A past blog took the Donald to task over buying Chinese windows. I wonder if he’s seen the October 25, 2011, report that the City of Shanghai is about to ban glass curtainwalls in schools, hospitals and residential buildings. The reason: the walls have inexplicably “burst without warning.” And, another recent blog took owners and the glazing industry to task about not heat soak testing tempered glass.
It appears at first blush, the two issues have combined perfectly into a scenario Donald could be walking into (or any other curtainwall project here in the States that’s going to China for more “economical” curtainwalls or windows).
When I was a kid, things made in Japan were considered cheap. Then, over the next 20-30 years, the quality of goods made in Japan drastically improved. But it took a few decades for them to learn how to improve the quality. A Datsun (now Nissan) or Toyota in the ’60s and early ’70s was lower than a VW Beetle for quality and durability – the price one paid for getting them a lot cheaper. Now, Lexus and Infinity – top, luxury models – are at or near the pinnacle of quality ratings. The Demming Method for quality improvement had some effect in Japan – the Japanese learned, and quality improvements have been made. A lot of you might be reading this on monitors or other electronic components made in Japan. The reason: they’re not making just decorations for the top of your kid’s birthday cakes any longer like they were when I was a kid. That stuff’s now being made in China.
In many ways, the Chinese aren’t there yet with their quality standards. They have some institutional barriers to get over.
Some experiences related to one Chinese fabricator that I know of: They shipped a complete unitized wall system to a jobsite, fully fabricated and structurally silicone glazed. The structural silicone used for the project was manufactured by a leader in the field. When the architect asked for the structural silicone warranty, as the specifications required, the sealant manufacturer wouldn’t give them a warranty. The reason: the fabricator hadn’t followed the sealant manufacturer’s quality control procedures, didn’t submit samples for testing, hadn’t had the drawings reviewed, etc. The fabricator submitted, instead, a warranty from the Chinese government that they would stand behind the product. That did not hold any water with the architect. The fabricator had to find a local-to-the-jobsite warehouse, strip the glass off the frames and start over – AFTER the sealant manufacturer was assured the QC program was being followed to the letter. Thankfully, the wall was not installed prior to the architect calling out the fabricator on this. That would have been far worse.
This same fabricator failed a couple of mockups, the first because the alloy in the unitized wall anchors wasn’t per the specification. Someone had failed to hold the extruder accountable when the material was delivered to the plant for fabrication. Instead, a less-capable alloy was used, and wasn’t discovered until the mockup failed. Lesson: mockups are never cheap, but they are an indispensable learning tool for projects. Owners learn that the glazing sub can or cannot perform as specified, and the glazing subs get a chance to fine-tune their design or installation methodologies. But had that not been discovered, can you imagine that wall “bursting” off the building, be it office, government or other facilities the City of Shanghai hasn’t listed for banning curtainwalls?
These types of issues are symptomatic of what I see coming out of China related to glass. Replacement lead times are not very friendly to installations here in the States. It takes weeks to make the glass, then to get it quicker, it has to be air-shipped. Who wants to wait 4-5 weeks for it to ship via container?
Donald, go right ahead and buy that wall from China. They don’t have the track record or the experience level yet (that only comes with time) to compete with what’s made in Europe or here in the States. For every $1/sf you think you save, would you like to know the glass isn’t going to break? Heat soaking will help that, but it’s not free. Or that the wall components are actually made to specification, not just run through the system, that they will perform when installed? All these things have a cost. Donald, would you mind putting a “Made in CHINA” sticker on your curtainwalls? I’d like to avoid those for the next few years…
On a different note, I was really hoping the Rangers would pull it off. Game 6 (two outs, two strikes, TWICE? Up two runs in the 9th and 10th Innings each time?) And can’t close it out??? This is one that HAS to be up there with my ’64 Phillies. It was a really long weekend until a recent Sunday night. Anybody see how the Eagles did??? Hopefully, by the time this gets posted, the Eagles will have beaten the Bears and gotten back to .500. Makes the Super Bowl seem a long way off…