Volume 11, Issue 1 - January/February 2007
Protective Glazing Council Fall Symposium Returns to Washington, D.C.
by Brigid O’Leary
Members of the Protective Glazing Council (PGC) gathered at the Ronald Reagan Building and International World Trade Center in Washington, D.C., for the organization’s Fall Symposium in October 2006. The program featured an impressive list of speakers, beginning with Major General Charles Williams of the Department of State Overseas Building Operations (OBO).
Williams discussed the OBO’s new construction program and described the design and construction of new embassies and consulates around the world.
“The world is in a very unsettled situation at the moment and, because of that, it makes our job tougher,” Williams said.
Embassies, Williams explained, are established anywhere the United States has citizens working.
“Pick anywhere in the world and we have something for you. We’re not in pretty locations now because our people are where the action is and we have to go there and set things in place,” he said, before showing a series of photos from different embassies around the world.
“Terrorism is a Tactic”
The tone of the conference changed a bit when Buck Revell of the Revell Group made his presentation immediately following Williams.
“It should not have been a surprise to us when, on 9/11, the United States was attacked so successfully by a group that had been telling us, loudly and clearly for a long time, that they were out to get us,” he said.
Complicating the problem is the nature of terrorism.
“It’s not a war. Terrorism is a tactic. It’s a tactic used to disrupt a society for political or other purposes,” Revell said.
He added that Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have been contained for the most part. The bigger threats now, he explained, are “more the lone-wolf operations that are energized by propaganda and … religious fervor.”
“That is the most difficult type of terrorism to stop,” Revell said. “If you don’t have a target, it’s hard to penetrate.”
He stressed that terrorism can come in many forms.
“It’s equally a concern with homegrown terrorists who may be second- or third-generation people born here who have gotten caught up with the religious fervor. [Timothy] McVeigh was not an Islamic terrorist … but he had [made] a target of the U.S. government and [blew up] a building that had nothing to do with his cause, but that he saw as a representative of it,” Revell said.
After lunch, the topic turned from manmade destruction to natural disasters. Jaime Gascon with the Miami-Dade County Building Code Compliance Department made a presentation that looked at some of the damage done by Hurricane Wilma last year and how building codes have changed since that time.
Gascon showed aftermath pictures of four buildings that are located near one another and described what caused the damage in the buildings; the damage to the upper floors of one building more than 30 stories tall was actually caused by the flying glass from a nearby building.
“What you have here is glass breaking glass and it all raining down on the streets below,” Gascon said.
Following Gascon, John Talkington of the Smithsonian Institution took his audience through the planning and implementation process that has taken place at the Smithsonian Institution.
Talkington described the shift in purpose of the Smithsonian since the events of September 11, 2001—no longer is the focus on protecting the artwork, artifacts and visitors from petty crimes, but now the focus is on protecting everyone from larger threats.
Wrapping up the first day of the meeting was Bill Koffel with Koffel and Associates, who talked about the different applications and standards governing the use of fire-rated and fire-protection glass. Koffel serves as a codes consultant for the Glazing Industry Code Committee.
Of note, he said that wired glass was used in the past as fire-rated glass because it was the only product available that provided such protection at one time. Koffel also pointed out that while wired glass is tested for impact, it was rarely tested to withstand the force of impact to which it can be subjected in gymnasiums and places of education.
Where the Winds Blow
The second day of seminars got under way with Dan Kelly of Applied Research Associates (ARA) who provided a recap of studies ARA did on the Dan M. Russell Jr. Federal Building and Courthouse in Gulfport, Miss. The building was constructed according to ISC Design criteria for bomb blasts and subsequently was subjected to the winds and rain of Hurricane Katrina.
Kelly reported that, “It performed much better than similar buildings in the area. Interesting things we did see while we were there—the windows themselves performed really well.”
Of importance, Kelly noted that staff had boarded up the street-side windows on the first two floors of the courthouse with plywood—although they were able to get done before they evacuated—but were not able to protect the windows that faced the courtyard.
“They did not protect windows on the interior courtyard, and they were all broken by the gravel from the roof,” Kelly said.
Kelly said ARA estimated that 10 percent of original estimated construction cost losses were avoided in hurricane Katrina at the Gulfport courthouse due to installation of blast-resistant windows.
“Blast-resistant windows significantly reduced damage that would have occurred in hurricane Katrina had the courthouse not had any protective glazing,” he said.
After a short break, Bob Ford with Solutia made his presentation about glazing solutions for hurricane prone regions. Ford included updates about the status of building code implementation in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, sharing how much had—and hadn’t—changed in six months.
“It’s been a positive now that there are code changes going into effect to save lives and protect property from storms,” said Ford.
Louisiana has accepted codes and Mississippi has codes that are pending approval and implementation.
Rounding out the morning seminars, Wade Belcher with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) made his presentation “Design and Construction for Extreme Forces.”
“Going back to the Murrow building [in Oklahoma City], we were primarily concerned that we got the building done on time and within budget, because we thought most of our buildings were benign. We all remember what happened on April 19,” he said. When given the task of determining how to make government buildings more secure, many of the responses the GSA received were to shrink the size of windows.
Keeping the names of many of the buildings secret, Belcher explained some of the thoughts that went into the building design and safety features that each building offered—and often worked in kudos for his audience for helping make the projects possible.
“The designers have the flexibility to do what they do because of what you, the manufacturers and suppliers, can give us. We can go further than any of us have imagined,” he said.
Brigid O’Leary is a contributing writer for Window Film magazine.
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