• 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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  • I attended the Building Envelope Contractors (BEC) Conference in Las Vegas this week. One thing I picked up was about the new turtle codes for glass. I’m told this has been all over the industry publications, but I’m having a hard time believing we have to now design glass for turtle safety. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. We’re using glass to create electricity, protect occupants during storms and bomb blasts, etc. But I think I have now heard it all. It’s true that learning is a lifelong process.

    This got to me to thinking about all I have learned over the years. Bill Swango hired me straight out of college and told me it would take five years to teach me everything I needed to learn about this business—to know what glass strength is; how annealed, heat-strengthened, and tempered glass respond in loads; and their relative strengths, along with all the thousands of things about aluminum, gaskets, sealants, fasteners, and other components that go into curtainwall. I had to learn about finishes, coatings on glass, compatibility and adhesion, building movements—all of it in those first formative years.

    And then came the other side of the coin: it would take another five years to see if I could properly apply what I had learned the first five years before it could be determined if I was going to be a “keeper.” The “apprenticeship” was going to last ten years. And that’s why, in hindsight, I wasn’t going to be getting paid the same as the guys who had done their time. As young as I was, I thought I could do anything they could, and should be paid the same. Ah, the folly of youth. I was wrong, but I had to get older (which, by the way, also takes time) before I learned how wrong I was.

    It has also occurred to me that the “apprenticeship” program is probably true of any profession. College can teach you how to think like a (fill your major in here), or you can learn it by jumping right into it as a glazier or ironworker. But the time has to be spent. There’s no way to go from kindergarten to graduation immediately, the time has to be put in. Some may be better/faster learners, but time must pass in some quantity before you can learn a subject in depth.

    How do we pass this information on? If you’ve got a keeper in your organization, send them to BEC to interact with others in the profession and see how much knowledge and expertise is out there. Mentor someone in your organization.

    Where do you draw your talent from? Here are a couple of ideas:

    There are a lot of good college programs teaching project management and/or construction. Seek recruits from their ranks of graduates. Bringing them in after graduation, they can learn it without the “habits” of having already worked in the industry.

    Speaking from personal experience, I learned in school I wasn’t going to be an architect, but completed my degree and sort of fell into something related. Fortunately, I’ve never regretted working in the glazing profession, and have not looked back once.

    There have got to be people with that same background in the architectural schools who could be involved in the one construction trade that deals everyday with what they learned in school. Plus, the draw that the glazing biz pays better than architecture has to have at least some attraction, right?

    And get involved in the trade. One of the technical issues we dealt with at BEC this week was to try to determine how clearance distances between glass and metal came about as listed in an industry standard. Some of this has been around longer than the “long-in-the-tooth” guys can remember. And there doesn’t appear to be anyone who sat down and put all their notes in a form that someone can use all these years later.

    Because of the time taken to teach me the business, and for the joy and happiness being involved in it has brought me, I’m going to take this on as a passion, to take what I know and pass it on, somehow. I know I can do that participating in the technical committees, but there are probably other ways, too.

    I learned about having passion for our work this week, too, at BEC. It hasn’t all been turtle codes and Vegas stucco. Plus, there was golf yesterday afternoon, and that doesn’t happen very often in Seattle this time of year …

    In your own career, what actions do you take to keep learning, and to share your expertise with others?

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