• Field Notes 20.11.2014 6 Comments

    One of the tasks underway within the GANA BEC Tech Committee is an update of the “Blueprint Reading and Estimating” course. Obviously, it’s been a long time since any one of us rolled out a set of blueprints. Thus, the contest: Come up with a new name for the course, and if the committee selects your proposed name, you’ll win one of these “Knickerblogger” T-Shirts. I’d offer a second place one that’s autographed, but there weren’t that many made.


    In reading a variety of architectural magazines, I’m reminded of the importance of becoming knowledgeable about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and how it impacts what we do with doors and windows on an everyday basis.

    Given that my time in a wheelchair may be closer than how long I’ve been out of college (nothing on the horizon, just the odometer keeps on turning), ease of access is a paramount concern. And, rightfully so, as everyone should be able to use the products we push in this industry.

    But, some ADA requirements conflict with a product’s performance. For example, ADA says that door thresholds shouldn’t exceed ¾ inches in height. This is especially difficult to do on sliding doors and obtain the positive resistance to water penetration that many specifications require. Most sliding products utilize taller sill tracks to get better water resistance, given the water pressure build-up due to wind. While a taller track of 1 to 2 inches might help with water penetration resistance, that obviously conflicts with ADA. Someone once suggested that the threshold could be recessed in the floor, to get around the height restrictions of ADA. Yes, it could, but how does the water drain from a recessed track?

    And, if you think 1 to 2 inches is tall, try this: I once was involved in a project in which my company tried talking the architect into setting the ribbon curtain wall on a 6-to-8-inch tall curb, thinking that the height of the sill from the low, accessible roof and balcony would provide greater water resistance. The owner thought we were crazy, said no one ever did that, then went on a multi-week vacation and reported back that every hotel he had been in had a balcony, and that all of the windows, including the sliders and operable vents had been set on curbs which had to be stepped over to get to the balcony. Convert one owner, you can convert the world. Maybe. Some day.

    I’m not sure that all products ought to be easy for kids to use. Should a child be able to unlatch and open that sliding glass door? At what age do we gauge that a child is smart enough to open the slider and not endanger themselves if given unattended access to the balcony? And, how do we make a swing door that won’t fling a little old lady over the balcony when she doesn’t let go of the door latch when a gust of wind comes up? Making the closer stiffer makes it harder for the door to get caught in the wind, but it also makes the door harder for Grand mom to close. So, where’s the balance? Not put any doors into the wall? So does that mean balconies can be eliminated? Good luck with that!

    On a different topic, code officials – who up until now have had to deal primarily with making sure buildings are safe – now are being asked to enforce something that has nothing to do with life safety: energy efficiency. I can understand this mindset, but shouldn’t the glazing industry be partially responsible, along with the architects, for energy efficiency? As much as I can’t stand the NFRC certification process, we’ve brought some of the NFRC and other energy-related constraints upon ourselves, by not ensuring we were meeting basic efficiency standards. Most specs, written with U-values for the center of the glass, were seldom ever verified or enforced by the architect or their consultant. Instead, everything was driven by a lower cost, and now we’re paying the price for not more closely complying with the thermal-related performance requirements, as specified.

    Hopefully, our industry is now checking energy performance before proposing cheaper alternate products in our proposals. If we aren’t, that has to change. We ought to be pro-active in showing beyond doubt the products we’re supplying meet energy criteria, and show the code officials how we’re doing that at the start of the job.

    It doesn’t take long to come to some conclusions about where this could lead, though it won’t win many friends on that side of the issue: when will architects start enforcing the design, and ensure the energy related specs are held, regardless of the alternate products put on the table during bidding? Why shouldn’t part of an architect’s fiduciary responsibility to the public extend to energy? Now there’s a paradigm shift!

    What about green building certifications: does LEED Gold / Silver / Platinum really ensure the LEED credits taken actually perform as designed? And, if the building doesn’t measure up in that audit, will the LEED rating be pulled? Or should the LEED certification only be given after performance is measured?

    Send those Blueprint Reading Course name suggestions in. There’s a T-shirt’s here with your name on it.

  • Field Notes 06.11.2014 5 Comments

    One of the more thought provoking presentations at the September GANA Fall Conference in Toronto was on birds and glass. Michael Mesure of Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP Canada) made a very convincing argument for helping birds not harm themselves on glass in buildings.

    While that may seem like a bit of ridiculous statement, it’s not. Birds don’t see glass the same way we do. They see a reflection of the sky or nearby landscaping in the glass, so they continuing flapping merrily along. They don’t see a “stop, this could be harmful to your health” warning, unless we as an architect, owner, or glazier provide them a visual clue.

    Think of a four-way street intersection with stop signs or signal lights. You see the light change, or see the stop sign, and hopefully know you have to stop. There’s nothing like that on glass for the birds. If the interior atrium with trees that look like natural nesting or perching venues is shrouded in clear glass, birds don’t see that and tend to fly smack dab into the glass, often killing them. Michael estimated the count to be close to 1 million bird deaths per year in Toronto, alone.

    Your house might have the same issues. We’ve had several bird strikes at our home the last few years, and I thought the stupid birds just needed to learn (all animals learn, don’t they?) not to repeat the same action (flying into the glass). Guess that’s not the case, or different birds keep trying; I’m not sure which.

    What exacerbates the problem in Toronto is the city sits on the boundary between two migratory areas, and generally sees twice the amount of bird “traffic” as an area in the middle of a migratory zone.

    FLAP’s done enough research to have a pretty good handle on what doesn’t work: noisemakers, limited numbers of decals on the glass, plastic owls perched nearby… Other methods on the market, or about to come out work better.

    What’s needed is markings on the glass that the birds can see, but which are invisible to people. One product on the market now, Ornilux, uses a UV marker the birds see as if it were a tree or a solid building, but is invisible to the human eye, so the birds swerve to avoid the contact. FLAP reports research also indicates that lines on the glass at 2-inch spacing on the horizontals and 4-inch spacing on the verticals, such as from silk screening or other decorative traits, lessens bird impacts.

    One really scary thought Mark mentioned is that if the industry doesn’t get a grip on this, the EPA could step in and claim, at least as far as birds are concerned, that glass reflectivity is a form of radiation that they will regulate. Obviously, the impact on the glass industry would be tremendous, with a whole series of new constraints to deal with, not as grave say as energy, but still a potentially burdensome restriction. No one knows really where EPA intervention could lead.

    The new Minnesota Vikings Stadium is getting a lot of play in the press because of its vast use of glass and clear ETFE panels in the roof and end walls, neither of which has anything to prevent bird strikes.

    This looks to be one of those topics where we can keep going like we’ve been doing since the invention of glass, or we can get pro-active. The take from Toronto is that a lot more research, probably a lot of it by trial and error, will have to be done on site, and see what comes of that before a more widespread solution is found. Then, the marketplace (read architects and owners) have to be willing to incorporate those costs into the project budget.

    Glass has multi-tasked since it was first invented, providing protection from the elements while giving occupants views to the exterior, and letting in natural light. We’ve since asked more of it: insulating glass units to increase energy efficiency, first reflective then low-E coatings to even further up the ante for energy, and laminating it for protection from bombs and the worst that Mother Nature can throw at it. Now, it look like it’s time to add bird protection to the mix. Is that sort of environmental protection a price too big to pay? We’ll see.


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  • With your permission, may I be a little bit less serious today than normal? But first, let’s get to the serious.

    October 2014 hits the five-year mark for this blog, making this close to the 100th blog post. It’s been fun, and I’m looking forward to it continuing. It’s a kick to have people say they enjoy reading the posts. The most meaningful of these remarks came from a collaborator on the GANA Sealant manual a couple of years ago. She said she could hear my voice coming through the blog. I guess that’s what happens when you spend too much time in meetings with your peers – they get to know you too well. In all honesty, sometimes the blog subject matter falls right in my lap. Sometimes someone says something that gets the brain matter churning. Other times, it takes a little bit more to find the right thing to say.

    Whatever the process, I’m grateful TGP lets me do this. Although I have a confession to make: I’m indebted to my trusty wordsmith for cleaning up my use of the King’s English. This blog wouldn’t be half as good as it is without your help. The fact that someone could hear my voice through it is as much a compliment to you as it is to me. Thank you.

    Now, to the less serious … After recently posting about the KnickerBloggers, our marketing group came up with a design at the behest of the sales force and created a T-shirt to commemorate the anniversary:


    Knickerblogger_formatMy wife Vicki says that’s not me modeling the shirt. We were obviously not on the same page. It wasn’t until we printed a blowup of the shirt that we both realized I was talking about the caricature on the front; she thought I was talking about who was modeling the shirt. For five minutes or so, we were both right, not knowing the other was talking about something else. Hopefully she’ll like the one I got her for Christmas. She’s a wordsmith, too, but maybe something nicer might be more appropriate. For both of them, I’m guessing…

    Granted, no one’s standing around out in front of the TGP signage with this shirt like they did on a Friday last February wearing a certain football team’s regalia before a certain football game, showing their 12th man-ness. I appreciate the sentiment nonetheless.

    On a different topic, with apologies to Mr. Paul Bieber, forget the “Mazing Mets” of 1969. How ‘bout them Remarkable Royals? It’s enough to make you become a fan of the game again. By the time you read this, the first two games of the World Series will be in the book. Blue Flu in these parts has taken over. The KC Chiefs had a bye last week in the middle of all this, and it’s like they don’t even exist anymore – no one cares about football in this town right now. I guess they’re another victim of, “That’s what speed do!”

    It’s the first time I’ve been in town when the home team’s made the championship, and I’m sure enjoying it. We left Milwaukee, and the Brewers went to the ’82 WS. We moved from Dallas and the Cowboys won three Super Bowls. We moved from Dallas (again) and the Mavs won the NBA crown and the Rangers made the World Series. We left Wausau, and the Packers went to two Super Bowls. So naturally, when we left Seattle in August of 2012, look at what happened a year-and-a-half later? For the record, when we left Minneapolis in ’97 and Kansas City in ’02, nothing happened. So, it’s not like we’re always a good luck charm when we move out of town.

    If St. Louis had made the Series, the Royals weren’t going to need to bring Don Deckinger out of retirement. At least not the way they’ve been playing (P.S. Don’t ask a Cards fan about the reference; look Deckinger up in Wikipedia)! A co-worker from St. Louis had an 8 ½” x 11” picture of this moment prominently displayed in his office cubicle when we worked together in Kansas City.

    Baseball talk aside, I’d like to thank you, the reader, for being a KnickerBlogger. I’m always open to topic suggestions, and I always appreciate your feedback.

USGlass Magazine

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