Architects create a building’s concept, but glaziers are among the workers who bring a design to life. To bridge the gap between design and construction, the Southern California Glass Management Association (SCGMA), Local Union 636 and the Southern California Glaziers Apprenticeship have collaborated to host Glazing Boot Camps since 2015.

USC architecture students and apprentice glaziers collaborate at the Glazing Boot Camp.

The most recent boot camp was held with architecture students from the University of Southern California (USC) and apprentice glaziers on August 18, 2017 in Ontario, Calif.

The students learn how to cut, polish, and assemble modified storefront and curtainwall systems using typical glazing tools and machinery.

Prior to entering the shop floor, students are given detailed safety instructions and personal protective equipment donated by the SCGMA.

Once out in the shop, the students are expected to do the majority of the work themselves, with the help of the glaziers. They practice making conventional and unconventional cuts, learn more about the different types of glass, and produce a small 15- by 21-inch storefront box. Having each student work on their own individual piece allows them to gain a personal appreciation for full-sized facades and the amount of work that goes into bringing their blueprints to life.

Over time, the design of the box was updated using offset glass, so that the boxes may be of use outside the shop for other class assignments or events. After completing this particular project, the participants move on to installing a pre-made curtainwall system using a Spyder Glass Manipulator, furthering their understanding of how important it is to have knowledgeable glaziers, considering how dangerous and complex glass and metal machinery can be.

“We wanted to help bridge the knowledge gap between the design community and the glazing industry. By allowing the design community to experience the trade of a glazier, they really see what it takes to turn their blueprints and details into something tangible, something that the community will eventually get to use,” says Deveney Pula, CEO of SCGMA. “With the university students and glazier students working side by side, it opens up the dialogue between two otherwise separated groups, to discuss potential problem areas, from either side, on a glazing job. Both groups walk away with a better understanding of what the other stakeholder has to deal with and how those issues can be addressed early on to save time and money on future projects.”

In a typical session, each architecture student is paired with one glazier apprentice to work through the fabrication together while under the watchful eyes of the instructors and high-level apprentices. This pairing process allows for more effective learning on both sides. For the apprentices, they gain a better understanding of their craft by having to explain it to a novice. For the students, they learn just how detailed and difficult a glazier’s work can be, reinforcing the importance of using quality installers who practice safely.

Douglas Noble, director of the USC Master of Building Science program, says that the architecture students and glazing apprentices get straight to work once paired.

“The students are fearless, and are eager to try whatever they face. It takes about four or five minutes at the beginning to overcome the awkwardness of the start. The boot camp program typically matches as many as 12 to 15 apprentices or glazing professionals with our group. This means essentially one-on-one matching happens right at the beginning,” he says. “It feels a little like an elementary-school dance where they kind of look at each other awkwardly for a few minutes. But because the program is structured so well, it only takes a minute before it is up and running.”

According to Noble, it’s important for students to learn how glazing works, the assembly methods glaziers use, what glaziers do, safety protocols and that glaziers are capable of doing the work.

Pula says that this cross training could be beneficial to other parts of the glazing industry.

“We’ve opened up our boot camp to seasoned architects and specifiers as well. We’ve learned that while many of them have been in the industry for a while, there is still a disconnect between the two groups,” says Pula.

As for the future of the program, Noble would like to keep doing the glazing boot camp with his students twice a year, once in late August with the new master’s degree students, and once in mid-spring with the facades class students.

Pula is interested in seeing the program grow.

“In the future, we’d like to continue expanding the boot camp to address more aspects of the glazing world. We also want to help grow the industry by using it as a recruiting tool for construction management. Additionally, we’ve also looked at some other fun ideas, like competitions between local universities, and some community projects,” she says. “The ultimate goal here is to help educate the industry, by pushing collaboration and communication between all stakeholders on the job. We believe this will help everyone to be a little more efficient. I mean, everyone wants to increase their company efficiency and productivity, right?”