BEC: Back to the Same, Except It’s Different

By Deb Levy

Technological change slammed into the contract glazing industry at the Building Envelope Conference, held in March, and its effects were evident everywhere. While most people seemed to revel in seeing their colleagues’ full faces, sans masks, for the first time in the last two years, there was a realization that COVID changed a little bit of everything, and technology was changing the rest.

In addition to having a feeling of normalcy about it, the event served as a miner’s canary for the industry in forecasting coming trends. You can read all our coverage at usglassmag.com. Here are my top five takeaways:

1. The Energy Noose Tightens—well, it’s not a noose really, but it is a group of regulations designed to increase energy efficiency in buildings. New York City’s new energy codes are beginning to reverberate to other states. We can expect to see more, not less, regulation around energy in more states in the future. Luckily, our industry has products that offer the energy-saving performance these codes will mandate. But
they are not easy solutions; architects must understand and embrace them, and their education is a crucial tool in the “battle for the wall.”

2. First the birds and turtles, now plants—Brandon Andow’s discussion of how glass can affect photosynthesis was something most of us know instinctively but didn’t realize was the subject of scientific studies. With plants known to contribute to the health and well-being of office workers, we may see glass performance specifications designed to advance plant growth.

3. Hard work ahead for hardware—A new subspecialty seems to be making its way across the country, centered with more popularity in the Mid-Atlantic and deep South: the “hardware consultant.” The hardware consultant is not a traditional consultant but a company that does all the hardware work for the building. This seems a regrettable
trend to me. I hate when any of a project’s value—especially parts that had traditionally been in the glass industry’s domain—move elsewhere. And since the field of hardware is growing in size, complexity, and value, it’s not an area to acquiesce. Glazing contractors would be well served to have access to electricians and techies to offer these services themselves.

4. Paranoia strikes deep, into your conference it creeps—well, not paranoia really, more like realism. Absent this year were the hordes of project managers some companies usually send. “I didn’t dare send my guys this year,” one company president told me. “I’m sure somebody would be trying to pick them off or offer them a job in the restroom. Nobody can afford to lose anyone right now.” An informal poll I made during the
event bears this out: there are material and supply issues, but the labor
shortage remains the single biggest problem contract glaziers face.

5. Just say no, really—The presentations by attorneys are always sobering. They elicit a dead hush you don’t hear in other sessions. That was true again when Vic McConnell, counsel with Smith Cashion & Orr, PLC, spoke during the “Managing Risks with Mock-Ups” session. McConnell talked about the differences in risk in design-build and design-assist projects and how essential mock-ups are. I was struck by the line on one of his slides, the gist of which was “Don’t do condos.” This is something just about everyone in the crowd knows (some from sad experience), but it was a surprising simple statement to see. He explained that with condos, there are literally “hundreds of people who want to sue you—contractors, developers, and all those unit owners.” So they do.

All in all, it was a great few days in Nashville, where there was a sense of normalcy and a hint of what the world was like before COVID. I look forward to seeing you at the next industry event.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.