• Field Notes 20.03.2014 3 Comments

    Some of what makes the BEC conference worthwhile is the different perspective you get by attending.  It’s always been intriguing to see how others perceive our industry.  From school protection using glass to BIM, here’s a recap of some of what I got out of the Sunday and Monday sessions.

    Julie Schimmelpenningh’s presentation about how to make schools harder to get into with a lower-cost alternative glass to bullet-resistant glass was worth its weight in gold.  She noted that while laminated glass won’t stop bullets, it stays in the opening and prevents a shooter from gaining access into the building by shooting out door glass and reaching through to open the door.  Since these events can end within minutes of starting, anything that can slow a shooter down gains precious seconds for first responders to get to the school.  This is something to talk about with the local school district, especially in balancing staff training and building hardening in light of budget constraints.

    Jon McFarland’s BIM presentation confirmed some of what I already knew about BIM, but it was great to see that validation by someone who’s using it every day.  It’s still tough to see how the smaller glazing outfits can incorporate BIM on a regular basis, in that a current project might require BIM, but who knows about the next project?  And, many small shops don’t use it enough to see a day-to-day benefit.  BIM has to be incorporated into the everyday operation to have an impact on a company’s operation. For now, that has generally limited its use to the larger glaziers.  BIM has a huge, upfront implementation cost, much like computer aided drafting did in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.  The glaziers who are using BIM are seeing the benefits of more accurate estimating, paperless transfer of data for fabrication of parts, and adding their ability to plan jobsite execution of the project.

    Courtney Little’s self-described junior high school lesson in democracy pointed out legislative, executive and judicial decisions coming down the pike.  For example, OSHA is about to issue work rules covering silica dust protection that will drastically impact work crews’ efficiency.  After an earlier presentation about productivity, I think this hit home for a lot of us.  Glass fabricators might have to change how they protect their crews on the production floor.  But, that’s nothing compared to what the field crews might have to deal with.   Can you see an installation crew wearing haz-mat suits with respirators, along with fall protection, while handling a triple-glazed field-set IGU?  Not a pretty picture.  And, the cost to the industry, estimated to be close to $560 million – who will pay for that, or how much less work will there be to absorb that cost?

    State governments are also scrutinizing contract clauses that establish legal forums.  Some legislatures are banning such clauses, attempting to keep legal disputes for a project within the jurisdiction in which the project is located. This is as opposed to litigating disputes in an out-of-state court in cases where the general contractor’s headquarters are in that other state.  As you can well imagine, most subcontractors are located near a job site.  Since most contracts are based on the law of the jurisdiction where the project occurs, to move any legal action to a court in another state could preclude companies from seeking relief due to the extra cost incurred with having to fight in a court inconvenient to the plaintiff.  If it costs an extra $25,000 to go after $50,000 you might have coming, is that worth the cost?  So be aware of what your state legislature is doing.

    If you’re not in contact with legislators, maybe now’s the time to re-think that, as voting by itself is not generally enough.

    Gregg Shoppman’s presentation about how to maximize profit provided one of those “duh” moments when you say, “I knew that, but why didn’t I know that?”  To increase volume and expect higher profits isn’t a given.  Decreasing overhead, if it causes more work for the field crews, is counterproductive.  Bottom line:  making the field crews more productive, even by minutes a day, has the best chance of increasing profitability. Gregg outlined some good ideas to accomplish that.

    Jim Benney’s presentation about NFRC certification remains, at least for me, a mystery wrapped in an enigma.  NFRC keeps preaching that the certification is a given, but it’s not.  And, what NFRC fails to address is the cost to the manufacturers to put their products into the NFRC databases so that architects and glaziers can get certification.  So, it remains the job of those manufacturers to pass that message on to their customers, potentially along with the HUGE costs and schedule impacts to them.  By NFRC’s own admission, the percentage of manufacturers willing to participate, even now that their certification program is more than four years old, makes certification of a lot of systems impossible.  How that will change, if at all, remains to be seen.

    Finally, a personal note after being taken by surprise, humbled and honored on Monday with a GANA award.  I have stood on the shoulders of a lot of mentors (or “daddies” as Don Earnheart likes to call them) over the years. Contributing to BEC is how I’ve chosen to pay that forward.  A special thanks to Bill Swango, Charles Morgan, Steve Gernes, Kevin Robbins, Keith Lindberg, Charles Clift, Don, and Kirk Osgood, Robert Zahner, Jerry and Jeff Razwick, Devin Bowman, the current staff at TGP, Sara Neiswanger and Urmilla Sowell, and all the people I’ve worked with through all the GANA committees.

    I have only one regret:  I wish Greg Carney could have seen this.

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  • Did you watch the Academy Awards this week?  I didn’t see a lot of the movies (none probably, if the truth be told), but I did come across this list of “America’s Five Happiest Industries,” one of which is closely tied to the Oscars:

    5.  Motion picture and video industries;

    4.  Management of companies and enterprises;

    3.  Educational services;

    2.  Radio and TV broadcasting; and

    1.  Software publishers.

    Funny, nothing associated with glass and glazing made it.  Good for a laugh, right?

    Just in case you thought, like Rodney Dangerfield, that we in the glazing industry “don’t get no respect,” especially when it comes to codes, consider this article, “The Fuzz Factor in Engineering.” It points out the explosion in code requirements for steel:

    1. AISI (steel cold-form steel) went from 22 pages in 1960 to 150 pages in 2012;
    2. AISC (steel construction) “ballooned” from 19 pages in 1941 to 239 pages in 2010; and
    3. Seismic requirements didn’t exist in the steel manual until 1992, at which time they were at 59 pages, and now only 20 years later they’re at 335 pages.

    And, in case you think those codes aren’t directly related to curtainwall and windows, you might want to reconsider that.  The latter two codes above set steel erection tolerances and how much a building can move during earthquakes. This must be accounted for in anchor design, for example.

    There’s also ASCE-7, which drives wind load criteria. That took up 92 pages in the 1988 edition, while the 2010 version is a whopping 368 pages.  Not all of that is related to walls, as ASCE covers roofs, too, but it shows the degree to which codes are changing.

    Granted, IBC has simplified the overall building code picture from where it was 40 years ago.  Who remembers using the UBC, the BOCA and the SBC, and keeping track of the local variations of all of them?  The picture might be simpler in that respect, but the IBC energy code, all the USGBC LEED developments, NFRC certification, etc., have kept the pressure on our industry to be watchful and responsive.

    A crucial point the “Fuzz Factor” article makes is that with codes changing and becoming more detailed, the chance for human error creeping into construction increases.  And as mentioned in a previous blog , there’s some value in peer review, which is something the “Fuzz Factor” PE author promotes.

    I think we already have enough safeguards within the glazing business, in that we have in-house or third-party engineers prepare our calculations, and those are submitted and reviewed by either the curtainwall or glazing consultant, and especially by the project structural engineers.

    I hope the peer review process that the “Fuzz Factor” writer espouses won’t become something we have to include in our calculation preparation or review process.  But who knows?

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  • 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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