• For it being the dead of summer, it sure has gotten busy. From leaking skylights to laminated glass, a couple of news items caught my interest recently.

    With all the rain we had this spring up and down the Midwest and other parts of the country, many folks in the industry have been called about leaking walls, windows and skylights. Yikes!

    This situation reminds me of an owner who thought he didn’t need to remediate a 40-year old wall because it didn’t leak. The gaskets were rotting out, had pulled out of the corners, and so were generally in need of replacement. But, since it had been a dry spring and summer, he leapt to the conclusion that the wall was in great shape – until it started to rain, which it inevitably did, and began to ruin some of the interior finishes already installed during his remodel. He changed that tune pretty quickly, then had to hustle to catch up the remediation of the leaks.

    I recently participated in an ASTM working group about construction air tightness in areas other than curtainwall and windows. Our friends north of the border and in the UK are doing this already on a full-building basis. The timing of testing, near the completion of the building, leaves some lingering questions, most notably how to fix the hard to reach wall areas when the building is almost finished.  Stay tuned, this is something that the building commissioning folks will be looking for when it gets to field testing. Granted, it’s not directly related to windows and curtainwalls, but can you imagine the blowers and testing to determine the air tightness of the WHOLE building? Picture blowers the size of semi-trailers.

    Having our Navy son transferred to Kansas earlier this spring made his mom happy, as you can imagine. No, he is not stationed on any ships calling Kansas City their home port, as we’re a little too far upriver on the Missouri for that to happen. He’s pulled a recruiting billet here for the next couple of years. After the recruiting center shootings in Chattanooga happened, I’m paying a little more attention to the news – you do that, don’t you, when someone you know might be involved, whether it’s tornados, hurricanes, other natural disasters, or man-made tragedies? All of a sudden, talk not about bringing your work home, but having it come home nonetheless. I sent him to work with some facility suggestions for his superiors. I hope they’ll listen.

    I’ve seen that companies are actively marketing bullet-resistance glazing to schools, but what about other facilities? Getting strip mall owners (where most armed forces recruiting stations are located) to upgrade the glass walls might be a bit of a reach. For very selfish reasons, it’s OK by me if the Navy spends some of my tax dollars upgrading them on their own.

    Last year, after Julia Schimmelpenningh’s presentation at the GANA Annual Conference about lami glass offering a quick / simple solution for upgrading school or other building entrances, please call your school district’s facilities management staff and offer them your services gratis. One of the news feeds mentioned that any kind of protection need offer only a four- to six-minute delay to an intruder, the time it takes first responders to get on site.  Laminated glass can help do that. If you have kids or grandkids, just do it.

    And now in the heat of summer, another story about a “death ray” building. It looks like they’re fixing that problem on the so-called “walkie-talkie” skyscraper in London by putting screens over the glass (see the third photo from the top). But, now the concern is about people being blown over by high winds.  Anyone who’s walked the streets of downtown New York or Chicago knows of this phenomenon all too well.  For those of you that live and work in DC, with its maximum height restrictions, do you see much of that?  Maybe the canyon effect in a city with a lot of tall buildings, might be something to that.

    Keep your chin and nose up, there’s a heck of a lot going on in these dog days of summer.

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  • Field Notes 13.05.2015 2 Comments

    Have you seen the new acronym “BECx” – building envelope commissioning? No, it has nothing to do with GANA’s BEC. I’m still trying to get straight in my head why this is needed. After talking to a former colleague, it seems like this is NFRC all over again, with another set of players trying to get their noses under the building envelope tent. Just last week, I saw the first set of specs that required a Building Envelope Commissioning Agent (BECxA – funny how the acronyms all run closely to and with each other, isn’t it?).

    Basically, building envelope commissioning includes another player on the design team – during design development or schematic design – whose primary role is to confirm that the specifications adequately address the building envelope’s various performance requirements. That means everything, not just glass and glazing, but also brick, panel, precast and other wall assemblies, will all have to meet the same performance standards we in the glass/glazing biz have come to know and love, such as ASTM E283, E330, E331, AAMA 501.1 thru .6, etc. The building commissioning standard, ASTM E2813, is meant to address energy, environment, safety, security, durability, sustainability, and operation (Section 1.6) issues, but as of this writing it doesn’t include verification or checks for structural issues, such as seismic, deflections. Why not? I couldn’t get an answer.

    The building envelop commissioning agent frequently weighs in on the design, checking envelope wall submittals, helping spec correct materials/wall systems/constructions, and then testing either with pre-construction mockup testing and/or post-construction field testing. The people making the argument for commissioning say the commissioning protocol confirms that the architect’s specs actually get delivered. Really? Doesn’t the architect or their consultant already do field checks?

    I’ve yet to see a project in which there’s a wholesale change to different materials (system, glass, etc.) after field testing is completed, or after shop drawings are approved, have you? The proponents seem to think that a major switch-out for cost savings by the GC or glazing sub is “done all the time.” I certainly don’t know any architect or owner who would approve a pay request IF that were done.

    For smaller scale projects where the schedule and cost of conducting a performance mockup is not justified, the frame and glass manufacturers, along with NFRC certification, provide validation for the system as a whole in previously conducted air, water, and performance testing. Field testing for air/water integrity isn’t increased or lessened over typical specifications. Unless the building commissioning agent makes them test all over again to confirm the same performance before approval of the product for a given project, the validation comes in field testing of that existing product line. Doing thermal testing in the lab is hard enough; doing it on-site is much more difficult. Isn’t NRFC certification enough to confirm thermal performance? Why go through the trouble of conducting another thermal test if it’s not?

    So, the unanswered questions for me are:

    1. Who is advocating this?
    2. What value does it add to the project that justifies the additional costs over what’s now typically required?
    3. Is the owner willing to pay the costs of another consultant on the design team or added costs to install the walls?

    Plus, the standard covering the commissioning agent certification (E2813), calls for competencies that in practice will limit the qualified people to those with more than 20+ years in the business, and who have worked for a GC or exterior wall subcontractor delivering these goods. Naturally, the more experienced the person is, the more expensive the cost of providing commissioning services will be.

    For large projects, we all know mockups can prove structural, air and water performance, as well as some thermal validation. Field testing does the same, with or without a pre-construction mockup. Thermal can be proved prior to construction, notably if an NFRC-certified set of products (glass, spacer, and framing) is furnished. Does the owner really want to pay to do air, water, thermal and structural testing in the field on an installed wall if a pre-construction mockup wasn’t done? And, do we really need another player whose hand needs to be held to prove what we’re doing is what we said we’d do? Or, is it that the other wall systems (not glass and glazing) need to be validated?

    Maybe the other wall systems haven’t been held to the same standard as we in the glass and glazing biz have been, and that this is the way to catch them up to our world? I’m not sure; no one’s ever explained it to me. This scenario opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms I’ll hold for a future blog.

    Please, I’m slow on the pickup: just why is another player required? And what value do they add to the project? I’m not seeing the need – not yet, anyway. I’d love to hear from the advocates for building envelop commissioning.

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  • ENR’s annual construction photos issue is out, and a glazing-related photo made the cut (see slide 19). Congrats to Jeremy Takada Balden at Morrison-Hershfield, the consulting outfit. It was a picture of one of his co-workers leaning over the 39th floor edge of what looks to be a unitized curtainwall, with the cityscape below him—nice shot!

    There’s also a shot of the workers rappelling down from the installation of the glazing panels at the new Anaheim Regional Transportation Center, which features an arch structure about 100 by 400 feet long, with LARGE diamond-shaped openings between the steel members that look to be glazed in ETFE panels. I saw a presentation last April at Enclos’ Facades+ Conference in NYC about this project. Talk about complexity–there weren’t many repeating lites. What was also interesting was the glaziers have to use mountain-climbing techniques from inside the structure to get to the glass surfaces. No small task that, and I know a lot of glazing pros not up to that effort, myself included. Maybe about 100 pounds ago …

    Another cool one: a hanging stage over the NYC skyline, in which the wire ropes and safety lines are the only visible means of support in the photo, taken when the stage appears to be 80 stories up. Nothing else underneath it.

    The ENR editors pointed out the judges included one safety expert who disqualified any picture that included obvious safety violations. In the M-H photo mentioned above, the full body harness and lanyard tied back into the building are obvious. With the Anaheim guys, you can see their safety lines. And, the winning photo for the first time this year was taken with a smart phone.

    Deb Levy and staff at USGlass: maybe there’s an idea here for an all glass/glazing/fabrication photo contest? If nothing else, with all the smart phones out there, I’ll bet there’d be some pretty dynamic pictures.

    BEC is approaching, so I hope you’ll attend. GANA’s annual meeting the preceding three days also looms. I’ll be covering some of the tech issues the other GANA divisions are working on in a later blog.

    Speaking of photos, my Navy son sent this one from the decks of the USS Whidbey Island, LSD-41. Collin is about to give up sea duty for a recruiting gig here in Kansas. Needless to say, his mother thinks that’s more spectacular than the heavens and stars seen here. You be the judge …


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