• Field Notes 11.02.2014 1 Comment

    Part of the buzz last week at the GANA Annual Conference was how giddy everyone was for the recent defeat of the ASHRAE 189.1 proposal to lower window to wall ratios to 30 percent from the existing 40-percent standard.  Victory in the “Battle for the Wall” (as the outgoing Guardian president Scott Thomsen called it last year at BEC) means we get to keep a fourth of the glass, windows, and walls we all like to sell. People were saying at GANA that “25 percent of everyone’s business has just been saved.”  A big thank you, again, to the glass manufacturers for helping take the lead on this for all of us.

    The flip side, of course, is that everyone still has their guard up, trying to decipher where the next fight is coming from. Some of the talk at the GANA receptions focused on what we all can do together to change to a pro-active stance in which the industry leads more, versus reacting to what other organizations are doing. I don’t know where I heard it, maybe it was Texas:  As an industry, our position could change to: “Have to get going, we’re busy, we have things to do, and people to do them to!”  That would be a great stance for GANA to take, leading that is, and doing it politely, of course.

    Two presentations last week highlighted how fundamentally flawed the ASHRAE proposals were: one from Carnegie Mellon and one from MIT.  Since so much attention is being paid to energy within the architecture schools, you might have an excellent source already in your backyard that you can invite to AIA or your local glass association to talk about daylighting and WWRs, or to stay in touch with continuing education seminar/webinar/courses they may be offering.  Granted, the credit might not be worth anything as far as keeping professional registrations current within your firm, but isn’t that worth the cost if there’s something to be learned?

    These particular presentations included everything from computer modeling of daylighting levels within any given space to shading of framing systems.  If GANA posts them, you will see some of the shots fired across ASHRAE’s bow in saving 25 percent of our biz.

    Julie Schimmelpenningh from Eastman gave an excellent presentation about how to upgrade existing school entrances to make it harder for potential shooters to gain entry, and there’s not really a whole lot that has to be done, contrary to what you may be thinking.  The stats say that a majority of these events are over within six minutes of starting.  So delaying tactics, along with other measures, regardless the form, gains precious time for first responders to get there to protect children and teachers, thus potentially saving more lives.

    Julie has agreed to give the presentation at BEC next month. You‘ll have to come early as her presentation will be during the Technical Committee on Sunday, March 16, 3-5 p.m. It will be in conjunction with two other presentations that hopefully will draw your attention:

    • Jim Benney is going to talk about the CMA for NFRC Certification.  He made a presentation in Orlando about some of the problems in getting the spectral and diffuse data into NFRC’s database for translucent glass, frits or interlayers.  This also is related to why sloped glazing and spandrel glass hasn’t made its way into the NFRC formulas for certification.  Some funding issues with furthering development of the CMA with respect to these products have arisen, and I’ll let you think on where that may lead.  Monitoring what’s going on with NFRC is important as much of the data for framing, glass and spacers now on the market are not in the NFRC database.  If NFRC certification ever takes off, either as a code or spec requirement that IS enforced, this will affect much more than 25 percent of your business.
    • Jon McFarland at Wheaton Sprague is going to talk how his firm is helping glazing subs with their BIM modeling requirements.  This is not a “how do you do BIM?” but rather, Jon will show representative samples of BIM projects and the pickups his firm’s clients are getting from its use. Within BEC, we haven’t done anything about setting glass industry standards regarding BIM, but the follow-up conversations after his presentation could change that thinking.

    If you can’t tell, I was stoked by the whole Annual Conference experience! Except for one conclusion I came away with:  more BEC people need to attend. Everything discussed at the meeting trickles down to BEC: all the groups, (Protective Glazing Council, Tempering, Laminating, Insulating Glass, even Decorative, etc.), as well as all the developing or updating of standards, all the product designations, limitations, specifications. The BEC companies use it all:  they prepare estimates using these standards and products, they sell it to their customers with every contract they sign, and then have to be conversant enough with the standards to make the GCs and architects understand it and get “buy-ins.”  The output of these types of industry conferences, due to the diligence and interest of the people who have contributed year-in and year-out, have benefited your business to no end. It’s not right that more BEC people aren’t in the room affecting the decisions.

    In that light, there was also a discussion about rejoining the annual conference with BEC, as it had been in the past. Initially, I was not for this. But, by the end of the conference, seeing what’s getting done and not having more BEC people there, I withdraw my objections for now, if it gives a better shot for BEC representatives to participate in the GANA end.

    One last note: the awards for division contributors of the year and recognition of Carol Land’s impending retirement were in stark contrast to the tribute paid to Greg Carney. It is an understatement to say it was moving and touching. From that, one of my aspirations is to be one of his “glassholes.” It won’t be the same if he can’t lay that one on, but, it’s worth a shot.

    Other takes from last week to follow in the next post. And, please, someone remind me next year to bring duct tape to the annual meeting, and to put it to good use! Hint: you had to be there on Thursday in the Insulating Glass Division.

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  • Field Notes 05.02.2014 2 Comments

    As I write this on Monday morning, I’m wondering if all my co-workers at TGP’s headquarters in Seattle will be at work today. Hats off to the Seahawks’ 12th Man!  But, who saw this game starting and turning out that way? All the prognosticators predicted close scores. ESPN’s Chris Berman predicted neither team would score more than the forecasted mid-30s temperature for New Jersey. How did your square pool turn out?  Busted in 12 seconds?

    Late last week, it was announced that the duties the U.S. is imposing on Chinese fabricated curtainwall materials were upheld by the Court of International Trade. Obviously, the immediate reactions depended on which side of the pond you’re on. For the Chinese, this can’t be good.  For the U.S. extruders and fabricators, the view is much more pleasant, if not downright exciting.  What a huge break for U.S. industry.

    One of the Coca-Cola commercials during the Super Bowl highlighted this difference.  If you missed it, the spot features “America the Beautiful” sung in different languages. Rumbling through the news on the Internet and CNN this morning is a lot of: “this is America, it should only be sung in English” type discussions. On the other hand, this country is and always has been Heinz-57 – there’s a lot of ethnic diversity, and all of us who aren’t Native Americans are descendants of immigrants, some more recent, some several generations ago, but immigrants nonetheless.  It’s what makes us great. We all are trying, or have been assimilated into, a country where those differences contribute to who we are. It’s why the U.S. Constitution starts “We the PEOPLE…”

    Thus, the dilemma with foreign trade. Setting aside potential quality issues, if a competitor bidding against you can do it better/cheaper/faster than you can, aren’t you going to lose the job?  Why should it matter if they pay less for the material or labor?  Does it matter if they are next door or across the ocean?  Yes, I am in favor of products made here in the states, but there are a lot of BMW, Sony and Apple products made offshore. I own some myself.

    The labor or material may be cheaper because they aren’t paying their people a living wage, providing health insurance, paying the employer payroll taxes, not protecting the environment adequately, or because the government subsidizes them. The argument is that is an unfair advantage.  But, in a competitive marketplace, if you have an edge, who wouldn’t try to make the most of that “advantage?”

    Is there a right answer on this?  Maybe not.  Idealistically, though, it’s hoped by driving up their product costs, it does level the playing field. Too often, though, duties seem to just enrich our own government’s income but don’t increase salaries or raise the standard of living in the country of origin. Granted, Germany (BMW) and Japan (Sony) have standards of living similar to ours, but that took a lot of work and help from the U.S. after WWII. And, the quality of the German and Japanese products drives U.S. purchases of them. If only we can bring the Chinese along to that level, both in terms of the quality of the products and what they pay their people, it would cost them more, thus truly leveling the playing field.  Now there’s a goal to shoot for. Okay, enough political…

    I’m off to the GANA Annual Conference this week, and hope to pick up a lot on the energy focus on Tuesday, and see what the other divisions are up to.  Next week I’ll report on any pick-ups from it.

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  • Field Notes 29.01.2014 2 Comments

    Consumer electronics are famous for planned obsolescence, in which companies know the new smart phone you buy today will be replaced by their latest model in six months. But, the same with buildings?

    In college in 1980, a professor required one of my classes to do forensic studies of how several new office buildings had been constructed. He asked us to evaluate what worked and didn’t work – from constructability and how occupants used the space to how utilities were distributed and various facets of the mechanical systems.  My group was assigned the new 16 story addition to Northwestern Mutual’s corporate headquarters in downtown Milwaukee. Now, just 35 years after the building was built, it’s going to be demolished  and replaced with a new building.   One of the reasons given for the demolition is the existing building’s lack of energy efficiency.

    When doing the onsite review of the plans and specifications of the then new building, my group asked the cost of construction.  We were told that information was not for public consumption.  Our professors, being wise to the ways of the world, told us the NWM policy holders would not be happy had that figure been published. We estimated the cost at $80-100/sq.ft., at a time when Class A office space was being built for $35-50/sq.ft.

    The 1979 building was built as the U.S. was realizing that oil embargos and utility bills with rates that changed from month to month were going to change the way we consumed non-renewable resources.  The emphasis on better performing buildings was just developing, but hadn’t reached nearly as far as it has in the past 40 years.

    Part of that same class examined the construction of a new federal office building planned for Milwaukee.  The GSA was seeking prospective private developers to lease space back to the government, The winning developer told us the feds wanted a long-term lease that included utility costs.  Gas had gone from $0.55/gal to over $1.00/gal in those years (ah, those were the days!), and no one knew where energy costs were going, so the developers did what we all do when preparing estimates –  they shot the moon on future energy costs.

    Even so, it’s astonishing that just after 35 years, the NWM building will be demolished and replaced.  But, I guess those of us in Philly, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh aren’t too surprised.  Those cities built multi-purpose stadiums in the 60s and 70s for their baseball and football teams.  If you ever attended games at the Vet, Riverfront, or Three Rivers near the ends of their lives, you know part of the reason they were replaced.  Granted, they weren’t built to outlast the Roman Coliseum, but shouldn’t we be building better, more durable buildings? What’s wrong with building buildings that last hundreds of years, rather than just a few decades?

    On the good news front, you no doubt heard that last week ASHRAE backed off its proposed reduction of the window-to-wall ratio prescriptive limit. Fortunately, Tom Culp got a lot of support from the industry.  Those opposed to the amendment included 13 industry groups, including GANA, AEC, AAMA, IGMA, WDMA, and several others representing more than 2,500 companies. 126 individual companies, independent of their membership in industry associations, supported the opposition, as well.  Opponents included architects, universities, and people outside the glazing industry associations.

    So for now, we’re safe from mechanical engineers limiting how much glass goes on a project.  I fear the fight isn’t over; the watch must be as vigilant and as diligent as before.  I hope you paid attention and know who helped support our industry in this fight.

    Beyond this win, we all need to get smarter in helping our customers, the general contractors and architects, design and build more energy-efficient and higher-performing glazed assemblies.  We can’t stand by and let planned obsolescence creep into the industry in any form.  I trust you’ll take whatever action you deem necessary.

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