• Field Notes 26.02.2015 2 Comments

    It’s easy to write about what goes on at GANA’s Annual Conference and/or BEC after they occur. But, since the annual conference starts next week (March 5), and BEC occurs right on its shirttail, here are some interesting developments, discussions, and other items of general interest I’m looking forward to hearing about what’s happened to since the last set of meetings. Read on, and let me know what you’re looking forward to at these meetings.

    One rumbling that appears to be getting some legs: a discussion about whether ceramic frit weakens glass. Since ceramic frit is commonly specified for spandrel glass applications, this is getting some serious attention – as it should. IGMA discussed this at length last month at their annual meetings, and now it’s going to be discussed in the Tempering Division meeting.

    The Insulating Division, in conjunction with IGMA, is working on cold forming or warping glass. There’s a lot of crazy architectural designs out there that don’t want flat glass any more, but altering glass in these ways has its limits before damage occurs to the IGU edge seals.

    The Insulating Division is also putting together some recommendations for use of insulated glass units without frame members behind them. Typical cable or point supported glazing applications are doing this now. There’s no metal at the glass-to-glass joint, but some glass fabricators are not allowing the use of IGUs without a back framing member supporting the glass edge.

    As sure as the sun sets over the Olympic Mountains in Seattle (assuming it’s not raining), if the architects catch wind that frame members don’t need to be behind every glass joint, they’re going to ask (and we at TGP have had some requests) to delete the horizontals. To carry the dead load of the glass, setting blocks at the corners, hidden in the glass-to-glass joints, has to be addressed, given the common industry practice of putting the blocks at 1/8 or 1/4 points.

    Laminating glass in handrails is still pressing its way to the fore. The Canadian standard is about to be issued any day, and how that will translate to the rest of North America will be interesting. A meeting last week of GANA’s task group within the Laminating Division looked at this, but a lot of the effort has been to address the risk of falling glass. A question that needs to be addressed just as importantly is: How do the codes need to change so that someone doesn’t fall through a glass handrail?  Keeping the glass from falling and hitting pedestrians below is only one-half of a very important question, but keeping the glass intact and strong enough that someone who trips on something on a balcony, doesn’t fall through the handrail even though the glass may break.  It’s analogous to a blast or hurricane load that may result in broken glass, but doesn’t evacuate the opening, which in the case of a handrail, then prevents the occupant from being on the wrong side of the rail.

    We’re going to review a lot of these and any other points discussed during annual conference in the Technical Committee that kicks off BEC on Sunday, March 8. But, it’ll only be a cursory review. Also, Dr. Dudley McFarquhar is going to review the challenges faced in the New Parkland Hospital construction project recently completed in Dallas.

    I hope you’ll join us there.  And, please let me know if there’s any perspective you think should be represented that isn’t. We can certainly use and always appreciate the feedback, and will promise NOT to assign you to any committee. Others at GANA might entice you to do so, but I can’t speak for them.

    See you in Vegas, baby!

  • 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!

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