• 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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  • Field Notes 29.01.2014 2 Comments

    Consumer electronics are famous for planned obsolescence, in which companies know the new smart phone you buy today will be replaced by their latest model in six months. But, the same with buildings?

    In college in 1980, a professor required one of my classes to do forensic studies of how several new office buildings had been constructed. He asked us to evaluate what worked and didn’t work – from constructability and how occupants used the space to how utilities were distributed and various facets of the mechanical systems.  My group was assigned the new 16 story addition to Northwestern Mutual’s corporate headquarters in downtown Milwaukee. Now, just 35 years after the building was built, it’s going to be demolished  and replaced with a new building.   One of the reasons given for the demolition is the existing building’s lack of energy efficiency.

    When doing the onsite review of the plans and specifications of the then new building, my group asked the cost of construction.  We were told that information was not for public consumption.  Our professors, being wise to the ways of the world, told us the NWM policy holders would not be happy had that figure been published. We estimated the cost at $80-100/sq.ft., at a time when Class A office space was being built for $35-50/sq.ft.

    The 1979 building was built as the U.S. was realizing that oil embargos and utility bills with rates that changed from month to month were going to change the way we consumed non-renewable resources.  The emphasis on better performing buildings was just developing, but hadn’t reached nearly as far as it has in the past 40 years.

    Part of that same class examined the construction of a new federal office building planned for Milwaukee.  The GSA was seeking prospective private developers to lease space back to the government, The winning developer told us the feds wanted a long-term lease that included utility costs.  Gas had gone from $0.55/gal to over $1.00/gal in those years (ah, those were the days!), and no one knew where energy costs were going, so the developers did what we all do when preparing estimates –  they shot the moon on future energy costs.

    Even so, it’s astonishing that just after 35 years, the NWM building will be demolished and replaced.  But, I guess those of us in Philly, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh aren’t too surprised.  Those cities built multi-purpose stadiums in the 60s and 70s for their baseball and football teams.  If you ever attended games at the Vet, Riverfront, or Three Rivers near the ends of their lives, you know part of the reason they were replaced.  Granted, they weren’t built to outlast the Roman Coliseum, but shouldn’t we be building better, more durable buildings? What’s wrong with building buildings that last hundreds of years, rather than just a few decades?

    On the good news front, you no doubt heard that last week ASHRAE backed off its proposed reduction of the window-to-wall ratio prescriptive limit. Fortunately, Tom Culp got a lot of support from the industry.  Those opposed to the amendment included 13 industry groups, including GANA, AEC, AAMA, IGMA, WDMA, and several others representing more than 2,500 companies. 126 individual companies, independent of their membership in industry associations, supported the opposition, as well.  Opponents included architects, universities, and people outside the glazing industry associations.

    So for now, we’re safe from mechanical engineers limiting how much glass goes on a project.  I fear the fight isn’t over; the watch must be as vigilant and as diligent as before.  I hope you paid attention and know who helped support our industry in this fight.

    Beyond this win, we all need to get smarter in helping our customers, the general contractors and architects, design and build more energy-efficient and higher-performing glazed assemblies.  We can’t stand by and let planned obsolescence creep into the industry in any form.  I trust you’ll take whatever action you deem necessary.


  • A June 6 USGNN.com™ story caught my eye since it discusses something that’s almost as much of a reach as ASHRAE proposing to limit glass in buildings.  The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS)  is asking Congress to reauthorize the “National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program.”  The primary focus is to update building practices to make structures more resistant to windstorms.  Living in Tornado Alley,  I can’t possibly find a reason to oppose this.

    On the surface,  the IBHS proposal makes sense.  New construction, no brainer; that’s easily done.

    Can anyone tell me, though, how existing buildings catch up?  I’ll bet a lot of owners are asking how they can upgrade their buildings.  I live in Kansas City, and short of tearing the house down to the foundation and starting over, I don’t know if my two-story castle can be upgraded, seeing as it was built long before all of these latest episodes occurred.

    An article in the local paper showcased storm shelters that can be anchored to a floor slab in the garage to withstand most tornadoes.  I showed my wife Vicki the article, and the associated costs (starting at $5,000).  She was willing to take her chances going in the basement rather than shelling out the bucks.  Maybe I’ll buy my kids storm shelters for Christmas.

    Now, we’re not just talking about homes, but all other building types, as well:  stores, restaurants, the Quickie Mart down the street, etc.  The debate goes even deeper for school protection. But, how far back in the building inventory would we have to go to ensure adequate wind protection? Think of it this way: My Prius with its 40+ mpg isn’t doing a whole lot to drop the national gas consumption if the old guzzlers keep chugging. Granted, cars don’t have the life expectancy of buildings, but that’s the point. How long will we have to carry on the books those old buildings that  don’t get updated for newer wind, thermal, seismic or other codes?

    On the seismic front, I know California takes an active role in  requiring upgrades as part of building refurbishments. I don’t know if it was state or local codes, but one project I was involved in upgraded the exterior skin to correct water penetration and mold issues. When the project managers went to the city for remodeling permits,  the code required seismic upgrades. So, to correct for the mold, the owner also had to pay to have the seismic upgrades.

    Or consider, Orlando saw four hurricanes in 2005, one of which was the massive Katrina that devastated the Gulf Coast.  Many of the structures built with the newer codes came through those four storms quite well.  The older ones without the upgrades, not so good.  It made the case for the newer codes working, but still begged the question, what about the old stuff?

    More recently, the monster tornado in Oklahoma generated what must be a record: 2 ½ miles wide and packing 295 mph winds. I thought the only speedometers that went that high came with wings and jet engines.  To put that in a perspective that might mean more to our industry, that wind speed equates to a 222.78 psf wind load. I don’t know of many buildings of any type that can resist that loading, at least none above ground – hence the destruction in Moore, Okla.

    We’ve dug a deep hole.  None of the existing stock is going to be very easy to upgrade for thermal, seismic, or whatever other new standard you want to move to or revise.   In the meantime, what about the IBHS guys?  Obviously, they’re trying to lower mortality and property damage, and control costs.  Is their only recourse to raise premiums?

    Ah, the age-old battle:  do I want to pay more for insurance which spreads costs out over time, or pay for a large, one-time charge for upgrades?  What’s the risk?  Do I need the government telling me that, or am I smart enough to protect myself from me?

    We can only go so far in the degree of protection. We can’t make 110-story buildings or five-story Pentagons plane-proof.  It’s unlikely we can make curtainwalls atomic bomb-proof. We do the best we can, learn anything we can, try to level out the risk, and go on. Hopefully it will be enough, until the next time some crazy picks up a gun or Mother Nature has her way.

    Maybe we ought to build buildings to be as disposable as cars.  At least that way it would be cheaper to upgrade to all the latest/greatest gadgets and whiz-bangers.  No, wait, that won’t work either; building them cheap doesn’t solve anything in the short term.  So where’s the middle ground we can all afford and live with?

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