• Dear Santa, here it is the week before Christmas. Where does a year go? We’ve been pretty busy in the glazing biz, trying to figure out if the construction market is on the road to recovery. Everyone’s hoping, obviously, that it is, but it might be too soon to tell. Or, maybe we’ve been down so long it’s tough to see much beyond the fog that we’re currently in, trying to keep up with everyday work.

    One sign of action is that everyone’s lead times, from suppliers to glazing subs, seems to have jumped in the last few months. Extruders, glass manufacturers and others are trying to decide whether to open the flood gates to full production, or is recovery in a slow and steady rate really the way to go. Some closed plants seem to be reopening, but will we ever get back some or most of the float glass capacity here in the States we seem to have lost when things went south when the downturn hit?

    So, the extended lead times currently passing down from some suppliers are putting the glazing subs in a position with their customers to either pass on the “delay(?)” to their customers or find new vendors to work with. That’s not at all fun. Can you make that go away, please?

    Another challenge the glass biz faced this year, Santa, is the energy issues that keep rising to the fore, but we all dodged a HUGE bullet when the ASHRAE folks backed off their requirements to lessen the net square footage of glazing. Can it really be that was back in February? We’re still finding other issues the industry needs to combat, such as the Product Category Rules, or the health benefits associated with products in building. Give us a dose of what the future portends, please.

    Thankfully, the architects are still designing with glass, despite these scares. The reflected energy in homes (or any building for that matter) using low-E glass is out there, but no one knows how that will sort itself out, especially if it ends up in the courts.

    We’re learning, too, about a lot of new things. Bird-friendly glass is gaining credence – note the new Vikings Stadium in Minneapolis. The bird-lovers are focusing on getting glass the birds can see and avoid, to save them injuries from collisions. This likely will be a huge technical issue for the industry to learn to address in the coming years. For someone like you, Santa, who’s been known to work closely with animals (say hi to Rudolph and the gang, please), any quick-study tips you can give us would be much appreciated, please.

    Also gaining traction are the silica regulations OSHA wants to hand down. This impacts everything associated with buildings, not just the glass or glazing. If something has silica in it, such as bricks, concrete or other products, it’s almost as if anyone on site or in the plant will have to wear a hazmat suit or go home while the situation is remediated. That’s not practical, and we need to work something out with OSHA so that the cost of labor doesn’t go exponential on us to deal with this. Can you give us and OSHA a dose of reality here, so we can both understand what the other is trying to accomplish? Please, and thank you.

    And, Santa, as you know, the success of the glass industry depends on quality people. The ability to hire staff – whether office or trained field personnel – is likely to be a serious threat to the biz, as there aren’t enough quality people to fill the needs, in many cases. Our industry might have to hire people who’ve never worked in the biz before, and train them. Any insight you can give us here would be helpful.

    We’ve lost some good people this year, too. Some retired, such as Ted Krantz at PPG and Lou Niles at Benson. They’re good people, and it’s tough to see them go, but we wish them well. We are also saddened by those who passed on, such as Jerry Wright, Mr. Fenzi and Lou McCumber, to name a few, but too many make this list any year. We are grateful to all for their contributions, and hopefully, we won’t forget the lessons they taught us.

    The bottom line, Santa, is we’re in pretty good shape. A lot of work is coming down the pike, and that makes for less difficult but all the more equally pressing problems to solve in running our respective businesses. Someone once said there are no problems, just challenges and opportunities. We are grateful to have such a life when you weigh it all in the scales.

    Any room in the bag for any gifts you see fit for any of us is much appreciated. We are grateful in retrospect; just thankful to be able to support our families, help others in their times of need, and enjoy our friends in the biz.

    And Lord, we do know all these blessings really come from You. I think we often don’t thank You enough, but we are grateful for the time of year, and the reason for the season. Thank You, for everything we know we have, and for all that we tend to overlook, but enjoy. Please make us aware of, and grateful for, all Your bounteous blessings.

    Love to all, Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays,

    Chuck

     

    PS: Santa, the candy cane cookies will be left by the tree, along with the glass of milk. I hope you enjoy them as much as I love making them with my grandkids. Somewhere, my Mom’s got a smile on her face when she sees us making these.

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  • Field Notes 20.11.2014 4 Comments

    One of the tasks underway within the GANA BEC Tech Committee is an update of the “Blueprint Reading and Estimating” course. Obviously, it’s been a long time since any one of us rolled out a set of blueprints. Thus, the contest: Come up with a new name for the course, and if the committee selects your proposed name, you’ll win one of these “Knickerblogger” T-Shirts. I’d offer a second place one that’s autographed, but there weren’t that many made.

    Knickerbloggers_united_tshirt

    In reading a variety of architectural magazines, I’m reminded of the importance of becoming knowledgeable about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and how it impacts what we do with doors and windows on an everyday basis.

    Given that my time in a wheelchair may be closer than how long I’ve been out of college (nothing on the horizon, just the odometer keeps on turning), ease of access is a paramount concern. And, rightfully so, as everyone should be able to use the products we push in this industry.

    But, some ADA requirements conflict with a product’s performance. For example, ADA says that door thresholds shouldn’t exceed ¾ inches in height. This is especially difficult to do on sliding doors and obtain the positive resistance to water penetration that many specifications require. Most sliding products utilize taller sill tracks to get better water resistance, given the water pressure build-up due to wind. While a taller track of 1 to 2 inches might help with water penetration resistance, that obviously conflicts with ADA. Someone once suggested that the threshold could be recessed in the floor, to get around the height restrictions of ADA. Yes, it could, but how does the water drain from a recessed track?

    And, if you think 1 to 2 inches is tall, try this: I once was involved in a project in which my company tried talking the architect into setting the ribbon curtain wall on a 6-to-8-inch tall curb, thinking that the height of the sill from the low, accessible roof and balcony would provide greater water resistance. The owner thought we were crazy, said no one ever did that, then went on a multi-week vacation and reported back that every hotel he had been in had a balcony, and that all of the windows, including the sliders and operable vents had been set on curbs which had to be stepped over to get to the balcony. Convert one owner, you can convert the world. Maybe. Some day.

    I’m not sure that all products ought to be easy for kids to use. Should a child be able to unlatch and open that sliding glass door? At what age do we gauge that a child is smart enough to open the slider and not endanger themselves if given unattended access to the balcony? And, how do we make a swing door that won’t fling a little old lady over the balcony when she doesn’t let go of the door latch when a gust of wind comes up? Making the closer stiffer makes it harder for the door to get caught in the wind, but it also makes the door harder for Grand mom to close. So, where’s the balance? Not put any doors into the wall? So does that mean balconies can be eliminated? Good luck with that!

    On a different topic, code officials – who up until now have had to deal primarily with making sure buildings are safe – now are being asked to enforce something that has nothing to do with life safety: energy efficiency. I can understand this mindset, but shouldn’t the glazing industry be partially responsible, along with the architects, for energy efficiency? As much as I can’t stand the NFRC certification process, we’ve brought some of the NFRC and other energy-related constraints upon ourselves, by not ensuring we were meeting basic efficiency standards. Most specs, written with U-values for the center of the glass, were seldom ever verified or enforced by the architect or their consultant. Instead, everything was driven by a lower cost, and now we’re paying the price for not more closely complying with the thermal-related performance requirements, as specified.

    Hopefully, our industry is now checking energy performance before proposing cheaper alternate products in our proposals. If we aren’t, that has to change. We ought to be pro-active in showing beyond doubt the products we’re supplying meet energy criteria, and show the code officials how we’re doing that at the start of the job.

    It doesn’t take long to come to some conclusions about where this could lead, though it won’t win many friends on that side of the issue: when will architects start enforcing the design, and ensure the energy related specs are held, regardless of the alternate products put on the table during bidding? Why shouldn’t part of an architect’s fiduciary responsibility to the public extend to energy? Now there’s a paradigm shift!

    What about green building certifications: does LEED Gold / Silver / Platinum really ensure the LEED credits taken actually perform as designed? And, if the building doesn’t measure up in that audit, will the LEED rating be pulled? Or should the LEED certification only be given after performance is measured?

    Send those Blueprint Reading Course name suggestions in. There’s a T-shirt’s here with your name on it.

  • Field Notes 06.11.2014 5 Comments

    One of the more thought provoking presentations at the September GANA Fall Conference in Toronto was on birds and glass. Michael Mesure of Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP Canada) made a very convincing argument for helping birds not harm themselves on glass in buildings.

    While that may seem like a bit of ridiculous statement, it’s not. Birds don’t see glass the same way we do. They see a reflection of the sky or nearby landscaping in the glass, so they continuing flapping merrily along. They don’t see a “stop, this could be harmful to your health” warning, unless we as an architect, owner, or glazier provide them a visual clue.

    Think of a four-way street intersection with stop signs or signal lights. You see the light change, or see the stop sign, and hopefully know you have to stop. There’s nothing like that on glass for the birds. If the interior atrium with trees that look like natural nesting or perching venues is shrouded in clear glass, birds don’t see that and tend to fly smack dab into the glass, often killing them. Michael estimated the count to be close to 1 million bird deaths per year in Toronto, alone.

    Your house might have the same issues. We’ve had several bird strikes at our home the last few years, and I thought the stupid birds just needed to learn (all animals learn, don’t they?) not to repeat the same action (flying into the glass). Guess that’s not the case, or different birds keep trying; I’m not sure which.

    What exacerbates the problem in Toronto is the city sits on the boundary between two migratory areas, and generally sees twice the amount of bird “traffic” as an area in the middle of a migratory zone.

    FLAP’s done enough research to have a pretty good handle on what doesn’t work: noisemakers, limited numbers of decals on the glass, plastic owls perched nearby… Other methods on the market, or about to come out work better.

    What’s needed is markings on the glass that the birds can see, but which are invisible to people. One product on the market now, Ornilux, uses a UV marker the birds see as if it were a tree or a solid building, but is invisible to the human eye, so the birds swerve to avoid the contact. FLAP reports research also indicates that lines on the glass at 2-inch spacing on the horizontals and 4-inch spacing on the verticals, such as from silk screening or other decorative traits, lessens bird impacts.

    One really scary thought Mark mentioned is that if the industry doesn’t get a grip on this, the EPA could step in and claim, at least as far as birds are concerned, that glass reflectivity is a form of radiation that they will regulate. Obviously, the impact on the glass industry would be tremendous, with a whole series of new constraints to deal with, not as grave say as energy, but still a potentially burdensome restriction. No one knows really where EPA intervention could lead.

    The new Minnesota Vikings Stadium is getting a lot of play in the press because of its vast use of glass and clear ETFE panels in the roof and end walls, neither of which has anything to prevent bird strikes.

    This looks to be one of those topics where we can keep going like we’ve been doing since the invention of glass, or we can get pro-active. The take from Toronto is that a lot more research, probably a lot of it by trial and error, will have to be done on site, and see what comes of that before a more widespread solution is found. Then, the marketplace (read architects and owners) have to be willing to incorporate those costs into the project budget.

    Glass has multi-tasked since it was first invented, providing protection from the elements while giving occupants views to the exterior, and letting in natural light. We’ve since asked more of it: insulating glass units to increase energy efficiency, first reflective then low-E coatings to even further up the ante for energy, and laminating it for protection from bombs and the worst that Mother Nature can throw at it. Now, it look like it’s time to add bird protection to the mix. Is that sort of environmental protection a price too big to pay? We’ll see.

     

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