• Flying back from Dallas last week, it was fun seeing the green of spring in the landscape slowly creeping north. Over the weekend here in K.C., it was in the 80s. The trees are budding and leafing, a lot of the flowering trees are in full bloom, and the daffodils are in full flower. Then, this morning, it’s snowing. Go figure!

    I always love to see what might be coming down the pike in architecture, to see what’s about to cross over into the “can it really be constructed?” world. Along those lines, here are some technically challenging curtainwall projects for your consideration.

    Evolvo Magazine 2014 Skyscraper Competition winners. Those might be a little pie in the sky, but that’s never stopped an architect from trying, right?

    There’s a project in Vienna that looks more complicated than it probably is, but the variety certainly livened things up in the detailing and fabrication.

    And, there’s a residential tower going up in NYC that seems incredibly thin: 84 stories tall, not very wide. The main structure is concrete, so the floor plates and columns have to be incredibly thick to resist the sway and twist that comes from so narrow a structure. The top floor condo goes for a cool $79,500,000 (zeroes shown for effect).

    As the economy comes back, we’re seeing more of these pushing-the-envelope-type curtainwalls. Recently, we completed a budget estimate for a curtainwall that was laid out in a segmented plan, with the verticals segmented, as well. It’s sort of a barrel skylight, flattened out somewhat, but then turned vertically on the outside of the building. The bow in the vertical section over a 47’-0” height was about 36 inches. All the glass is flat, there were no curved framing or glazing infills. So that brought it back down to Earth a bit. It’s dramatic, and there are a lot of challenges and opportunities in executing that wall.

    Can it be done? Yes. Technically, it’s not that far out of the box. How about cost? The question, as always, comes down to whether or not the owner wants to pay for it. We’ll soon find out.

    No problems, just challenges and opportunities. Most days, that’s what makes the world go ‘round, isn’t it?

     

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  • 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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