• Dear Santa,

    Overall, 2015 has been pretty good to the glass industry. All of us are busy, wishing we could find a calendar that would allow us to sneak a couple extra days into every week, or smoosh another week into every month. It seems, all of a sudden the pent up backlog from the downturn years was cut loose in the marketplace, and everybody’s scrambling to get their material delivered per schedule. Such a problem, right? It is a blessing, no doubt. If you have anything to suggest how we can stretch these good times out a bit, it would be most welcome.

    Most of us have our heads down, focusing on the work we currently have, and trying to figure how to take on more without overburdening ourselves. Finding people to fill positions, whether in the office or in the field, is still going to be a challenge in the coming year. Attracting newcomers is one possibility, but that involves training them fast.

    Big plans turned into actuality in some cases this year. The Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope(R) purchase of CR Lawrence, well, it doesn’t get much larger in terms of scope and impact. And, it was laudable that the owner of CR Lawrence cut the team in on the deal with bonus checks. Recognizing employee contributions in any organization, big or small, boosts morale. It’s certainly true in my experience.

    Some big plans are still in the developmental stages. One of the big fabricators recently announced they’re going to start booking orders for very large glass lites for delivery into 2017. It will be interesting to see if the new larger sizes start showing up more in designs and if glaziers will take on such large lites. Some fabricators already have this capability, and some glaziers have been known to take on the work of installing these bad boys.

    At the beginning of the year, one of the speakers at BEC said there’s a growth market in rehab / remodel / updating the walls on existing buildings – in other words, projects built back when some of us were first getting into the biz. It remains to be seen if developers and building owners will be willing to spend the bucks to do that, but there’s a large market out there. A joint effort between a supplier and glass fabricator discussed at the BEC Fall Conference showed how out-of-the-box thinking can reduce the cost impacts associated with typical remodels or upgrades, and reduce the need to disrupt the existing tenants.

    Energy, energy, energy seems to be around every corner.  Building envelope commissioning is still lurking out there, but I’m not sure it’s gaining any momentum, so its impact to the biz is TBD. NFRC is retooling, and how that will impact the biz is still settling out. But, the dynamic and photochromatic glazing folks seem to be gaining some traction, showing up on more projects recently. Photovoltaics haven’t made that much of an inroad into the glazing world, but there’s a lot of roof installations these days. One fabricator covered their fab facility roof with them, and expects huge returns. That may be a more realistic and efficient design strategy than trying to put them on buildings’ walls.

    With this recap, Santa, the only thing I ask of you is good health to our industry stalwarts dealing with illness. Although any report of someone fighting an illness is one too many, their fortitude and example in riding these things out inspires the rest of us. Every so often, we lose some of them, and that’s always hard to bear. Peace and blessings to all and their families, please, going forward.

    PS:  Santa: My wife and I will be making candy cane cookies with the grandkids this weekend. If I leave some out Christmas Eve, will that be enough of an enticement if I haven’t fully been good this year?

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  • From the “Be on Time for Meetings” School of Hard Knocks (or in other words, College of Experience), consider the following hypothetical (maybe so, maybe not) conversation between a glass supplier and several building project team members. Before the glazing subcontractor (the glass supplier’s client), architect, and building owner arrived, the supplier and GC chatted a bit.

    The second question out of the GC’s mouth was: “Now, how much extra glass do we have?” The supplier’s response was classic: “I don’t know; how much attic stock did you buy? Because that’s how much you’ll have. If you bought none, you’ll have none, at least that’s how it works where I’m from.” The GC laughed.

    The glazier showed up soon after, and in front of the GC asked: “How much extra glass do we have?”  The supplier glanced at the GC and smiled, then said: “I don’t know; how much attic stock did you buy?  Because that’s how much you’ll have. If you bought none, you’ll have none, at least that’s how it works where I’m from.” The GC laughed harder.

    Finally, the architect showed up, and in front of the GC asked, “How much extra glass do we have?” The supplier responded: “I don’t know; how much attic stock did you specify for the GC to buy? Because that’s how much you’ll have. If you bought none, you’ll have none, at least that’s how it works where I’m from.”

    The GC said: “He got me and the glazier with that earlier!” and they all laughed. The answer is “I promise, you’ll have enough arrive unbroken at delivery to complete the work without having to call me in a panic saying ‘We don’t have enough to complete the job!’”

    When I first read this, I wanted to know if a follow-up question was asked: “OK, so we have enough to start and possibly finish, but if any is broken on site, how long do replacement glass orders take to arrive?”

    Obviously, the GC, glazier, and architect had discussed attic stock previously, but no one covered this with the glass supplier. Naturally (maybe not?) the glazier would know what he bought, or at least checked with purchasing and / or estimating to know how much they had carried in the budget. It’s easy to look beyond the GC or architect not knowing, but the glazier? At the very least, it’s one thing he would have checked with the glass supplier prior to the meeting, so he’d know the answer when asked.

    Being in the framing end of things, it’s been a while since l’ve last looked at a glazing spec. I can’t remember seeing an attic stock requirement in the framing spec sections I’ve recently reviewed. But, if you’re a glazier, you probably have the response to this question down cold if you’ve familiarized yourself either with your company’s estimate, the specification, and / or your purchase order to your supplier.

    I most appreciate that the supplier had pretty much the same answer each time, except for the dig at the architect about what the specs said – the question didn’t change, irrespective of who was asking it. And, there’s a beauty in the consistency of the response – a lesson for no matter when the questions are asked, whether five minutes / hours / days / weeks apart.

    One also has to give kudos to the GC for not letting on about already having been asked that question. The classic lawyer’s response I would have given the second time the question was asked would have been: “asked and answered.” But, that would have taken all the fun out of it.

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  • At the Glass Association of North America’s (GANA) Fall Conference last week, Jon Kimberlain of Dow Corning, BEC division chair, referenced the ESPN “30 for 30” series, in which they take an in-depth look at the background of sporting events. The tag line for these documentaries is “what if.”

    In that spirit, “What if you knew how much GANA does to support our industry every day, would that change your perspective on the organization?” I’ve been a big fan of GANA’s for a long time. Last week only reinforced that. Again.

    It’s going to take several blogs to deal with the high points covered. I’m looking at my notes (nine pages over roughly two days), and some of this is going to take several weeks just to cover one division. So here goes with Part 1, dealing with the laminating division.

    Prior to taking the tour through the Intertek laboratory, Valerie Block with Kuraray Interlayer Solutions gave an update on the tornado-related code changes that are in the offing. They’re much the same as what we’re used to in the hurricane arena: small-, large-missile testing, but with two notable exceptions:  the loads are greater, and there’s no need for cycling.

    Wind loads in a tornado are 14 times greater than they are in a Level D hurricane design, so while the hurricane large missile test (ASTM E1886) calls for a nine-pound, 2-by-4 shot out a cannon at 35 miles-per-hour, tornado testing calls for a 15-pound 2-by-4 at 100 miles-per-hour. Essential buildings (e.g., schools, hospitals, tornado shelters, police and fire stations) are the intended targets for cladding upgrades, not just glass, but also brick, stone, precast, etc. The cycling durations we are used to in the window/hurricane testing are eliminated, as tornado events are too short to justify cycling. But, the glass must remain in the opening and not allow penetration of the missile through the glass. More to come on this front as the codes take shape.

    The laminated glass, interlayer manufacturers and fabricators are working on several fronts in response to inquiries from the architects for laminated glass that can:

    • respond to energy and sound;
    • be available in larger lites with minimal support;
    • offer ultra-clear glass in lami constructions;
    • enable cold, warm, and hot bending; and
    • protect birds.

    Further, the industry is looking at how thick laminated glass can be, if there’s differences between annealed, heat-strengthened or tempered laminated glass, and incorporating the above functionality into a single glass lite. I discussed multi-purpose glass in a previous post.

    ASTM E1300 relating to the strength of glass for wind load is a little weak when it comes to both minimally supported (think spider or patch fittings) and thick constructions. A standard for glass walkways is also being developed, since many of these incorporate laminated glass.

    Edge quality is an issue. We talked previously about how to get laminated glass edges aligned, and it’s not clear if there’s going to be a standard about this, or if the individual lami fabricators are going to have to address it. There was some discussion about post-lamination glass edge fabrication, but interlayer folks are looking into what the fluids used for creating the edging on the glass will do to the interlayer. Long term exposure to these fluids (such as alcohol, water, etc.) is one concern that was expressed. Obviously, any heat treating of the glass prior to lamination eliminates the ability to do post-lamination edging, so that leaves post-lami edging to annealed, but annealed may not be acceptable for guardrail or handrail applications. This issue has to settle down, too; for now it’s not clear where the movement in the marketplace will take this.

    On something of a more serious note: Codes and standards can only address “current knowledge.” As we saw last year at BEC in James O’Callahan’s presentation, there are folks pushing the envelope on what glass can do. We get asked the same sort of thing of our framing products at TGP, I’m sure everyone does, such as, “how big of a lite of glass can you support?”

    Any and all of the standards groups—GANA, AAMA, ASTM, etc.—have a tough time staying ahead of the curve. The architects and designers keep asking more and more of all the materials associated with glazing, not just glass. Smaller frame members, less edge or smaller point supports of glass, can we up the design strength of structural sealants, etc.

    So while GANA is accomplishing a lot to support the glass industry, please make sure the manufacturers who call on your company know where you see the market going, and what new and different things you’re being asked to do. BEC is the only part of GANA with direct ties to the glazing subcontractors who in the end put all of our industry’s products (glass, framing, sealants, gaskets) into service on every project.

    We have to know where we can help you. It may require a more active role in helping us head in the right direction. So, with a final nod to ESPN, “What if you were to ask not what GANA can do for you, but what can you do to support GANA’s efforts to develop these codes and standards?”

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