Movement on a Curve: Projects Highlight Glass Bending Capabilities

The use of bent and curved glass in architectural applications continues to see a growing amount of interest. Advances in fabrication machinery and equipment are making it possible to create large spans of unique, shapely creations.

At the recent GlassBuild America show, HHH Tempering Resources and NorthGlass showcased at 26-foot lite of curved glass, that drew plenty of attention. However, getting it there did require some special attention.

According to Mike Synon, president of HHH, the glass traveled from Dallas to Atlanta by a common carrier on a flat bed. It was transported in a curved wooden crate built specifically for the glass. A 10-ton crane moved the glass into place.

“There weren’t any challenges, but like any glass you move there were a couple of nervous moments when the crane first picked it up,” he says, adding that the HHH team was onsite to make sure installation went smoothly.

Synon says that crating is the key to ensuring safe transportation of large glass. He also adds that it takes a high skill set to make the glass. It was fabricated at Tianjin NorthGlass’ facility and has a 13.1-foot height and radius.

“During the fabrication and installation process we use overhead cranes and lifters. It’s almost not touched by humans,” he says.

Synon made the decision last year to feature this particular lite of glass at the show. It’s the largest lite of glass to be displayed on the GlassBuild show floor, and will soon be installed in a project for a major U.S. company.

One completed application that’s touting curved glass is the Messeturm in Frankfurt, Germany, where the ground-level lobby has been revamped by architect Helmut Jahn working with Matteo Thun & Partners. The work involved both aesthetic and energy efficiency upgrades. The installation features 17-meter high insulating glass units that were bent to a 24-meter radius. The glass was installed by seele, whose team of designers, engineers, logistics specialists and erection crews developed the steel-and-glass elements in just seven months prior to work commencing on site.

According to seele, the façade essentially consists of only a few parts: nine lites and ten posts on each side of the tower. There are no horizontal members interrupting the glass, helping to create lightness and transparency. The cold-bent insulating glass units, which measure approximately 17 by 2.8 meters, are approximately 71-mm thick overall and are supported by stainless steel posts weighing approx. 3.5 tons each.

Proposed Apprenticeships Rule Could Impact Safety

Industry unions believe a proposed rule creating industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAP) could lower safety standards if the exemption is not made permanent. The rule was proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) in response to recommendations by a task force on apprenticeship expansion.

The rule would establish a process for recognizing Standards Recognition Entities, which would work with employers to establish, recognize and monitor industry programs that provide apprenticeships.

The DOL exempted the military and construction industries from the proposed rule because registered apprenticeship opportunities are already significant among those industries, according to the rule.

Iron Workers general president Eric Dean says, “We are proud to provide a proven pathway to success in construction through our registered apprenticeship program. Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs would only lower safety and training standards across the construction industry, putting workers and customers at risk. The construction exemption should remain in the final rule.”

“If an organization wanted to create an apprenticeship program they could do that right now,” says Anton Reusing, director of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades’ International Finishing Trades Institute. “Right now, all construction industry programs are registered by the DOL and apprentices are still afforded protections. If IRAPs come into construction, apprentices won’t have the same protections and could be misled thinking they are joining a registered program, when in fact they are not,” he says. “It could create a competitive disadvantage for programs such as ours, which take great care to ensure that we adhere to regulations that we adhere to regulations that protect apprentices.

Contractors Increase Pay, Invest in Technology

Due to the fact that the majority of construction contractors are having trouble finding workers, particularly hourly craft positions, firms are spending more  on attracting workers or investing in technology to replace them. This is according to the Associated General Contractors of America’s (AGC) latest survey, which states that 80% of firms nationwide are having trouble finding craft workers, including glaziers.

Percentage of Respondents Having Difficulty Finding Craft Workers By Region

Over the next 12 months, 38% of firms expect that it will continue to be hard to hire in the craft labor market; 35% expect it to become even more difficult. Despite this difficulty, most firms surveyed expect to hire additional hourly craft personnel over the next 12 months.

When it comes to rating the adequacy of the local pipeline for supplying craft personnel, 45% reported it being poor for well-trained/skilled personnel, 26% reported it being poor for personnel able to pass a drug test and 17% reported it being poor for personnel able to pass background checks.

One aspect making the labor shortage more difficult for contractors is that hourly craft or salaried personnel are often lost to other employers. Nearly half of respondents said they’ve lost personnel to other firms in their area.

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