• 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.

  • Today’s post picks up where the one from last week left off, with more of the high points covered at the GANA Fall Conference held in Toronto September 23-25.

    Handrails, obviously, are still getting a lot of attention. Being in Toronto, where so much of the news about guardrails is emanating, it seemed only natural to hear how the Canadians are addressing the issue. CSA’s Dwayne Torry, talked about the A500 standard, which is being developed with cross-representation of regulators, suppliers, architects and users (not sure what that means: installers? building owners?). They’re looking to develop a standard to serve as “a consistent baseline for design.” The plan now is for spring 2015 publication. Like the AAMA/WDMA/CSA standards for doors and windows, it might be beneficial for those of us on this side of the border to pay attention.

    Also, testing of handrails was discussed, both in the pre- and post-construction phases. Most exterior guardrails use the exterior cladding wind load, either from wind tunnel testing or by code, to determine the design load for the handrails. Further research is required to determine if that’s realistic, but no one has stepped up to do that, yet. Likewise, there is now additional attention being paid to more stringent post-installation maintenance requirements – everything from checking glass fittings to checking the connection of the guard rails to the structure, etc. If you install handrails, this is certainly worthy of consideration.

    Not a lot is being talked about the causes of the handrail glass breakage, due in large part to the on-going “who’s to blame” game being played on many projects. It’s not only nickel sulfide, but other causes, such as improper installation (e.g., grommets not installed around bolts passing through the glass, posts not installed vertical or in plane with the glass, etc.). The root causes may not be known for years.

    Associated with the handrail discussion were some of the items covered in the GANA Laminating Division meetings. There was some talk about the edges of laminated glass in handrails, and whether they should be finished, pre- or post-laminating. If the architect uses tempered glass, a finished, polished edge is often specified. But, laminated glass complicates that, as most laminators will polish the edges before laminating, and getting the lites in the laminating sandwich to match up is difficult, plus the laminating layer oozes out from between the lites. One possible alternative would be to polish the glass after lamination, but apparently that’s not easily accepted given the budget and schedule constraints of most projects.

    One thing I learned about that I didn’t know before: using a cementitious material to set laminated glass into sill shoe isn’t such a good idea. The cement-based material can damage the laminating layer. I know for the next project where this comes up, a discussion will be warranted between suppliers and glass fabricators.

    The use of laminated glass in doors, and the effects of clamping hardware and/or patch fittings is still being researched, they’re looking for a door manufacturer to lead the testing.

    One issue that’s starting to surface, and it’s really early on, so no immediate cause for alarm, is whether ceramic frit on spandrel glass is causing the glass to loose strength. There’s no data on this, yet, either. What follows is strictly my take on this, not a lot of consensus, and therefore no conclusions were reached. On one hand, some manufacturers talked about applying frits to glass before the glass was heat-strengthened, in which case they report there’s no loss of strength if the glass gets the proper treatment. But, other manufacturers may be applying the frits as a secondary operation after heat treating, and the re-heating may weaken the glass.

    What’s confusing this was two of the leading fabricators are on opposite sides of the question. One insisted that there is no evidence that ceramic frits were causing breakage due to wind loading, that ASTM E1300 still worked with no drop in performance for heat-treated, fritted glass. Another said there was. So, we’ll have to wait and see where this goes.

    A lot covered. A lot to do. Many of the industry manufacturers are well represented at GANA. We’ll look to cover some of this at BEC in the Technical Committee, especially if it rises to the level that the glazing contractors will start being asked about it going forward.

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