Volume 46, Issue 4 - May 2011

ContractGlazing


Glazing Industry Leaders Discuss Changing Industry at BEC
As Henry Taylor of Kawneer, chair of the Glass Association of North America’s (GANA) Building Envelope Contractors (BEC) Division, welcomed glazing contractors to GANA’s annual Las Vegas event on March 28, he congratulated those contractors on exhibiting characteristics of leaders. “Leaders are committed to a lifetime of learning,” Taylor said. “They have to be excited about new ideas.”

He added, “If the pace of change outside your company exceeds the pace of change in your company, you’re history.”
Event organizers made sure that the presentations they had lined up would help attendees gauge many of the changes taking place in the industry.

State of the Industries
According to Diana Perreiah, general manager of Kawneer, three dramatic changes are driving change in architecture and, consequently, the glass industry: population growth, urbanization and climate change. Among other effects, the growing number of people living in urban areas is leading to infrastructure challenges and security concerns. Each of these trends is leading to opportunities for growth in glass and aluminum use, she explained in her presentation on the “State of the Aluminum Industry.”

And, despite challenges, such as rapidly evolving codes and materials that compete with glass, Perreiah pointed to cause for optimism.

“The market conditions over the last two years have forced us to look inward,” she said. “Conditions have forced us all to become much better at running our businesses, delivering our products and serving our customers.”

Perreiah noted that the key in moving forward is changing challenges into opportunities, and channeling experience gained into a focus on a greater scale and high-growth areas.

Serge Martin, vice president of marketing for AGC, opened his presentation on the state of the North American glass industry with the statement that “North America is not a leader in glass technology.” To change this, he said, “quality and performance expectations have to increase and the industry needs to improve efforts to educate the end-user.”

He also asked his audience if what he called the “unattractiveness” of the North American industry could be blamed in its entirety on the downturn. He showed a chart comparing the producer price index over the last 20 years for glass as well as other construction materials, side by side with costs of natural gas.

“You can see other industries benefited or were at least able to carry over the greater costs or inflation,” Martin said. “I’m not here to blame or understand why, it’s just a fact and we need to know,” he added.

According to Martin, this trend is unique to North America as in Europe within the last 15 years, five fabricators have backwards integrated into manufacturing, compared to none in North America. He added that the downstream market is bigger in the U.S. market, with a lot more smaller players in Europe.

Martin also noted that the industry in years past has shifted from a distribution model to a fabrication model.

He said that in addition to newer technologies, there remains a great deal of potential in existing technologies. Martin said there’s still a very low share of low-E in overall commercial glass surface area. “In my opinion this is a shame,” he said, pointing out that low-E provides “more value to the entire supply chain and the end user and we’re still in this ridiculous low level.”

Martin concluded, “We know the recovery is around the corner, we know things are going to get better in a matter of weeks, months, years ... but what are we going to do when the market comes back?” Martin asked. “Build capacity and push product on the float line and brace ourselves for the next downturn—or focus on raising the expectations about glass?”

Growing the Use of Glass, Carefully
Donn McCann of Viracon opened his presentation by reminding his contract glazier audience that the title “Glass: If Some Is Good Is More Better?” should not, for them, be a question but a statement. He emphasized that it’s a statement that they should be reiterating to the architectural community and tasked them with convincing the naysayers that glass is an appropriate material to use in buildings.

McCann provided an overview of glass trends, noting the current trend toward high light transmission.

“Someone made the decision ‘if some is good more is better.’ So we put in more low-E—and then started getting complaints about glare,” McCann said.

With that experience, the “more is better” has been questioned, and so McCann reminded the audience that they all need to educate architects about glass options. “We can’t allow architects to use whatever they want without understanding the consequences,” he said.

The audience also heard about the consequences of recent code changes. Dr. Tom Culp, of BirchPoint Consulting and GANA energy consultant, provided an overview of future energy and green codes. He began by explaining why code changes are important for the contract glazier.

“Yes, it’s all about meeting the spec, but knowledge of how the codes work gives you power to help your customer ... you can also avoid or help fix code problems before they happen,” he said.

Culp then pointed to two trends: the stringency of energy efficiency codes will only increase, as will enforcement of the codes. He explained that latter point is a result of significant funds set aside by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for states that adopt the most recent energy codes, and also demonstrate 90 percent compliance.

Culp proceeded to provide his audience with an overview of recent changes to the International Energy Conservation Code, International Green Construction Code and ASHRAE standards 90.1 and 189.9.

"If the pace of change outside your company exceeds the pace of
change in your company, you’re history."
–Henry Taylor, Kawneer,
BEC Division Chair

Training Employees (and Employers)
John Rovi of Curtain Wall Design and Consulting (CDC) provided his audience with what he called “Spring Training,” pointing out that the best investment you can make is in yourself, with continual learning.

“Personal training is important because it’s the foundation by which we live,” Rovi said. He added, “You don’t just hire an installer or engineer or accountant ... you hire the whole person, there’s never a person that is just an installer.” A good employer will provide not only training but help those employees strike needed balance.

He suggested that employers look at a hierarchy of needs, providing benefits that go beyond training and meet needs that are physiological (traditionally considered shelter, but in this case a suitable work space), safety, social (after all, these employees will spend long hours working together), ego (he pointed out this can be self-respecting or self-producing depending on whether or not the other needs are met) and self-actualization (helping employees to do what they’re born to do).

Rovi also noted it’s important to provide continuous training because, no matter what, people are always learning. “Who’s training your people if you’re not training them ... is it your client?” he asked.

In addition to helping develop employee talent, Rovi told his contract glazier audience they should be continually working to develop their company and its mission.

“Do you meet once a year to figure out how to make your company obsolete?” Rovi asked his audience. “Do you meet once a year to figure out how to put your company out of business?” Looking at potential market changers and adopting early will help companies survive. “If you’re not asking these questions of yourself you can bet your competition is,” he said.

The audience also received tips from Ace Glass’ Courtney Little in his presentation on good business practices. He opened by saying he thinks of glazing contractors as the industry’s “last line of defense” and they need to know the right questions to ask and how best to work with their customers and suppliers.

"Conditions have forced us all to become much better at
running our businesses, delivering our products and serving our customers."
–Diana Perreiah, Kawneer

Little stressed throughout his presentation the importance of knowing your costs. According to Little, knowing your costs “affects your relationship with suppliers,” and can help create a trust relationship. Tracking costs can also give contractors access to better pricing, and being more profitable will open access to cheaper loans.

“Better suppliers, better owners, better contractors want to deal with professionals who are doing this,” Little said.

One way in which Little suggested improving cost calculations is to really take the time to break down a project, product or service before pricing it. Little said he frequently sees contractors going with a simple square foot estimate only to realize later they forgot a sunshade or some such detail and pay for it in the end.

Little added that continually looking for ways to improve costs and efficiencies can become a cycle, and the more it is addressed in a business, the more employees will look for ways to do the same. Often, he said, “It’s the little things you do in the field that get customers to call you back.”

He also suggested comparing costs to budgets and estimates, as well as historical costs. Finally, Little reminded the room’s contract glaziers to use resources such as GANA to follow legislation nationally and locally to consider the impact it will have on their businesses. In fact, he noted that BEC has become a rich resource for his business in that it allows him to meet with a peer group with whom he doesn’t compete to discuss tips and techniques for continually improving business.

It’s the little things you do in the field that get customers to call you back.
–Courtney Little, Ace Glass

A New Point-Supported Glass Technology
“We saved the best for last,” teased Charles D. Clift of CDC, as he opened the final presentation of the BEC Conference. “This is absolutely something you will be glad you’ve seen,” he said mysteriously.

Clift was talking about a new type of point-supported glazing using transparent silicone sealant adhesive (TSSA).
“It’s basically a new design with buttons on the back side of the glass that are affixed to the glass with clear silicone sealant adhesive,” he explained. “It allows you to size the glass for wind load, which is a huge advancement.”

Clift showed the results of extensive testing of the new technology in the United Kingdom. The tests showed the strain levels and in-plane shear strength of the systems as well as long-term shear capacities. “They also did full-scale models in the real world, testing different numbers of buttons and different distances between them. Future applications include canopies, glass fins, curtainwalls, railings, entrances, skylights and interior panels and partitions.

“The technology has lots of advantages,” said Clift. “Material strengths and stiffness are much higher as compared to traditional structural silicone glazing. It requires no drilling and you can use thinner lites and a closer distance. It offers better thermal and acoustical performance too, as well as a smooth surface.

Clift said there are some disadvantages, most notably the need to put the glass in a special kiln, among others.

BEC in 2012
The next Building Envelope Contractors Conference is scheduled for March 18-20, 2012, at the Paris in Las Vegas.



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