• Dear Santa, here it is the week before Christmas. Where does a year go? We’ve been pretty busy in the glazing biz, trying to figure out if the construction market is on the road to recovery. Everyone’s hoping, obviously, that it is, but it might be too soon to tell. Or, maybe we’ve been down so long it’s tough to see much beyond the fog that we’re currently in, trying to keep up with everyday work.

    One sign of action is that everyone’s lead times, from suppliers to glazing subs, seems to have jumped in the last few months. Extruders, glass manufacturers and others are trying to decide whether to open the flood gates to full production, or is recovery in a slow and steady rate really the way to go. Some closed plants seem to be reopening, but will we ever get back some or most of the float glass capacity here in the States we seem to have lost when things went south when the downturn hit?

    So, the extended lead times currently passing down from some suppliers are putting the glazing subs in a position with their customers to either pass on the “delay(?)” to their customers or find new vendors to work with. That’s not at all fun. Can you make that go away, please?

    Another challenge the glass biz faced this year, Santa, is the energy issues that keep rising to the fore, but we all dodged a HUGE bullet when the ASHRAE folks backed off their requirements to lessen the net square footage of glazing. Can it really be that was back in February? We’re still finding other issues the industry needs to combat, such as the Product Category Rules, or the health benefits associated with products in building. Give us a dose of what the future portends, please.

    Thankfully, the architects are still designing with glass, despite these scares. The reflected energy in homes (or any building for that matter) using low-E glass is out there, but no one knows how that will sort itself out, especially if it ends up in the courts.

    We’re learning, too, about a lot of new things. Bird-friendly glass is gaining credence – note the new Vikings Stadium in Minneapolis. The bird-lovers are focusing on getting glass the birds can see and avoid, to save them injuries from collisions. This likely will be a huge technical issue for the industry to learn to address in the coming years. For someone like you, Santa, who’s been known to work closely with animals (say hi to Rudolph and the gang, please), any quick-study tips you can give us would be much appreciated, please.

    Also gaining traction are the silica regulations OSHA wants to hand down. This impacts everything associated with buildings, not just the glass or glazing. If something has silica in it, such as bricks, concrete or other products, it’s almost as if anyone on site or in the plant will have to wear a hazmat suit or go home while the situation is remediated. That’s not practical, and we need to work something out with OSHA so that the cost of labor doesn’t go exponential on us to deal with this. Can you give us and OSHA a dose of reality here, so we can both understand what the other is trying to accomplish? Please, and thank you.

    And, Santa, as you know, the success of the glass industry depends on quality people. The ability to hire staff – whether office or trained field personnel – is likely to be a serious threat to the biz, as there aren’t enough quality people to fill the needs, in many cases. Our industry might have to hire people who’ve never worked in the biz before, and train them. Any insight you can give us here would be helpful.

    We’ve lost some good people this year, too. Some retired, such as Ted Krantz at PPG and Lou Niles at Benson. They’re good people, and it’s tough to see them go, but we wish them well. We are also saddened by those who passed on, such as Jerry Wright, Mr. Fenzi and Lou McCumber, to name a few, but too many make this list any year. We are grateful to all for their contributions, and hopefully, we won’t forget the lessons they taught us.

    The bottom line, Santa, is we’re in pretty good shape. A lot of work is coming down the pike, and that makes for less difficult but all the more equally pressing problems to solve in running our respective businesses. Someone once said there are no problems, just challenges and opportunities. We are grateful to have such a life when you weigh it all in the scales.

    Any room in the bag for any gifts you see fit for any of us is much appreciated. We are grateful in retrospect; just thankful to be able to support our families, help others in their times of need, and enjoy our friends in the biz.

    And Lord, we do know all these blessings really come from You. I think we often don’t thank You enough, but we are grateful for the time of year, and the reason for the season. Thank You, for everything we know we have, and for all that we tend to overlook, but enjoy. Please make us aware of, and grateful for, all Your bounteous blessings.

    Love to all, Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays,



    PS: Santa, the candy cane cookies will be left by the tree, along with the glass of milk. I hope you enjoy them as much as I love making them with my grandkids. Somewhere, my Mom’s got a smile on her face when she sees us making these.

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  • 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.


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