Can Engineers Talk? Paving a Way toward Communication and Understanding

By Stewart Jeske and Carrie Jeske

Glass industry engineers work with unique materials, including glass, aluminum, and polymers used in glazing systems that present unique challenges. Most U.S. university engineering programs focus on steel, concrete and wood as primary structural members, so few, if any, engineering graduates are prepared for the challenges of glazing systems or their limitations structurally. Professional engineers (PEs) without experience in glazing systems aren’t always prepared for the challenges of ever-changing code requirements, diverse standards, design manuals, and software. Given this backdrop, it is critical that glazing system engineers effectively communicate with clients throughout the design process.

Communicate Early

Identifying a potential problem before it is a problem is a good way to start, and it doesn’t need to take a lot of time. Ask the engineer while they are quoting and pricing a project to also look for any potential issues with the architecture/engineering (AE) concept. AE design teams often will show concepts and systems that may not work or have difficult areas. Identifying these issues upfront may save a lot of headaches later. You also can ask for a small amount of preliminary engineering on areas that may be challenging.

Communicate Often

Discussing issues and problems the engineer sees involves collaboration and results in timely solutions. If the engineer doesn’t understand the client’s limitations in terms of supply and capability, then you’ll likely have an unwanted answer. Incremental submittals for the engineer may help, and create the opportunity for discussion. At a minimum, consider the following stages:
• Preliminary engineering (difficult areas) – concept sketches;
• Reinforcing for curtainwall and storefront – getting the reinforcing ordered early;
• Anchors and final mark-ups.

Each of these stages offers an opportunity for discussion and will minimize misunderstandings, ultimately providing a better product.

Invite Your Engineer On Site

Seeing giant pieces of glass lined up for installation and touring structures under construction gives engineers a better understanding and respect for the contractor’s work. Our team visited the Webster University project with NGG in St. Louis a few years ago. The temperature was close to 0 degrees Fahrenheit and it was windy. Our hands became colder the higher we went. On the sixth floor, our faces were numb and our phones and video cameras locked up. Then we noticed a man and woman glazing team riding a cold, steel lift from embed to embed, precisely locking everything into place. We have much respect.

At 8G Solutions a few years ago, we were invited to a storefront framing contest where glazing supervisors mentored three teams of engineers in a competition for the highest quality frame built. It was an excellent communication and bonding experience where engineers saw the shop drawings seemingly jump off the page. The pain and implications
of adding steel and the importance of problem-solving to minimize the number of anchors were apparent.

Presentations & Problem Solving

Communication is a two-way street. Problem-solving seems never-ending. When you invite engineers to present short lessons, gotchas or project debriefs, it provides an opportunity for open dialogue, builds relationships, and offers a chance for project managers and engineers to deepen their understanding of critical concerns. Projects don’t have to be stressful. Communication early and often will help reduce issues, build relationships and reduce misunderstanding.

Stewart Jeske is the founder and president and Carrie Jeske is the vice president of JEI Structural Engineering in Kansas City, Mo.

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1 Comment

  1. We loved writing this article together. So many glazing industry companies have family members working together. It’s refreshing and encouraging. Transferring communication skills and conflict resolution skills to the next generation is one of our most important tasks. The Glass Industry really is a beautiful place, with stunning projects. #Thankful.

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