• Here it is October, and it’s tough to know where the year has gone. Events in the industry appear to fly by, also. Several in recent days are worth noting.

    Wired glass: The 600-student junior/senior high school I attended had two fire stairs with wired glass partitions of a substantial size – something you don’t see often today as codes have become more stringent. If you missed it, USGlass reported last week that ANSI is further restricting the material’s use. Fortunately, though, our industry has many excellent alternatives that meet both fire safety and impact safety requirements.

    An Armed Forces Career Center in Cullman, Alabama, has installed bullet-resistant (not bullet-proof) glass in a shopping center. The remarkable part here is that the building owner did this on his own, with no prompting from the tenants. The part that caught my eye is that the owner is a 95 year old WWII vet. Thank you, sir, for your service, and more importantly, thank you for doing the right thing with your building. Can we get some more of this, please? I know of one center in Overland Park, Kansas, with the same need.

    In past blogs I’ve discussed my trepidation with glass-bottomed anything. If you recall, I’m not going on it. Period. New to the world is this suspension bridge in China, where the wood planks have all been replaced with glass. I hope there are detour signs at each end for alternate routes, or there are plans to build a wood bridge next to it. Shortcut or not, I’m highly attracted to the alternate route. Hopefully there is one.

    Seeing as the Chinese president was in Washington, DC, recently, this one caught my eye about the European Union potentially granting China Market Economy Status. This would likely “increase manufactured imports from China by 25-50 percent,” and “…will raise pressure on the United States…to follow suit.” At-risk industries if the MES is granted could include glass, aluminum and steel. Given the past statements of a certain U.S. presidential candidate about glass and window imports from China for his U.S. and Canada projects, this one might be worthy of a letter to your congressman and senators.

    With the GANA Fall Conference starting in less than two weeks, please tell the appropriate GANA division or technical committee chairs or GANA staff of any issues you think should be considered. My next blog will probably be written on the plane back from San Antonio.

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  • Field Notes 10.09.2015 1 Comment


    The title of this ARS Technica article – “Quantum dots may be key to turning windows into photovoltaics” – somehow, all of a sudden, connected some dots in my gray matter.  Perhaps the PV panel and glass combination described will provide some other benefits that would make future glass more multi-functional than it already is. As if keeping air and water out isn’t enough, we all know that glass provides exterior views and also has to perform a huge role in thermal performance of facades.  What if we added a couple more items to that list? Interested?

    I’ve been a proponent of photovoltaic glazing and am curious how efficient a fixed glazing lite can be, because as I understand it, with current technology, the PV panels are only 100-percent efficient when perpendicular to the sun’s rays.  Vertical glass walls are not built to follow the sun’s rays, so the opportunity to be in position to be 100-percent efficient isn’t there. But, these researchers have taken a different approach, albeit not the “connecting the dots” I envision.

    The 12-centimeter (4.72-inch) square PV panels are embedded either in a film or coated to the glass provide some degree of shading, much like applied ceramic frit or silk-screened patterns. With the PVs, a shading coefficient is built in. Their experiments shaded 10 percent and 20 percent of the available solar energy. Not only that, if the PV panels are such that birds can see them, we’ve just solved the bird-strike issue, too. The unknown might be finding a pattern of installing the PV cells on the glass that deters birds from impacting the glass.

    The last dot: I wonder what the actual power contribution could be. Because, if the rate of return is such that more of this glass can contribute to lessening a building’s need for grid-supplied power, ASHRAE won’t ever win the “battle for the wall” (reducing the amount of vision glass comprising the exterior) we saw in 2013-14.

    As always, there are a couple of items on the other side of the coin to address. Shading coefficients reduce natural light coming through the glass. How does that impact lighting requirements? Or, is enough energy generated from the PV panels to offset that? Is putting more money into the glass able to be offset and more importantly pay back the initial cost by decreasing lighting power requirements? And, what is the appearance of this glass from the interior? Does enough of the view remain, and is there enough openness to the glass to be aesthetically appealing?

    Another approach might lead to exterior mounted sunshade PV devices that can more efficiently convert solar energy into power simply by adding mechanical tracking to their design, so that panels are no longer locked in place, and can be more efficient by tracking the movement of the sun across the sky.  There’s a shading benefit these sunshades could well add to the design of a façade, obviously. If they’re collecting sunlight for energy conversion, that’s light and energy that’s not going into or through the wall. Converting them to bird-strike deterrence might be a reach.

    Better minds than mine have a lot to do to combine these factors into one cohesive product. But, bring on the INCREASED multi-functionality of glass.  It’ll be a major weapon going forward in keeping glass as a significant element in future building design and construction.

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    As summer comes to a close, some random thoughts about what’s going on out there…

    1– The GANA Fall Conference now is a mere six weeks off. If there are any technical subjects you think the BEC Tech Committee needs to start looking at, please let me know. We’re going to talk about glazing certification and about porcelain panels in glazing applications.

    For that matter, if there are other subjects you think other parts of GANA ought to look at, please drop me a line or give me a buzz. There are a couple of on-going items in other GANA Divisions I’m interested in tracking, most notably the discussion about ceramic frit and glass strength (being tracked by the Insulating and Tempering GANA divisions), and of course, the handrail glass discussion, most notably how the glass should stay in place after it breaks, much like in a hurricane glazing application, to prevent fall-through.

    2– Employer/employee rules are changing at the federal level, not only whether an “independent contractor” is really an employee, but also the rules about who is or is not an exempt and non-exempt employee, and whether or not they’re entitled to overtime pay. For the latter, methinks some of this is being handed down by the government looking to increase its income – if an employee works more than 40 hours a week and qualifies for overtime compensation, Uncle Sam’s cut increases.

    Better minds than mine can explain the intricacies of these regulations, but it occurs to me that any employer better have these matters down cold when classifying its workers. As most of glazing subs are smaller organizations, I’m curious how you manage to stay on top of this when an organization’s size doesn’t support a full time HR department, which is where larger companies can put the responsibility for staying current on such issues. Or, are employee work rules just one of the many variables small-shop owners/managers have to juggle to run a successful business? Do you hire a third party, much like you hire an accounting firm to help with the financial side of the biz, who can consult regarding HR issues?

    3– Ads for 3D printers from the big box retailers and specialty computer shops are out there, bringing that technology to the local level. I’m telling my kids now to pool their resources, as I’d like to get one for Christmas. While 3D printing is becoming the “next big thing,” one question is whether it will take over construction one day.

    We might be one step closer in the glazing biz given what MIT researchers have accomplished with a ribbon of glass. Small steps now, and the MIT application might be better suited for decorative glass applications. But, is it too much of a leap to envision a robot putting up a continuous glass band say 2- to 3-feet wide for the full height of a building for 3-4 stories? Up to X-feet wide by 2030, or sooner? Perhaps the lessons learned in these early phases will move to more broadly based applications, including windows and curtainwalls.

    4– Lastly, Deb Levy commented in one of her recent blogs about seeing The Pieta by Michelangelo through a silicone butt-joint glass display. I, too, saw the Pieta at the ’64 NY World’s Fair, which has stuck with me all these years. A year after, my parents had me watch the Charlton Heston/Rex Harrison movie “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” about Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel. When I later learned that he was also an architect (the Dome at St. Peter’s is his design), I was hooked on all things Michelangelo.

    So Deb, here’s my two cents/recommendations for fixing the problem: With the large lite capabilities that are out there now (remember the 45-foot-wide by 10-foot-high piece of laminated glass (two half-inch-thick pieces of glass) that was displayed at AIA a couple years back?  I got a dollar that says those large lite manufacturers would chomp at the bit to be able to furnish the glass. Finding a glazing crew to make the change might be a trick. I’ll volunteer to be PM if you find a funding source. I’ll work gratis, but someone has to pay the travel bills an endeavor such as this will certainly entail.

    But in the meantime, may I suggest you work any ties to European glazing outfits that you might have who might be willing to take that on?

    The logistics of getting a single piece of glass into that space might be problematic. But, like the Liberty Bell being moved out of Independence Hall in Philly, due to the wear and tear and resultant damage it was doing to the hall, it might be time to create a dedicated building or room where the Pieta can be displayed – one that can then be designed to the demands of protecting the work behind a single piece of glass while still facilitating its public display.

    Please ask that they use non-reflective, low-iron clear glass.  Keep the glass as flat as possible, not tempered or heat strengthened.  If there’s any outfits out there that can make it flatter than standard float glass, that would be a plus for minimizing distortion.  But, lami’s going to be a must (for security reasons). Any design has to make the glass all but disappear. Those minimal qualifications will have my vote.

    Enjoy the holiday weekend.  Anybody know where the summer went?

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