As I started to write this blog, I noticed the date it’s to be published: 9/11. As a kid, I never understood how Pearl Harbor could move my parents’ and my grandparents’ generations into fighting a war. After 9/11, who could ever question that motivation again? I hope we’ll always remember the price paid that day, and many days since, for our freedoms. God bless the good, great, the fortunate U.S. of A. I’m grateful to live in this good land.
Okay, back to glass. At one time, anyone who had been in the glazing biz for very long had either worked for Cupples or PPG. Those two companies were responsible for everything from the monster towers of the 1970s in Hong Kong to the Twin Towers in New York to John Hancock and Sears Towers in Chicago. At that time, they were the equivalent to what Harmon, Enclos and Permasteelisa have become today. On the glass side, LOF and PPG were what Cardinal, Guardian and Viracon are now.
It was with some sorrow I read an article about PPG getting out of the glass business. The story pointed out how much higher the overhead and initial investment is in making raw glass, as opposed to PPG’s chemical and coating product groups, where they will now focus their efforts.
We all used to want to grow up to be PPG. In our eyes, PPG had the best of several worlds: they had a contract division that probably got a huge price break on glass, and they had an aluminum extrusion business.
This history was brought into focus this summer reading an article in the June 2014 issue of USGlass about PPG Place’s 30th anniversary. The curtainwall system in that building was pretty interesting, as seen in this mosaic display of the corners and typical verticals (hanging in CDC’s Dallas headquarters).
The PPG Place curtainwall was straightforward, and anyone who worked on it back then could probably pick it back up again tomorrow. It had many benefits:
- The basic frame members weren’t finished – so the shop and field could be a little sloppy in the handling of the basic frame components;
- The interior covers provided thermal separation from the exterior metals, and only these covers were finished;
- It was erected and glazed from the floor, minimizing the need for stage time; and
- Reglazing vision lites could be done from the interior.
Bob Johnston, CDC founder, developed the PPG system “from his standard stick wall with collaboration from Gary McKissick, Bob Wheeler and Lloyd Stokes of PPG,” according to Charles Clift, senior principal at CDC (who was engineer of record for the curtainwall). He also recalls that “Phillip Johnson, the architect, required stiffness criteria that were twice as strict as normal industry standards of L/350 and max 3/8″ deflection” and that there was a need for an “unsymmetrical bending analyses on mullion shapes at corner conditions as wind load vectors did not align with extrusion principle axes.”
PPG will be missed, if they do get out of the glass business or greatly reduce their role.
As Bill Swango used to say, “be careful of whom you’re envious.”