• Field Notes 13.05.2015 2 Comments

    Have you seen the new acronym “BECx” – building envelope commissioning? No, it has nothing to do with GANA’s BEC. I’m still trying to get straight in my head why this is needed. After talking to a former colleague, it seems like this is NFRC all over again, with another set of players trying to get their noses under the building envelope tent. Just last week, I saw the first set of specs that required a Building Envelope Commissioning Agent (BECxA – funny how the acronyms all run closely to and with each other, isn’t it?).

    Basically, building envelope commissioning includes another player on the design team – during design development or schematic design – whose primary role is to confirm that the specifications adequately address the building envelope’s various performance requirements. That means everything, not just glass and glazing, but also brick, panel, precast and other wall assemblies, will all have to meet the same performance standards we in the glass/glazing biz have come to know and love, such as ASTM E283, E330, E331, AAMA 501.1 thru .6, etc. The building commissioning standard, ASTM E2813, is meant to address energy, environment, safety, security, durability, sustainability, and operation (Section 1.6) issues, but as of this writing it doesn’t include verification or checks for structural issues, such as seismic, deflections. Why not? I couldn’t get an answer.

    The building envelop commissioning agent frequently weighs in on the design, checking envelope wall submittals, helping spec correct materials/wall systems/constructions, and then testing either with pre-construction mockup testing and/or post-construction field testing. The people making the argument for commissioning say the commissioning protocol confirms that the architect’s specs actually get delivered. Really? Doesn’t the architect or their consultant already do field checks?

    I’ve yet to see a project in which there’s a wholesale change to different materials (system, glass, etc.) after field testing is completed, or after shop drawings are approved, have you? The proponents seem to think that a major switch-out for cost savings by the GC or glazing sub is “done all the time.” I certainly don’t know any architect or owner who would approve a pay request IF that were done.

    For smaller scale projects where the schedule and cost of conducting a performance mockup is not justified, the frame and glass manufacturers, along with NFRC certification, provide validation for the system as a whole in previously conducted air, water, and performance testing. Field testing for air/water integrity isn’t increased or lessened over typical specifications. Unless the building commissioning agent makes them test all over again to confirm the same performance before approval of the product for a given project, the validation comes in field testing of that existing product line. Doing thermal testing in the lab is hard enough; doing it on-site is much more difficult. Isn’t NRFC certification enough to confirm thermal performance? Why go through the trouble of conducting another thermal test if it’s not?

    So, the unanswered questions for me are:

    1. Who is advocating this?
    2. What value does it add to the project that justifies the additional costs over what’s now typically required?
    3. Is the owner willing to pay the costs of another consultant on the design team or added costs to install the walls?

    Plus, the standard covering the commissioning agent certification (E2813), calls for competencies that in practice will limit the qualified people to those with more than 20+ years in the business, and who have worked for a GC or exterior wall subcontractor delivering these goods. Naturally, the more experienced the person is, the more expensive the cost of providing commissioning services will be.

    For large projects, we all know mockups can prove structural, air and water performance, as well as some thermal validation. Field testing does the same, with or without a pre-construction mockup. Thermal can be proved prior to construction, notably if an NFRC-certified set of products (glass, spacer, and framing) is furnished. Does the owner really want to pay to do air, water, thermal and structural testing in the field on an installed wall if a pre-construction mockup wasn’t done? And, do we really need another player whose hand needs to be held to prove what we’re doing is what we said we’d do? Or, is it that the other wall systems (not glass and glazing) need to be validated?

    Maybe the other wall systems haven’t been held to the same standard as we in the glass and glazing biz have been, and that this is the way to catch them up to our world? I’m not sure; no one’s ever explained it to me. This scenario opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms I’ll hold for a future blog.

    Please, I’m slow on the pickup: just why is another player required? And what value do they add to the project? I’m not seeing the need – not yet, anyway. I’d love to hear from the advocates for building envelop commissioning.

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  • Last week, a former associate called looking for ideas on who could recycle old commercial glass. As Joe Puishys of Apogee mentioned at the BEC Conference, 1 percent of commercial glazing is new construction, and the other 99 percent is in existing buildings, just waiting for upgrades to better, more energy-conscious glass products. So, the question is: What do you do with the old glass? The answer, unfortunately, is it usually gets hauled to the landfill.

    Technically, there are a number of good reasons why this happens. First, a building may be slated for demolition, and removing the glass is a pretty labor-intensive effort with no immediate payback that justifies the expense to recycle it, if that’s even possible. I’ve seen buildings demolished with the glass in place, and the demo crew pulls out the curtainwall or window aluminum and/or the structural steel as part of the demo and obviously hauls that metal to the scrap dealer. The glass is hauled to the landfill with all the other materials that can’t be re-used.

    In a remodel, not only can the glass be replaced, but the framing can be replaced, as well. Removing old aluminum framing, there’s no question there’s value in it as scrap, so off to the scrap metal dealer it goes. This is exactly where glass and metal differ – remodel or demolition, it doesn’t matter: there’s no one to take the old glass and turn it into cullet.

    Commercial glass, it appears, has painted itself into a corner just by the value-added nature of the beast. A glass beer bottle or pickle jar is fairly easy to recycle. It may be clear or green or amber glass, but there’s not much else that is done with it. So, to recycle it, nothing has to be undone, it’s broken up and re-melted and re-cast as a new bottle or jar.

    When making laminated glass, or turning it into a reflective or low-E coated product, or making it part of an insulating glass unit, the glass can’t be recycled, as there are not commercially available means to undo all those changes and return the glass to its near-original condition. Tinted glass isn’t as common as it once was, but it can’t be bleached to return it to clear glass.

    Aside from turning recycled glass into bottles and jars, it can be turned into bead blast media or fiberglass, or even used as aggregate in concrete, as a component in asphalt, and hundreds of other uses. That’s a cakewalk. But so far, there’s not much demand or an easy process for turning commercial glass into cullet.

    I’d like to pose a few questions for which I don’t know the answers:

    1. Who is going to take the lead in developing commercial glass recycling methods?
    2. Do any of the current players, including float glass manufacturers or fabricators, have a responsibility to do so? Or, will a recycling method come from a wholly different quarter?
    3. Is this a business model that has to be set up regionally, or can it be done nationally?

    I’d be most interested in hearing any feedback or of any developments to this end – as would someone I know who has some glass they want to send you. Call me; I’ll give you their contact info.

    If you’re looking for an idea to launch a business, there it is.

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  • For all the recent talk about NCAA men’s and women’s basketball undefeated seasons, records, and who would win and why, it all still comes down to, “it’s why they play the games,” right?

    With half of my kids and their mother being Badger State natives, it was fun to have at least a partial connection to one of the teams in the men’s dance this year. Those in attendance last Saturday night from Indiana’s bordering states, Michigan (the green and white, not maize and blue) and Kentucky, certainly were disappointed with the outcomes (sorry Dave V.). The Red Sea was temporarily relocated to Indianapolis Monday night, replacing all the blue UK fans (pun intended). It was fun when we happened to walk by the Wisconsin hotel as the Badgers boarded the bus before the game Monday night, and the crowd was certainly keyed up. Not the outcome we hoped for, but a pretty good see-saw, back-and-forth game.

    All of the friendly bantering about b-ball sort of reminds me of a recent discussion we had in the office about what to call the device the glass setting blocks sit on within our framing systems. There were about ten name suggestions, including glass pad, glazing pad, setting pad, glass chair, glazing chair, setting block chair, and my favorite from the system designer: “multi-functional glazing support” – just rolls off  the tongue, doesn’t it?

    Unlike most companies, which usually don’t run on democratic ideals, the formal naming was put to a vote – for use on drawings, product literature, etc. Glass chair got my vote, but that didn’t carry the day, as “glazing platforms” won out.

    But, the point here is we all call a lot of things by different names. Getting a single name for that particular device would allow us all to know what someone was talking about when discussing it, both internally and externally with our customers. This also was brought home to me when going through the glossary for an upcoming revision to a GANA manual. Is it a lite or a lite of glass? Is it caulk, seal, sealant or joint-filler? Is a mullion a vertical, horizontal or both?

    Sometimes semantics can hinder a discussion if the two parties, thinking they are both speaking the same language, find out they are not. It’s why we play the game, right? When the light goes on, and both sides find out they weren’t speaking the same language, there’s a lot of back-tracking of the discussion, which often will start over from the beginning once a common agreement can be reached on a definition.  It allows a further understanding of where the other person is coming from. Such discussions can be fun and enlightening, and allow an appreciation of differing points of view to reach a common goal, whether it is for good customer relations, better executed projects, or applications that work. Fun stuff!

    And, now for some different glazing biz perspectives. As is the case with the projects James O’Callaghan presented at BEC, if you’ve seen the Apple stores, and some of the other glass stair projects his firm, Eckersley and O’Callaghan have engineered, you’d be amazed. I thought we had reached a zenith when we were first able to protect occupants from blast and hurricanes with glass, now our industry’s favorite material is being used as structural elements.

    In this case, technological advancements such as stronger interlayers in laminated products and SIGNIFICANTLY larger laminating glass sizes, had something to do with these types of incremental increases.  But, it takes a different way of looking at problems, and when they do burst on the scene, they seem like they’re larger, more monumental leaps ahead.

    So, when you have a chance, visit the Eckersley and O’Callaghan website for a gallery of their glass-related projects. And, talking of cool glazing, look at this subway entrance in Philly.  I’m not much of an engineer, but all of this stuff is impressive. One day, I hope to be able to understand how they did that. Until then, I’ll just sit back and watch how the game is played. I like to think I understand the lingo.  Maybe, maybe not. Likewise, I can’t play b-ball like I used to, but like to think I still understand how the game is played. It’s almost as much fun to watch either venue, glass or round ball.

    “On Wisconsin, on Wisconsin,” will have to wait for another day, I guess. My compliments to the folks in the Hoosier capital – the hospitality and venue were well worth the experience. And to Duke: congrats!

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