• Field Notes 22.04.2015 2 Comments

    Last week, a former associate called looking for ideas on who could recycle old commercial glass. As Joe Puishys of Apogee mentioned at the BEC Conference, 1 percent of commercial glazing is new construction, and the other 99 percent is in existing buildings, just waiting for upgrades to better, more energy-conscious glass products. So, the question is: What do you do with the old glass? The answer, unfortunately, is it usually gets hauled to the landfill.

    Technically, there are a number of good reasons why this happens. First, a building may be slated for demolition, and removing the glass is a pretty labor-intensive effort with no immediate payback that justifies the expense to recycle it, if that’s even possible. I’ve seen buildings demolished with the glass in place, and the demo crew pulls out the curtainwall or window aluminum and/or the structural steel as part of the demo and obviously hauls that metal to the scrap dealer. The glass is hauled to the landfill with all the other materials that can’t be re-used.

    In a remodel, not only can the glass be replaced, but the framing can be replaced, as well. Removing old aluminum framing, there’s no question there’s value in it as scrap, so off to the scrap metal dealer it goes. This is exactly where glass and metal differ – remodel or demolition, it doesn’t matter: there’s no one to take the old glass and turn it into cullet.

    Commercial glass, it appears, has painted itself into a corner just by the value-added nature of the beast. A glass beer bottle or pickle jar is fairly easy to recycle. It may be clear or green or amber glass, but there’s not much else that is done with it. So, to recycle it, nothing has to be undone, it’s broken up and re-melted and re-cast as a new bottle or jar.

    When making laminated glass, or turning it into a reflective or low-E coated product, or making it part of an insulating glass unit, the glass can’t be recycled, as there are not commercially available means to undo all those changes and return the glass to its near-original condition. Tinted glass isn’t as common as it once was, but it can’t be bleached to return it to clear glass.

    Aside from turning recycled glass into bottles and jars, it can be turned into bead blast media or fiberglass, or even used as aggregate in concrete, as a component in asphalt, and hundreds of other uses. That’s a cakewalk. But so far, there’s not much demand or an easy process for turning commercial glass into cullet.

    I’d like to pose a few questions for which I don’t know the answers:

    1. Who is going to take the lead in developing commercial glass recycling methods?
    2. Do any of the current players, including float glass manufacturers or fabricators, have a responsibility to do so? Or, will a recycling method come from a wholly different quarter?
    3. Is this a business model that has to be set up regionally, or can it be done nationally?

    I’d be most interested in hearing any feedback or of any developments to this end – as would someone I know who has some glass they want to send you. Call me; I’ll give you their contact info.

    If you’re looking for an idea to launch a business, there it is.

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  • For all the recent talk about NCAA men’s and women’s basketball undefeated seasons, records, and who would win and why, it all still comes down to, “it’s why they play the games,” right?

    With half of my kids and their mother being Badger State natives, it was fun to have at least a partial connection to one of the teams in the men’s dance this year. Those in attendance last Saturday night from Indiana’s bordering states, Michigan (the green and white, not maize and blue) and Kentucky, certainly were disappointed with the outcomes (sorry Dave V.). The Red Sea was temporarily relocated to Indianapolis Monday night, replacing all the blue UK fans (pun intended). It was fun when we happened to walk by the Wisconsin hotel as the Badgers boarded the bus before the game Monday night, and the crowd was certainly keyed up. Not the outcome we hoped for, but a pretty good see-saw, back-and-forth game.

    All of the friendly bantering about b-ball sort of reminds me of a recent discussion we had in the office about what to call the device the glass setting blocks sit on within our framing systems. There were about ten name suggestions, including glass pad, glazing pad, setting pad, glass chair, glazing chair, setting block chair, and my favorite from the system designer: “multi-functional glazing support” – just rolls off  the tongue, doesn’t it?

    Unlike most companies, which usually don’t run on democratic ideals, the formal naming was put to a vote – for use on drawings, product literature, etc. Glass chair got my vote, but that didn’t carry the day, as “glazing platforms” won out.

    But, the point here is we all call a lot of things by different names. Getting a single name for that particular device would allow us all to know what someone was talking about when discussing it, both internally and externally with our customers. This also was brought home to me when going through the glossary for an upcoming revision to a GANA manual. Is it a lite or a lite of glass? Is it caulk, seal, sealant or joint-filler? Is a mullion a vertical, horizontal or both?

    Sometimes semantics can hinder a discussion if the two parties, thinking they are both speaking the same language, find out they are not. It’s why we play the game, right? When the light goes on, and both sides find out they weren’t speaking the same language, there’s a lot of back-tracking of the discussion, which often will start over from the beginning once a common agreement can be reached on a definition.  It allows a further understanding of where the other person is coming from. Such discussions can be fun and enlightening, and allow an appreciation of differing points of view to reach a common goal, whether it is for good customer relations, better executed projects, or applications that work. Fun stuff!

    And, now for some different glazing biz perspectives. As is the case with the projects James O’Callaghan presented at BEC, if you’ve seen the Apple stores, and some of the other glass stair projects his firm, Eckersley and O’Callaghan have engineered, you’d be amazed. I thought we had reached a zenith when we were first able to protect occupants from blast and hurricanes with glass, now our industry’s favorite material is being used as structural elements.

    In this case, technological advancements such as stronger interlayers in laminated products and SIGNIFICANTLY larger laminating glass sizes, had something to do with these types of incremental increases.  But, it takes a different way of looking at problems, and when they do burst on the scene, they seem like they’re larger, more monumental leaps ahead.

    So, when you have a chance, visit the Eckersley and O’Callaghan website for a gallery of their glass-related projects. And, talking of cool glazing, look at this subway entrance in Philly.  I’m not much of an engineer, but all of this stuff is impressive. One day, I hope to be able to understand how they did that. Until then, I’ll just sit back and watch how the game is played. I like to think I understand the lingo.  Maybe, maybe not. Likewise, I can’t play b-ball like I used to, but like to think I still understand how the game is played. It’s almost as much fun to watch either venue, glass or round ball.

    “On Wisconsin, on Wisconsin,” will have to wait for another day, I guess. My compliments to the folks in the Hoosier capital – the hospitality and venue were well worth the experience. And to Duke: congrats!

  • As sure as the sun comes up in the East, every BEC or GANA Annual Meeting deals with code developments relating to energy. Tom Culp does a great job of keeping in front of this for GANA. His presentations this year highlighted several developments worth mentioning. After the “Battle for the Wall” with ASHRAE last year about reducing the window-to-wall ratio, ASHRAE’s got some other areas that will require the glazing industry’s attention over the coming months and years. Unlike the wall battle, these changes are more reasonable.

    Energy-related issues the glazing industry will need to watch include:

    Climate zone map changes

    ASHRAE 90.1 is slated for an update in 2016. Climate zone maps are changing, so if you work in areas near the borders between climate zones, you might want to look to see if your area is changing. There’s also a reduction of U-values slated to be in the 10-14-percent range in the colder zones (4-7), which Tom felt were realistic and practical. Also, solar heat gain coefficients (SHGC) in Zones 1-3 will be revised to 0.25, and possibly to 0.22 in Zone 0.

    Spandrel glass and building orientation

    There’s some discussion about using different technologies, such as highly insulated, opaque, spandrel glass to allow higher percentages in vision glass areas. Also, do different glass types and/or glazing systems need to be installed on the North / South / East / West elevations in response to different thermal constraints (mostly solar that vary by compass direction)? We’re seeing some of that now, but this will be primarily driven by the architectural design, so we’ll have to see if this practice becomes more widespread.

    Thermal bridging

    Thermal bridging will get a lot of attention in the coming weeks and years. A couple presentations, most notably that of Stéphane Hoffman of Morrison Hershfield, hit it out of the park.

    Let’s preface this by looking at a common condition of condominium projects I’ve seen over the years. Namely, designs in which the building floor slabs extend through the exterior walls, primarily to form balconies. Curtainwalls on these projects aren’t really curtainwall in the true sense because they are discontinuous, with each floor slab interrupting the curtainwall, thus becoming a series of 1-story ribbon windows, extending from the top of one slab to the underside of the floor above.

    That floor slab becomes a thermal bridge, with no thermal break between exterior and interior. HVAC systems heat the interior in winter, including that slab, which becomes a conduit for heat transfer to exterior, colder conditions. And, the reverse in summer: the sun heats the slab, which conducts the heat to the interior, where the cooling system has to deal with the load.

    A similar type of thermal bridging happens in windows and curtainwalls. When insulation in adjacent walls isn’t aligned AND tied to the thermal breaks in the window or curtainwall system, a thermal break occurs, and energy “leaks” in or out of the building. The question of how much energy isn’t known yet, but since window and curtain wall perimeters tend to be large, the loss numbers might be huge. If they are, then the logic for addressing any heat transfer in these areas will require more attention.

    Take for example a typical head, jamb or sill detail and draw a line representing the thermal separation from the glass thru the thermal break in a framing system, and then connect it to the insulation in the adjacent wall. Any time you have to lift your marker because there’s not a material to connect any two of the materials, there’s the thermal break. If the material you’re drawing a line through isn’t thermally isolated from the exterior, a thermal bridge has occurred and that portion of the wall can transfer energy through the wall system. And, for the line to be energy and material efficient, it should be straight, not zig-zag.

    Often the glass and building wall insulation don’t align, or the line you just drew zig-zags through the detail. The glass might be at the exterior of the framing system, and generally, it aligns with the thermal break in the framing. Additionally, insulation in the adjacent wall is near the back of that construction. How do you tie the two together when they don’t align? Going back to the condominium example, for the head can receiver, where’s the thermal break in the extrusion in relation to the glass? Does it align with insulation in the adjacent construction? If that adjacent construction is a floor slab, there’s no insulation, hence a bridge has occurred.

    The over–simplified answer to the thermal bridging issue would be to extend the building insulation into the glazing cavity and tie it to the glass or to the thermal break in the framing system.  That might require zig-zagging the insulation along the perimeter of the window to get it to tie to the adjacent wall insulation.

    But there’s a catch. How do you tie the two together when there’s a water barrier to be crossed? Most framing systems currently use the glass pocket as the pressure equalized or rain screen cavity to help drain water from the glazing system, tying that off to the adjacent surrounding substrates with sealant joints, or flexible flashings, etc.

    Putting insulation into the glazing cavity might be a start, and sealing it to the glass edge might become standard operating procedure in the years to come. Rigid board products come to mind, since they usually won’t deteriorate in the presence of water. But, incorporating them with a water barrier, and then tying that to the surrounding building insulation will require the system designers to be really creative.

    This is one of those issues where the extent of the problem isn’t known, but potentially can be huge. Educating the architects on how window and wall systems have to change their design intent when it comes to perimeter detailing is equally as large.

    Finally, as Tom noted when contemplating changes to standards and codes, how long they take to get adopted into the local building code is a 2-10 year window. Changes first have to get placed in the model IBC codes, then local governments have to adopt them, which is a lengthy process.

    Stay tuned sports fans: we’re in for a bumpy ride if the thermal bridging issue takes flight.

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