• Flying back from Dallas last week, it was fun seeing the green of spring in the landscape slowly creeping north. Over the weekend here in K.C., it was in the 80s. The trees are budding and leafing, a lot of the flowering trees are in full bloom, and the daffodils are in full flower. Then, this morning, it’s snowing. Go figure!

    I always love to see what might be coming down the pike in architecture, to see what’s about to cross over into the “can it really be constructed?” world. Along those lines, here are some technically challenging curtainwall projects for your consideration.

    Evolvo Magazine 2014 Skyscraper Competition winners. Those might be a little pie in the sky, but that’s never stopped an architect from trying, right?

    There’s a project in Vienna that looks more complicated than it probably is, but the variety certainly livened things up in the detailing and fabrication.

    And, there’s a residential tower going up in NYC that seems incredibly thin: 84 stories tall, not very wide. The main structure is concrete, so the floor plates and columns have to be incredibly thick to resist the sway and twist that comes from so narrow a structure. The top floor condo goes for a cool $79,500,000 (zeroes shown for effect).

    As the economy comes back, we’re seeing more of these pushing-the-envelope-type curtainwalls. Recently, we completed a budget estimate for a curtainwall that was laid out in a segmented plan, with the verticals segmented, as well. It’s sort of a barrel skylight, flattened out somewhat, but then turned vertically on the outside of the building. The bow in the vertical section over a 47’-0” height was about 36 inches. All the glass is flat, there were no curved framing or glazing infills. So that brought it back down to Earth a bit. It’s dramatic, and there are a lot of challenges and opportunities in executing that wall.

    Can it be done? Yes. Technically, it’s not that far out of the box. How about cost? The question, as always, comes down to whether or not the owner wants to pay for it. We’ll soon find out.

    No problems, just challenges and opportunities. Most days, that’s what makes the world go ‘round, isn’t it?


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  • Did you watch the Academy Awards this week?  I didn’t see a lot of the movies (none probably, if the truth be told), but I did come across this list of “America’s Five Happiest Industries,” one of which is closely tied to the Oscars:

    5.  Motion picture and video industries;

    4.  Management of companies and enterprises;

    3.  Educational services;

    2.  Radio and TV broadcasting; and

    1.  Software publishers.

    Funny, nothing associated with glass and glazing made it.  Good for a laugh, right?

    Just in case you thought, like Rodney Dangerfield, that we in the glazing industry “don’t get no respect,” especially when it comes to codes, consider this article, “The Fuzz Factor in Engineering.” It points out the explosion in code requirements for steel:

    1. AISI (steel cold-form steel) went from 22 pages in 1960 to 150 pages in 2012;
    2. AISC (steel construction) “ballooned” from 19 pages in 1941 to 239 pages in 2010; and
    3. Seismic requirements didn’t exist in the steel manual until 1992, at which time they were at 59 pages, and now only 20 years later they’re at 335 pages.

    And, in case you think those codes aren’t directly related to curtainwall and windows, you might want to reconsider that.  The latter two codes above set steel erection tolerances and how much a building can move during earthquakes. This must be accounted for in anchor design, for example.

    There’s also ASCE-7, which drives wind load criteria. That took up 92 pages in the 1988 edition, while the 2010 version is a whopping 368 pages.  Not all of that is related to walls, as ASCE covers roofs, too, but it shows the degree to which codes are changing.

    Granted, IBC has simplified the overall building code picture from where it was 40 years ago.  Who remembers using the UBC, the BOCA and the SBC, and keeping track of the local variations of all of them?  The picture might be simpler in that respect, but the IBC energy code, all the USGBC LEED developments, NFRC certification, etc., have kept the pressure on our industry to be watchful and responsive.

    A crucial point the “Fuzz Factor” article makes is that with codes changing and becoming more detailed, the chance for human error creeping into construction increases.  And as mentioned in a previous blog , there’s some value in peer review, which is something the “Fuzz Factor” PE author promotes.

    I think we already have enough safeguards within the glazing business, in that we have in-house or third-party engineers prepare our calculations, and those are submitted and reviewed by either the curtainwall or glazing consultant, and especially by the project structural engineers.

    I hope the peer review process that the “Fuzz Factor” writer espouses won’t become something we have to include in our calculation preparation or review process.  But who knows?

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  • Field Notes 05.02.2014 2 Comments

    As I write this on Monday morning, I’m wondering if all my co-workers at TGP’s headquarters in Seattle will be at work today. Hats off to the Seahawks’ 12th Man!  But, who saw this game starting and turning out that way? All the prognosticators predicted close scores. ESPN’s Chris Berman predicted neither team would score more than the forecasted mid-30s temperature for New Jersey. How did your square pool turn out?  Busted in 12 seconds?

    Late last week, it was announced that the duties the U.S. is imposing on Chinese fabricated curtainwall materials were upheld by the Court of International Trade. Obviously, the immediate reactions depended on which side of the pond you’re on. For the Chinese, this can’t be good.  For the U.S. extruders and fabricators, the view is much more pleasant, if not downright exciting.  What a huge break for U.S. industry.

    One of the Coca-Cola commercials during the Super Bowl highlighted this difference.  If you missed it, the spot features “America the Beautiful” sung in different languages. Rumbling through the news on the Internet and CNN this morning is a lot of: “this is America, it should only be sung in English” type discussions. On the other hand, this country is and always has been Heinz-57 – there’s a lot of ethnic diversity, and all of us who aren’t Native Americans are descendants of immigrants, some more recent, some several generations ago, but immigrants nonetheless.  It’s what makes us great. We all are trying, or have been assimilated into, a country where those differences contribute to who we are. It’s why the U.S. Constitution starts “We the PEOPLE…”

    Thus, the dilemma with foreign trade. Setting aside potential quality issues, if a competitor bidding against you can do it better/cheaper/faster than you can, aren’t you going to lose the job?  Why should it matter if they pay less for the material or labor?  Does it matter if they are next door or across the ocean?  Yes, I am in favor of products made here in the states, but there are a lot of BMW, Sony and Apple products made offshore. I own some myself.

    The labor or material may be cheaper because they aren’t paying their people a living wage, providing health insurance, paying the employer payroll taxes, not protecting the environment adequately, or because the government subsidizes them. The argument is that is an unfair advantage.  But, in a competitive marketplace, if you have an edge, who wouldn’t try to make the most of that “advantage?”

    Is there a right answer on this?  Maybe not.  Idealistically, though, it’s hoped by driving up their product costs, it does level the playing field. Too often, though, duties seem to just enrich our own government’s income but don’t increase salaries or raise the standard of living in the country of origin. Granted, Germany (BMW) and Japan (Sony) have standards of living similar to ours, but that took a lot of work and help from the U.S. after WWII. And, the quality of the German and Japanese products drives U.S. purchases of them. If only we can bring the Chinese along to that level, both in terms of the quality of the products and what they pay their people, it would cost them more, thus truly leveling the playing field.  Now there’s a goal to shoot for. Okay, enough political…

    I’m off to the GANA Annual Conference this week, and hope to pick up a lot on the energy focus on Tuesday, and see what the other divisions are up to.  Next week I’ll report on any pick-ups from it.

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