• ENR’s annual construction photos issue is out, and a glazing-related photo made the cut (see slide 19). Congrats to Jeremy Takada Balden at Morrison-Hershfield, the consulting outfit. It was a picture of one of his co-workers leaning over the 39th floor edge of what looks to be a unitized curtainwall, with the cityscape below him—nice shot!

    There’s also a shot of the workers rappelling down from the installation of the glazing panels at the new Anaheim Regional Transportation Center, which features an arch structure about 100 by 400 feet long, with LARGE diamond-shaped openings between the steel members that look to be glazed in ETFE panels. I saw a presentation last April at Enclos’ Facades+ Conference in NYC about this project. Talk about complexity–there weren’t many repeating lites. What was also interesting was the glaziers have to use mountain-climbing techniques from inside the structure to get to the glass surfaces. No small task that, and I know a lot of glazing pros not up to that effort, myself included. Maybe about 100 pounds ago …

    Another cool one: a hanging stage over the NYC skyline, in which the wire ropes and safety lines are the only visible means of support in the photo, taken when the stage appears to be 80 stories up. Nothing else underneath it.

    The ENR editors pointed out the judges included one safety expert who disqualified any picture that included obvious safety violations. In the M-H photo mentioned above, the full body harness and lanyard tied back into the building are obvious. With the Anaheim guys, you can see their safety lines. And, the winning photo for the first time this year was taken with a smart phone.

    Deb Levy and staff at USGlass: maybe there’s an idea here for an all glass/glazing/fabrication photo contest? If nothing else, with all the smart phones out there, I’ll bet there’d be some pretty dynamic pictures.

    BEC is approaching, so I hope you’ll attend. GANA’s annual meeting the preceding three days also looms. I’ll be covering some of the tech issues the other GANA divisions are working on in a later blog.

    Speaking of photos, my Navy son sent this one from the decks of the USS Whidbey Island, LSD-41. Collin is about to give up sea duty for a recruiting gig here in Kansas. Needless to say, his mother thinks that’s more spectacular than the heavens and stars seen here. You be the judge …

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  • Happy New Year! Trying to get back into the work groove after the holidays is always tough. One could get used to working only three or four days a week, if only the boss would allow it at the full-time pay rate, right? With all that time off, I caught up on reading industry trade magazines that I had only briefly paged through when they arrived. Some interesting events have occurred.

    One: When many of us are in Vegas for the GANA Annual Conference and BEC in March, look for that building across the street from the Paris Hotel that, last year, was an unoccupied billboard. Although it’s new construction, it’s being demolished. That’s the Harmon, which has been the subject of one of the most interesting construction defect cases to come down the pike in a while. During construction of a 49-story hotel, a defect in the concrete reinforcing was discovered that called into question the building’s ability to resist earthquakes. Construction was halted, capped at about 20 floors, and the project has remained vacant for the better part of four years. Everyone associated with the project sued everyone else, right up to the City of Las Vegas inspectors, who were accused of not catching the defect during construction. In mid-December, MGM (the owner), Tudor Perini (the general contractor) and all but one of the litigants settled the case right before the trial began.

    With a confidentiality agreement in place, it’s likely we’re not going to find out the settlement details. That’s too bad, as it won’t permit a review of what led to the problems, thus allowing the experience to teach the building industry which problems to avoid next time. Tudor Perini has a check coming their way totaling about $153 million. Hopefully, any of the subcontractors and their suppliers who were still owed money are getting whatever they are due. After having to wait this long after the project was closed, that couldn’t have been a pleasant experience.

    Two: Canada’s about to release their new CSA A550 Building Guards standard. No news on what exactly that’s going to entail, but the Top Glass Conference in April will feature Paul Gulletson, a project manager in the Built Environment Group at CSA, who will preview some of the technical aspects of the glass handrail standard. Given the rash of handrail breakage the industry has experienced, this might be the first standard issued as a result. Hopefully, the consensus will be that it sets a worthwhile precedent for both sides of the border.

    Three: From last July, steel that bends like bamboo? As TGP markets steel curtainwalls, obviously that drew me to the article. But, how might something like that impact the industry as a whole? The researchers increased in steel’s ability to stretch before failure by 300 percent by rearranging the molecular structure to more closely emulate bamboo. While framing systems made with such steel aren’t likely to be incorporated into curtainwall systems anytime soon, the idea of modifying materials to work differently than how we currently understand them opens up a lot of possibilities for the future. If applicable to steel, think of how changing the how the physical properties of glass and aluminum perform might change our industry. 20 years from now, anybody want to take a stab at the allowables for any of the materials we use on an everyday basis? A36 steel has a modulus of elasticity of roughly 29 million psi, aluminum 10 million psi. What if, given these research methods and the associated changes to manufacturing techniques that could follow, a three-fold increase in physical strength resulted? It’s possible a mullion could be one half or one third the size it is now. Think the architects would go for that? That might be one way of reducing the need for raw materials, and also impact the life cycle costs of wall systems and energy performance.

    Four: You think you’re busy? I love reading ENR and pick up a lot of interesting tidbits that happen outside the glazing world, but give an indication of how the rest of the world gets along. One such highlighted project caught my attention. How would you like a schedule with 13,500 activities spread around 4,500 work centers, involving a construction staff of 8,000 people? Think big, really big; think Panama Canal. The original canal, back in the early 1900s, involved removing 200 million cu m of soil vs. the 150 million cu m for the current expansion, which is needed to handle larger container ships. They’re setting 4.4 million cu m of concrete vs. 3.6 cu m for the original. Just in case that number’s not mind boggling, that 4.4 million cu m represents 640,000 concrete trucks (at 9 cu yards per truck – perhaps where the expression the “whole 9 yards” came from).

    The expectations for the building industry in the coming year will hopefully continue to look up, and not be as daunting as the canal. Almost 300,000 jobs were added to the U.S. construction industry last year, and predictions are for the same growth in 2015. That’s got to be good for all of us.

    Good luck, and continued success to each and all of you in the coming year!

  • 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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