• Field Notes 22.05.2013 3 Comments

    The ASHRAE folks keep stirring the pot, and it doesn’t bode well for the glass industry. I’m left wondering: How do they get away with writing proscriptive qualifications for glazing that would result in a black/white reduction in the amount of vision glass in a building, when glazing can be more effectively addressed with a little forethought and integrated design?

    I get that walls, by means of their thermal performance, directly impact the amount of heating and cooling required for a building. It doesn’t matter if the wall is glass, insulating glass, metal panels, stucco, precast or any other material, if heat can travel through it, then the HVAC systems are impacted, and ASHRAE by rights weighs in.

    But, how can they proscribe the amount of glass on a building? This would be like GANA or the precast industry proscribing what the building frames have to be in order to carry the weight and loading of the curtainwall materials being anchored to them, and then professional engineers have to design building structures to those limits. We could require A50 Steel and 5,000 psi concrete, claiming it could reduce the size of embeds and anchors. I know it’s not a well reasoned argument, but neither is ASHRAE’s claim about the need to limit vision glass.

    Besides, did it occur to ASHRAE that more HVAC capacity is required when artificial lighting loads go up? There is a correlation between increasing daylight (read: increasing glass) and reducing the amount of artificial lighting required. How has ASHRAE responded to that? How would the lighting folks respond if they had ASHRAE come in and say, “We want fewer lights, as it reduces the capacity of the HVAC equipment.”

    Limiting vision glass also reduces the human comfort factor of daylighting. That’s sometimes hard to put dollars on, but there are studies about improved productivity of workers and students occupying spaces with abundant natural light.

    One more argument: ASHRAE does not limit the area of the structure that bridges the exterior wall and is exposed to exterior conditions. All those balconies on condos are really just radiator fins. Talk about an ice maker on a cold December day in Chicago.

    Okay, enough crying: Who’s going to save us from the abyss?

    We need the architects to take a stand. An architect friend of mine said he’d be surprised if a lot of architects know what ASHRAE is, let alone what the organization’s proposed standard 90.1 related to glass requires. His office is looking into indigenous architecture for clues on how to design for the location, rather than relying on any one standard. The point is, architects have to design for the whole, and balance all types of needs from human comfort to energy usage, as they relate to HVAC and lighting. One discipline can’t outweigh any of the others. Good design is most evident when all components are molded, kneaded and coalesced into a cohesive whole: Structure, human comfort, circulation, HVAC, exterior walls, all blended together so that no one element takes precedence over the others.

    I see a lot of pleas from industry publications that now’s the time to weigh in. And, I get that. Unfortunately, many of the little guys don’t have the time or resources to devote to this fight. So they look to the industry big boys to carry the fight for them.

    Look at BEC, for example. Sure a lot of the contractors go to Vegas every spring for the BEC conference, but look at the people serving on the BEC committees. There’s a lot of representation from the manufacturers, but not a lot from the CONTRACTORS. It’s because the resources aren’t there. What about the big glazing contractors, can they step it up a bit for the industry?

    I will pass my comments onto ASHRAE. Who else will step up to the plate? Everybody remembers how Mighty Casey ended his day. Let there be joy in Glassville, instead. Hopefully, there are those among us who will not only make a plate appearance, but will smack it outta the park.

     

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  • Field Notes 03.04.2013 2 Comments

    The Glass Association of North America’s (GANA) Building Envelope Contractors (BEC) Conference has come and gone, with some good ground covered. A high point was when Guardian’s Scott Thomsen gave a strong call to action for our industry in his presentation the “Battle for the Wall.”  The key takeaway was if we don’t fight for the role of glass in energy-efficient construction (thermal performance and daylighting), then ASHRAE will force us to the sidelines. Do you want to go to work for the stud wall, stucco and masonry contractors, because ASHRAE’s current emphasis is to greatly downsize the percentage of glass in exterior walls?

    We as a glazing industry should be showing architects  there are many glazing products that WILL increase thermal performance.  Architects will help us win this war, but only if we get smarter about educating them on the newest, most innovative glass and framing products now available.

    We should also be assertive with noting the other construction types have as many problems, as well, that are now coming to light in this energy-conscious age.  As ATI’s John Runkle noted in his presentation on building commissioning, these are things the glazing industry has dealt with for years.

    Notably, when the surrounding wall systems – cavity walls behind masonry or panels, precast panels, or whatever construction –  have to start meeting the same water and air penetration requirements as windows and curtainwall presently do on a regular basis, then that bodes well for the exterior skin, as a whole.

    But there are some down-sides, too.  For example, testing the weatherproofing/air barrier to the AAMA and ASTM standards for water penetration  aren’t  realistic since it never sees that amount of rain in the finished condition if a brick or panel wall is placed over it.  Air test it, yes. But a full-blown, 5-gallon/hour/square-foot water test ON THAT SURFACE isn’t real-world.  Some of this is still in the developmental stage, but I expect it will catch on in one form or another.

    Does commissioning make sense for a total glass curtainwall? Probably not with the current regimen of pre-construction and in-field testing required in curtainwall and window specifications.  There are some that would argue the call for increased testing is an effort by the labs to create more work for themselves.  Yes, I can see that, but what good is it having an air- and water-tight window or curtainwall if the wall around it doesn’t perform equally as well?

    Another high point at BEC was the presentation on Chinese tariffs. Some of the USGNN.com newsfeed had comments from the Chinese manufacturers’ side of the fence that felt the presentation didn’t accurately present both sides of the argument.  That wasn’t likely to occur given the fact the person making the presentation was the plaintiff’s attorney.  When’s the last time a lawyer led a fair, objective and balanced viewpoint on something his clients were paying him to have just the opposite opinion on in order to properly argue their case?  But, the tariff issue is going to be in the news quite a bit going forward.

    One last note:  Having turned the odometer over on my age this year, my brother bought me opening day tickets in Philly next Friday.  And, my no. 1 son bought us Final Four tickets.  Only one drawback to the venue:  basketball was not meant to be played in a football arena, unless they put the court in the end zone.  When watching the game, the Philly Phanatic sitting down the right field line in the KU garb, or in the corner of the end zone in Atlanta with the biggest pair of binoculars known to man will be yours truly.  This is one thing I’ll be able to cross off the ol’ bucket list.  As I review this blog post one last time Monday morning, I hope Wichita can shock the world.

    Here’s hoping the Easter season, with the accompanying onset of spring weather, brings renewal of faith, hope and charity to you and yours.

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  • The Glass Association of North America’s Building Envelope Contractors (BEC) division wwill meet March 17-19 in Las Vegas. There’s a lot more that will come out of this event than just the annual meet and greet. For one, the Technical Committee is writing a “Curtainwall Fenestration Systems Manual” that’s meant to be a primer for new architects and industry newcomers on exterior glazing. We hope to have the first three sections published later this year. If you’ve been looking for a way to contribute to the industry, this is only one of many opportunities. Please contact Urmilla Sowell (usowell@glasswebsite.com) or Sara Neiswanger (sara@glasswebsite.com) if you’d like to contribute — even if you’re not going to Vegas.

    And, now for some random thoughts …

    BIM and Communication 

    According to one blog, BIM usage today is three times greater than what it was in 2010 – that’s a big change in only three years.

    And, the lawsuits are already starting to hit the courthouses. Check out this interesting post about a suit involving BIM and communication.  As good as BIM can be, the architect in this instance allegedly made an assumption about the construction sequencing and didn’t pass that on to the general contractor (GC). The GC sequenced the HVAC work differently than the architect envisioned, and the HVAC contractor couldn’t complete his work. Now, I don’t begin to understand how that scenario is possible, but it must have been pretty serious if it ended up at the courthouse. You can have the latest gizmos, whiz-bangers and ultimate software, but if communication doesn’t occur, it’s all a waste.

    As my boss frequently points out, “it’s like talking to your wife: nothing’s ever communicated by osmosis.” Give it another couple of millennia, and maybe our species will evolve to a higher level of communication where, “Forget what I did or didn’t say, you know what I was thinking” will work. For now, that response doesn’t cut it with spouses or the architecture industry.

    A similar point comes to mind when wrestling with the Third Rule of Customer Relationships:

    First Law:  The customer is always right.

    Second Law:  When the customer is wrong, see Rule 1.

    Third Law:  What do you do when the customer is wrong, punt?  Lord knows, telling them they’re wrong isn’t the easiest thing to do. What if they ask for something that really is not in your company’s best interest?

    My bet is most of us would try, to the best of our ability, to give the customer what they are asking for, within reason. But on occasion, a line is drawn that cannot be crossed when it goes against company standard operating procedure. In a case related to me by another project manager, the customer thought they knew the cause of a glass stain, but had made incorrect assumptions. Their claim was not even remotely possible.

    Again, the key here is communicating the situation to the customer in what I can only describe as “the most polite manner possible.”  Not that I’m the one to give lessons on this, but I’ve been fortunate to have worked for project managers or sales guys who are really good at doing this, and they’ve helped smooth the way through difficult situations.  Take advantage of those resources; they are priceless.

    So, too, are your suppliers, if they can lend credibility to the discussion regarding the matter in question.  Don’t squander their technical expertise; they are most willing to help.

    One past employer had the quintessential in-house communication form; they called it an “AVO” for Avoid Verbal Orders. You may have talked to everyone about a problem and the resolution, or given clear and concise verbal direction, BUT if it wasn’t put in writing, it never happened. Copies of the AVO went to all concerned/involved in the matter. It was great documentation; it never resulted in one of those, “he said/she said” conflicts.

    Quoted in a previous blog is the classic line said by the warden in Paul Newman’s movie, Cool Hand Luke: “What we have here …” Our spouses will hopefully forgive an occasional “failure to communicate,” but it is an essential problem to avoid in the glazing/construction industry.  Don’t let a lack of communication lead to disaster.

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