Industry Trends and Challenges Discussed at BEC Conference

The 2018 Building Envelope Contractors (BEC) Conference was held at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas March 4-6. Organized by the Glass Association of North America/National Glass Association, the event offered sessions about the state of the industry, managing risk and growth in response to natural events, designing for acoustics, curved glass and more.

State of the Industry

The conference opened with a panel discussion that offered an in-depth look at industry challenges, trends and market perspectives. Moderated by Jeff Haber of W&W Glass, panelists included Keith Boswell, with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill; Joe Conover with Clark Construction; Paul Goudeau, Saint Gobain; and Jeff Heymann with Benson Industries.

Commenting on the overall optimism in the industry, Haber opened the session questioning whether the industry is at the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end of the current cycle. The panel then began addressing some challenges that relate to design- build and design-assist collaboration efforts.

“Whatever the delivery method, I’m a big believer that there is a specific solution for a specific opportunity,” said Boswell. “When it works right, you a have a team where everybody is doing their work with a creative tension with other team members. So whatever the delivery method, the architect/engineer should have both the vision and performance aspect and then learn to speak the language of the other participants. When you’re communicating, you get wonderful projects.”

Glass in Natural Disasters

Impact glazing has evolved immensely throughout the past three decades, yet the industry still has more work to do according to Kishor Mehta, wind engineering expert and professor at Texas Tech University.

As far back as the 1970s, engineers have noticed that roof gravel from other buildings is a major cause of glass breakage during hurricanes, which leads to increased interior dam-age and higher insurance claims.

Mehta said that window glass did “pretty well” during Hurricane Irma last year. The major problem came from tempered glass balustrades.

“A few broke, creating tiny pieces of glass during the hurricane. That then acts as roof gravel as far as window glass is concerned, hence, you have damage. The industry has come a long way and has done very well, but broken tempered glass in hurricanes causes additional damage, particularly in a high-rise building.”

Code Changes, Additions

Tom Culp from Birth Point Consulting addressed changes that have implications for the glass and glazing industry. These include ASHRAE 90.1-2016; the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC); and the combined 2018 International Green Conservation Code (IgCC)/ASHRAE 189.1-2017. Culp noted that federal buildings will start to use 90.1-2016 later this year and that the 2018 I-codes will be adopted over the next one to five-plus years.

Looking closer at the 2018 IECC and ASHRAE 90.1-2016 shows that U-factors are lowered by 3 percent to 24 percent in 90.1. Culp said this brings them more in line with the IECC. There aren’t any changes to window area, which Culp said is very important to the industry.

He added that 90.1 does include a new regulation on building enclosure commissioning, which requires envelope inspections or building air leakage testing. Also important for the glazing industry is the increased attention to air barrier continuity and window-wall detailing.

Acoustical Glazing

According to Julia Schimmelpenningh of Eastman Chemical Co., noise is one of the top three types of pollution.

She acknowledged the misperception that the greater the use of glass on a project, the more noise gets through to the interior. “We often think glass is the weak link without knowing the real details,” she said.

Glass thickness is the most basic way to improve the noise control of a façade. Glass with a thickness of 16 mm has a sound transmission class (STC) of 40. Glass that is 1.5 inches thick has an STC of 48 compared to a 4-inch concrete wall with an STC of 40-48.

Insulating spaces and a dampening, soft interlayer also help mitigate noise pollution.

“Glass is no longer the weak link for acoustics when using modern materials,” she added.

Eric Miller with Intertek focused on acoustical glazing testing.

“How you install a glass panel and test it will affect the kind of result you get,” said Miller. “Our lab tries to replicate the installation of the actual products. We try not to apply too much sealant because it could show elevated ratings… We want to make it as realistic as possible.”

Curved Glass

The best way to achieve success on curved glass projects is for the fabricator to manage the customer’s expectations up front.

“We really try to educate the customers on the front end about what they can expect. We do that with full-scale mockups of the project so there are no surprises,” said Jake Bowser of Standard Bent Glass.

Panelist Javier Sanchez Gil of Crista-curva explained that there are two categories of curved glass: essential and enhanced. Essential curved glass has similar tolerances and size limitations to flat glass.

Beatriz Fernandez with Cricursa explained that coatings can be damaged when bent.

“We have to go through mock-ups. There’s no bible for coatings. It depends on the radius or shape. A coating might work on one project but on the next it may not. We have to check project by project,” she said.

Field Fixes for Curtainwall

Matt Kamper of Woodbridge Glass moderated the session titled “MacGyver It: Field Fixes for Curtainwall,” that included three panelists: Dudley McFarquhar, MGI McFarquhar Group; Curtis Nordin, W&W Glass; and An-thony Santocono, Kawneer Co. Each panelist discussed some of the common issues and concerns they’ve seen and experienced on jobsites.

McFarquhar noted the importance of coordination on the project, explain-ing that glaziers must be cognitive of the project schedule when working with other groups and parties, and said it’s important to be able to document things quickly on-site. “Never underestimate the power of a napkin or sandwich bag,” he said. “You can’t go wrong with field sketching.”

Speaking of logistics, he said Building Information Modeling (BIM) is also becoming more prevalent, de-pending on the complexity of the conditions. BIM and other modeling tools, he said, can be effective when dealing with complex geometry or intersections. They also provide information for dimensional constraints.

Nordin focused on situations where a structural fix might be required.

“In many cases the need for a field fix is pretty obvious,” he said, explaining that field conditions will never be perfect so it’s important to know the system tolerances.

Successful Mock-Ups

The final session took a close look at the “ABCs of Successful Curtain-wall Mock-Ups.” Also moderated by Kamper, the panel included Jack John-son of CCL West and David Van Volkinburg of DVV Associates.

Johnson addressed why testing is important.

“What it all boils down to is this: verification. We’re there to test and verify that what we’re proposing to put on the building actually does what we think it’s going to do,” he said. “That verification can have all the difference.”

Van Volkinburg commented that the architecture and walls of buildings are changing, and noted that when looking at what needs to be tested it’s import-ant to not forget verification.

“I’m not ready to allow a one-third reduction in field testing. We ought to test for the requirements of the job all through the testing,” he said.

He added that “glaziers need to evaluate the opening [they’re] going to use and make sure it’s clean and the right size, because if it leaks, the glass guys will always get the blame. Glass isn’t the problem. It’s the interface between that and the adjacent material.”

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