• BEC is wrapping up as I start to make my notes for this blog. It’s pretty amazing how you can think you’re on an island, then come to one of these industry events and see that others are facing the same challenges and opportunities – not only of the economy, but also the code issues, legal stuff (we all like getting paid on time, etc.), how people are rethinking what they do, and new products. It’s definitely been worth the time and cost.  

    Some things of note from the conference:  

    • Reglaze / Retrofit / Remodel might be the basic three Rs for the industry for a while. If new construction suffers as it has, then owners may upgrade what they have.  That creates a whole different niche some will want to get into.
    • The presentation on PREVENTABLE Curtain Wall Failures. If you can access the GANA website, the presentation did an excellent job of covering those. It’s getting passed to the Engineering Department for their use when I get back to the office. 
    • Get your teams situated per the strategic direction of your company. That may mean trimming, but it may also mean training up with new skill sets for your present employees. And, raising the expectations of what they can do.
    • Energy issues are driving new products to the market, but are also the basis for most of the code issues currently being considered. I don’t think there was a single product discussed that wasn’t making reference to increased energy performance. Eventually, as all of these get integrated into single projects, it’s all gotta add up, right? 
    • I heard a comment about Russ Huffer’s presentation regarding Net Zero Buildings (look it up in GANA’s website, hopefully it will be there). His presentation was a good case for not balancing the whole of a building’s energy consumption on just the amount of glazing in it. The comment: “We need to get him in front of ASHRAE. SOON!” 
    • Code issues:  do these ever go away? Probably not. We haven’t seen the full impact of NFRC, but ASHRAE 90.1 is on the horizon now, too. It’s becoming apparent the typical glazing subs don’t have the resources to take on the code issues by themselves, and may not know where to start. Fortunately, some of the large manufacturers, both from the framing and glass houses, as well as GANA and other trade associations, are stepping in to help fend off some of these attacks. I’m grateful for their willingness to do so. And while I may not know exactly how to fight these issues, I hope we as an industry can lend a hand if they see fit to call on us directly to support their efforts. At least let them know you can and will do that should the need arise.    
      And if you don’t think they’re attacks, then take another look. Reducing the percentage of glass on projects by code is an attack in this one man’s view. 
    • Building Enclosure Councils, supported by the AIA, have sprouted up in some of the major metropolitan areas. These are great places to make contact with the architects in your area. I’m sure they’d welcome technical presentations or AIA-type credit lectures, etc. 
    Technical initiatives:  

    • BIM standards for the glass and glazing industry are now being integrated with what the general contractors and architects are already doing. Some of the larger glazing subs are in the process of implementing some of what BIM’s potential can/may bring to the table.   
    • Fenestration Manual is a pretty broad concept, and it may take several more years to generate and coalesce everyone’s efforts before this one makes it to print. But there’s got to be some reference manual for beginners, which there isn’t right now.
    New products: 

    • Tintable glass that changes as the sun changes. Be it a bright sunny day or cloudy, it adjusts without the use of secondary power.
    • Flexible flashings from window to surrounding conditions. 
    • Silicone and foam glass spacers that have the desiccant built right in. 

    And last, but not least: learning French expressions over the Muzak sound system while conducting business in the men’s room. Of all places … but only in Vegas, right?  

     

     

  • From whodathunkit to waznex? 

    If I had a crystal ball, I’d sell insurance. But trying to predict what the industry will do in 20 years? The Glass Association of North American should have a contest:  make your suggestions for 10, 20 years from now, and someone opens them at that point, and see how silly or realistic the expectations were. TWA (remember them?) did this in the 1950s, and the winner suggested travelers would be able to drop off bags at the airport curbside, and they would be at the destination within 30 minutes of your arrival. That was really far-fetched then. You had to carry your bags through the airport to the plane and pick them up when you got off. No one knew what a baggage handler was.

    So here goes – here are some ideas for what the future of curtainwall will include:

    • Stronger materials. Will carbon fiber make its way into framing materials? If not carbon, then what other materials? Or shapes? Boeing just had the maiden flight of its next generation of planes, the 787, made from a large portion of carbon-reinforced parts. 
    • A different, clear glazing material that is more energy friendly, without loss of light and view, but doesn’t transfer heat the way ordinary glass does. And without a coating – something that’s in the raw material of the glazing, not an after/added-on coating like low-E is now. Is it glass, or some nano-technology arrangement of glass’ molecular structure?  
    • BIM:  The potential to revolutionize the industry.  If you plug in a framing manufacturer’s system or parts to an architect’s BIM model, the parts can be exported directly from the BIM model to CNC machines in the shops. Material takeoffs by hand are outdated, and purchase orders are automatically generated. The paradigm of shop drawings and fabrication drawings may go away, or radically change. I hope I live long enough to see this one. Bits and pieces of this exist now, and BIM has given the industry the opportunity to tie this all together under its umbrella, or so I hope. 
    • Material finishing not called paint or anodizing, something inherent in the metal. 

    Wishful thinking?  Who knows.  Call me in 10 or 20 years. I’d like to know how this turns out, and what is new that I didn’t think of today.  I should live so long…

  • Despite a request as a blog topic, I am not going to expound on why the Coybows (spelling intended!!!) are the greatest football team ever. One, they are not. I believe the Steelers of the ’70s or recent editions of the NE Pats might fit that category. Two, and much to my regret, I cannot claim that the team of my youth even comes close to our cross-state rivals in the Steel City, let alone the Coybows. Three, until my dying breath, I cannot, will not, and shall not bring myself to even consider writing, saying, thinking or contemplating the C-bs as the best team ever. Tom Landry-coached teams beat the Eagles way too many times when I was young.

    I got started in curtainwall in Dallas. Again, much to my regret, an unforeseen consequence was moving my sons to Dallas in their formative years, and now they are loyal Cowboys fans. Some mistakes you pay for your entire life.

    Whodathunkit? Leaving football aside, there have been many glazing technical advancements over the years that still amaze me:

    • We can hold glass onto buildings with a glue called structural silicone. And some pretty big lites of glass in some pretty stiff winds don’t fall off. All without three-quarters of their surface covered in structural silicone sealant. The attention that is and must be paid so this works, from design, testing, fabrication and installation is still enthralling!

    • Curtain wall that can rock and roll in an earthquake. The idea of unitized curtain wall, coming out of California (I think) in the late ’70s and early ’80s in direct response to seismic, has so overtaken the industry that a lot of buildings in active or inactive seismic zones apply the concepts to their project. The delivery time through engineering is quite a bit more severe than for stick walls, but it’s unlikely this concept will ever go away. There are too many pluses to it onsite: quicker installation times, lower storage and hoisting times, tighter performing walls.

    • Aluminum extrusions. At relatively low cost, if an architect designs it, it can be extruded. And circle sizes, once usually held to shapes that fit inside an 8” diameter, are now being pushed out to 12”, 15” and one die I saw at the Getty Museum had to be 5” wide by 15” tall, with five hollows in it. Now that’s a heck of a paperweight!

    • Cable walls. Mullions and horizontals not required. Put up a bunch of really big cables, pull them to tension loads of anywhere from 20,000 to 75,000 lbs, and then attach glass to them.

    • Hurricane-resistant glazing that incorporates glass as an ACTIVE component to protect people and property. I would have bet that glass could not still offer the views and sunlight to the interior AND stay in an opening during a hurricane. Who do we owe kudos to for suggesting laminated glass can work? Cycle a BROKEN lite of glass 7,000 times, and it stays in the opening?

    And then Hurricane Alicia happened to Southern Florida. Four hurricanes went through Orlando in 2005 – one of them being Katrina – and none of the properties built to the codes revised after Alicia suffered any large-scale property damage. And still we build with glass in these areas! Florida’s codes are now models the world over. Whodathunkit?

    • Blast-resistant glazing. Okay, while none of us would stand behind a glass window knowing a bomb was going off outside, can you believe we can protect occupants with glass? And if it happens again (hopefully it won’t, God willing), we won’t have to suffer the degree of injury from flying glass of so many that day in Oklahoma City.

    Some of these advancements came about because someone sat down and said it could be done differently. They foresaw the advantages, either aesthetically or wanting to do something no one had done before. I think that’s where cable walls came from. Glass mullions, too, probably. Unitized walls as well.

    Some we learn about from disasters, such as what we’ve learned from 9/11, hurricanes and the OKC bombing. The airline/airplane industry does this a lot. A plane goes down, the investigators come up with the cause, and the industry reacts. They say “experience” is what you get just after you needed it.

    But finally, the thing that amazes me the most: The architectural drawings come out, the shop drawings are prepared, and finally the day comes when the 2-D images become real, live 3-D parts. And after a little cajoling, the parts are made to fit together and are assembled into buildings. It takes months, but to see things move from paper to real building that people live and work in. That to me is simply amazing.

    And now, two of my kids work in buildings I had a hand in building the curtain wall for. What goes around has come around far sooner and closer to home than ever could be imagined.

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