Attendees eager to learn more about the glass industry crowded the seminar room all morning at Glass Expo Southeast™ (GESE) in Orlando. The event is taking place this week at the Rosen Plaza Hotel and is sponsored by USGlass magazine, USGNN and [DWM] magazine. Attendees heard lectures from a variety of industry experts on topics ranging from the best practices regarding security glass to the steps you can take to minimize birds flying into glass.

Knowing the Stats

Nick St. Denis, research director for Key Media & Research, provided an industry outlook for the Southeast glass and glazing sector.

USGlass publisher Deb Levy opened the morning sessions and welcomed Nick St. Denis, research director for Key Media & Research, who provided an industry outlook for the glass and glazing in the Southeast. His session detailed statistics about trends in the glass and glazing industry over the past few years and predictions for the coming years.

He touched on the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on the industry, particularly nonresidential and office construction.

“Since the pandemic, everyone is worried about people pulling away from office buildings and working remotely,” St. Denis said.

This would leave less demand for office buildings and the glass they use. However, the office building construction didn’t immediately decline during or after the pandemic. It hasn’t been until now in 2024 that, according to St. Denis, the American Institute of Architects is predicting a 1.7% decrease in office building construction.

“There’s definitely going to be a transition in office construction over the next several years,” St. Denis said.

He also broke down by region the top three building sectors for growth among contract glaziers. The top sectors for the South Atlantic, where GESE takes place, are educational, healthcare and other commercial construction.

“That’s the nice thing about our industry, there’s a lot of diversification in the segments we cover,” St. Denis said.

Building Safety

Next, Wade Arnold of Specialty Fenestration Group, which includes U.S. Bullet Proofing and Quikserv, took to the podium for his seminar, “Protecting People & Property: Fortifying Building Safety with Ballistic, Blast, Storm Impact and Forced Entry Solutions.”

He opened by inviting the audience to “think like a criminal,” explaining that “people have always seen glass as the weak point to enter into a building.”

“We are no longer the weak point in the wall system,” Arnold said.

Arnold asked the audience what projects they’d worked on that required security glass. The audience provided banks, police departments, military buildings and more as examples.

Arnold explained what the different levels of the UL 752 standard for ballistic protection rating mean and what glass rated at each level can withstand. He also cautioned audience members that the tests done on the glass to determine the ratings don’t always reflect real-world scenarios.

Arnold also talked about glass that can withstand the blast of an explosion, and how crucial that is in facilities such as airports or anywhere else with an explosion risk. To illustrate his point, he explained that in the Oklahoma City bombing glass shattered for blocks around the explosion, and at the West Texas fertilizer plant explosion in 2013, a nearby school had all their windows and glass doors blown in.

“These glass systems must maintain their integrity to keep these hazardous materials from entering this space,” Arnold said.

He touched on the dangers storms pose, too, and the regulations created by federal and local government organizations to make sure glass installed in storm-heavy areas is storm-impact-resistant.

“The main word on every architect’s radar right now: FEMA,” Wade Arnold said.

Returning to danger from a human source, Arnold talked about how buildings such as schools, gas stations, and even pharmacies are equipped with security glass to hinder intruders.

“Pharmacies are the number one most looted place after a natural disaster,” Arnold said. He explained that this is because pharmacies typically contain the most sought-after items in a disaster all in one place: food, toiletries, medical supplies and more.

Making Connections

USGlass columnist Stewart Jeske with JEI Structural Engineering next took the floor with his seminar, “Connections – Best Practices and Ugly Details,” which focused on properly installing glass into buildings.

Jeske provided many real-life examples of glass systems improperly and even dangerously connected to structures and explained the dos and don’ts of glass installation. Some of these examples, such as one where far too many shims were stuffed into a frame, drew chuckles from the crowd, while others, such as a video showing a glass windscreen that could easily be rattled back and forth, drew gasps.

Jeske touched on the new trend of adding “fins” to glass structures as shades.

“Ultimately manufacturers never really designed their systems to have sails on them,” he said.

These long strips of glass cause drag and put too much pressure on a glass system. Jeske said this problem can be solved by giving them their own support beam, so they’re not simply anchored onto a façade.

Liability Issues

Marcus Dreher spoke next with his session, “Understanding the Liability Issues in Shop Drawings.”

Dreher explained that if a mistake happens in a shop drawing for glass installation, the architect or general contractor is going to come directly to them to solve the problem. Depending on the size of the mistake, this can put the glazier in a very difficult and expensive situation.

“Some of these mistakes can cost some serious bucks,” Dreher said.

To avoid these problems, Dreher said glaziers need to have conversations with their drafting firms and their own teams beforehand. These discussions should be serious, but they don’t need to be harsh.

Ultimately, Dreher recommends that when glaziers encounter mistakes they “have the difficult conversation, push for a better path forward, and build strong long-term relationships.”

Alberto Alarcon with Kuraray said the best way to deter birds from flying into glass, according to the American Bird Conservancy, is to put a pattern on the glass that is two inches by four inches wide.

Save the Birds

Alberto Alarcon with Kuraray spoke about “Bird-Friendly Glazing Using Laminated Glass.” He explained that birds are much more import than one might think, and that these “little friends” are killed more by cats and buildings than anything else.

Alarcon said that birds cannot perceive glass the same way we do. Reflections of trees or other bird-friendly habitats in glass can confuse them even more.

“They are not aware that glass is there,” Alarcon said. “They only see a big hole they can fly through.”

Though it might seem like skyscrapers would be the biggest danger to birds, Alarcon said that is not the case.

“It’s not the tall buildings that are the trap for birds. It’s the medium and small buildings,” he said.

This is because houses and other mid-size buildings are closer to the height that a lot of birds fly.

Alarcon spoke about how the best way to deter birds from flying into glass, according to the American Bird Conservancy, is to put a pattern on the glass that is two inches by four inches wide. This can be in the glass itself, or it can be laminated within the glass. It also doesn’t have to be ugly or obtrusive. Alarcon provided examples of bird-friendly glass that had artistic patterns, or laminated uniform dots barely visible unless you were right next to the glass.

Keeping the Cash Flowing

Claire Wilson of Siteline wrapped up the educational sessions for the day with her seminar called “5 Secrets for Healthier Cash Flow.”

“Cash flow is the lifeblood of your business,” Wilson said.

She pointed out that subcontractors often have to wait a long time, sometimes 90 days or more, to receive payment for their work. Because of this, Wilson said that the days when payment could be agreed on with a handshake are gone.

“There used to be a lot of trust and now there is a lot of litigation,” she said.

Wilson said subcontractors can help themselves keep their payments flowing by making sure they understand all the terms of their contracts and making sure they’re filling out all their payment information correctly.

Wilson cites missing lien waivers, errors on pay apps and expired compliance documents as the top three things that delay payments. Therefore, subcontractors should over-communicate with the general contractors and document everything using a good system to ensure their needs are being met.

GESE continues this evening with the trade show and welcoming cocktail party. More education sessions will take place tomorrow morning, followed by the trade show until 2 p.m. On-site registration is also available.

Stay tuned to for more news and updates from the show.

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