Dropping the shield



A conference that attracts 500 people from 28 states and nine countries to talk about how to make buildings perform better gets my attention. Those were the numbers for Facades+ conference recently held in New York City. The big bang wasn’t from the numbers though; it was from the surprising level of open dialogue about what’s really real in the built environment of today and tomorrow.

1 city, 1 million buildings that need upgrades

Fast forward to 2050 in New York City: There are more than one million buildings built before 2015 that are still in operation. How do these buildings perform? Laurie Kerr from the Urban Green Council explained how New York City, along with over 30 major global cities, have committed to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of their building stock by 80 percent by 2050. Now that’s a stretch goal.

To attain this objective the NYC building stock was segmented into quartiles based on its current performance. How does the analysis shake out?

  • New York City commercial buildings will need, on average, a 45-percent improvement of performance to meet the “80 by 50” goal.
  • This equates to a 5 billion square feet retrofit opportunity over the next 35 years. Over half of this square footage will need new windows or façades to hit their performance goals.

I’m not a math whiz, but that means 2.5 billion square feet of buildings will need new windows or curtain wall. That’s a mind-boggling number, especially since that’s only one city. Jeff Heymann of Benson Industries told the crowd that in several years, the West Coast will follow this trend – lots of retrofit. Most of these buildings are going to be re-clad or over-clad, but many of these solutions have yet to be developed. Let’s get after this monster opportunity!

Dropping the shield

Thorsten Helbig speaks to Facades+ attendees.

Thorsten Helbig speaks to Facades+ attendees.

To realize these opportunities, and to solve the performance and resilience challenges that building envelopes face requires getting real about the challenges of the built environment. This is why the panel discussion of four industry leading glazing contractors was so eye-opening.

In his introduction, Peter Arbour of Vidaris complimented Mic Patterson of Enclos for his chutzpah (nerve) putting together this panel. On one stage, we heard not only Patterson and Heymann, but also Jeff Haber of W&W Glass and Alberto de Gobbi of Permasteelisa North America discussing “Collaborative Futures: Emergent Trends in Façade Design and Delivery.” Folks, they did not disappoint.

Big take-aways

  • The trend to design-assist project management for major buildings moves risk down in the supply chain, however the definition is not the same on all projects and clear to all participants. When a company is participating on a design-assist project, make sure to establish the goals and milestone expectations at the beginning of the process, and establish role clarity.
  • Design-assist projects merge budget and design phases, and involve both a fear and risk factor due to uncertainty. The industry needs to take the risk premium out of design-assist pricing with open financial books on projects.
  • Design-assist is a huge opportunity for collaboration and innovation. Companies in the industry know how to compete; much more than how to collaborate. The transformation of the built environment is possible only with collaboration and innovation. When the design-assist process works, it allows a level of performance and innovation that is unrivaled.
  • How to fulfill the architects’ vision, while controlling the budget, is critical. Constructability is key in large commercial projects. Is the façade being engineered for aesthetics, performance or constructability? Design, manufacture and installation have competing needs.
  • What will be built in 20 years? As an industry we need to think further into the future about the buildings we’re putting up from a broader sustainability perspective. The industry is doing well for energy efficiency, but not as well for the other aspects of sustainability.

These are some valuable insights into the challenges faced in designing and building the iconic buildings that define our major cities. All of these companies are committed to building better buildings that thrill their owners and occupants. To get where we need to go requires getting real about what the problems and obstacles are, and a constructive dialogue among stakeholders. The open dialogue that took place at this conference gives us a clue about how collaboration can work.

In my next blog, I’ll dive into learnings from the innovation, resilience, design vs. specification, and efficient enclosure design sessions. This conference opened my mind to some great people and information – time well spent.


Author’s biography

5Technoform_MarkSilverberg copyMark Silverberg is president of Technoform North America Inc., the North American parent company of Technoform Bautec and Technoform Glass Insulation. He has been with Technoform for 12 years and previously was president of Stern and Company for 20 years. He is a third-generation member of the glazing industry.

Mark serves on the Board of Directors for the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA), co-chairs several AAMA committees including the Sustainability Steering Committee, and serves on several committees and task groups. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Glass Association of North America (GANA), chairs the Energy Division and is vice-chair of its Government and Regulatory Committee, in addition to participation in several committees.

Mark and Barb, his wife of 37 years, reside in Cleveland, Ohio (Go Bucs!). They have two daughters, two grandchildren and two grandchildren with tails (cocker spaniels).


Facades+ – http://www.facadesplus.com/
Urban Green Council – http://urbangreencouncil.org
Benson Industries, Inc. – http://www.bensonglobal.com/
Vidaris, Inc. – http://www.vidaris.com/
Enclos Corp. – http://www.enclos.com/
W&W Glass, LLC – http://www.wwglass.com/
Permasteelisa Group – http://www.permasteelisagroup.com/
Technoform Group – http://www.technoform.com/us/