affect the relationship.

“The difficulty we often have is working through detail issues during the shop drawing process. Due to the custom nature of storefronts, fabrication methods vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. If one shop is set up to engineer and address custom design issues the shop drawing process [will be better]. If the job is awarded to someone less inclined to do custom work this process can be more difficult and often adversarial,” Stoddard adds.

Those Pet Peeves
Along with the good, every relationship also has its not-so-goods. This is even true of the architect/contract glazier relationship. 

“Architects are proponents of innovation. It is often difficult to develop an innovative design with the support of the contractor. More forward thinking research and advanced engineering could help the glazier in achieving advanced design strategies while mitigating costs and risks associated with new technologies,” Stoddard states.

Sealy’s likes and dislikes are two sides of the same coin. 

“I like working with glaziers who participate in the process. By that, I mean that the glazier’s work is very important to the visual success of the project and the more they understand that the more success the project will receive,” he explains. The flip of the coin: “I don’t like working with a contract glazier who does not do what I have just outlined.”

Talking Out the Issues
How can the relationship between architects and contract glazing companies be strengthened?

“The working relationship will always be strengthened when the glazier has the active role that I have talked about,” states Sealy. “Architects/ designers are protective of their ‘product,’ the design, but I don’t know of many who will not listen to a tradesperson or firm that has a genuine interest in the success of the project. I really do look to the trades to tell me if they think I am making a mistake or if they believe another product (or method of installation) will improve my design. I want their input and I will give credit where credit is due. That is not to say that I will always do whatever the suggestion is, but I definitely want the opportunity to analyze their specific input and weigh how it may, or may not, have an effect on my project.”

Boswell agrees. He sums it up this way. “Respect what each group is trying to achieve and when situations get tough maintain the focus on the issue and collectively reach a solution.” 

The Architects
Keith Boswell is the technical director of SOM’s San Francisco office. In this role, he orchestrates and oversees detailed design and construction documentation for all major projects. His depth and breadth of projects includes high-rise office buildings, museums, retail spaces, amusement parks and international and domestic airport passenger terminals. 

He is a specialist in designing and executing technically complex glass curtainwalls. He has also developed expertise in overseas projects, where additional challenges lie in interfacing with loyal suppliers and craftsmen. His projects include the Roxas Triangle Condominium Tower and Ayala Tower One and Philippine Stock Exchange in Manila and the Beijing headquarters for Legend Computer, China’s largest computer company.

One of his signature projects is the International Terminal at San Francisco International Airport, for which he served as project director. He focused on the 1.8-million-square-foot building’s exterior—including the massive 700-foot-long glass curtainwall. His responsibilities included coordination with the building design and construction group at SFIA, as well as the construction manager/general contractor on design and construction issues. He helped orchestrate the complex phasing of the project (so that the roadways could remain 100-percent operational), and he oversaw project closeout during construction administration.
He will be a plenary speaker at Glass Processing Days in June, discussing challenges and solutions in architectural glass technology.

Christopher Stoddard joined KPF in 1994 and has played a key role as the project manager or project architect of a number of diverse building types including academic facilities, government projects, airports and commercial buildings.

He is currently the project manager for 505 Fifth Avenue, a 273,750-square-foot commercial office building, the City University of New York City College master plan and 212,000-square-foot Science Research Center. He is also the sustainability technical advisor for the New York Sports and Convention Center.
In the public sector, he worked as a job captain and project manager for the award-winning Baruch Academic Complex, a public bid 750,000-square-foot multiple use campus building completed in 2001 in New York City. He was also a designer for the United States Courthouse and Federal Building in Minneapolis, a 740,000-square-foot facility that houses courtrooms, judges’ chambers and a public plaza.

His transportation work includes serving as project manager on the Logan Airport Terminal B, F.I.S. facility. The 250,000-square-foot terminal is slated to be a LEED certified airport terminal. He also served as the job captain on the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Commuter Terminal Building.
Jim. W. Sealy, FAIA is an architect and consultant in Dallas. He consults with other design professionals, developers, building owners and managers, jurisdictions and attorneys in matters dealing with all aspects of the built environment. His expertise ranges from zoning and conceptual design to forensic architecture. 

He has participated in the writing of building codes and standards since the early 1970s and recently served the International Code Council as a member of the drafting committees for the International Performance Code and International Residential Code. 

In other related arenas, he serves on committees for the National Institute of Building Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Institute of Science and Technology, Underwriters Laboratories, the Applied Technology Council and the American Institute of Architects.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?
The working relationship between architects and glazing contractors can sometimes be fractious, because they have two differing agendas. It is not uncommon, certainly, to hear glazing contractors grousing about architects (and probably very often vice versa).

But any good working relationship is based on mutual respect. 

“Generally, it is more positive than negative, and sometimes very positive,” states Chris Stoddard of KPF in appraising these relationships. “In the end it depends on the quality of the glazier on the job, the budget and also the quality of the construction documents developed by the design team,” he adds. 

Jim Sealy agrees that it all depends on the glazing contractor. “Some contractors, no matter who they are, have a distinct distrust of architects. However, in those instances I am usually able to find out that they have had an unfortunate circumstance in the past (usually rejection of an installed system),” he explains.

“Having said that, there are some architects who make respect an impossible task. So, it’s really a toss up.” 

To illustrate his point, Sealy tells this true “war” story:

“The design was unique to say the least, but the architect was very deliberate and precise in how the curtainwall system was detailed and specified in the construction documents. It was actually a system based on a stock system (from a major supplier), but had some added elements and glazing features. The sub submitted shop drawings that complied to a tee with the construction documents. After approval of the shop drawings, the contractor switched subs and that sub installed the stock, off the shelf system. Their explanation: We didn’t think you meant it! Yes, they were required to remove and replace, but they will forever have a bad taste in their mouth when it comes to architects.”

Charles Cumpston is a contributing editor to USGlass.


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