Securing the Job: Tips for Entering the Renovation Market

By Jordan Scott

New construction each year comprises a small amount of the total buildings in existence in the U.S., which is why the renovation market is so critical for glaziers. As owners revisit buildings constructed 50-60 years ago they are realizing the return on investment renovation can create due to newer materials and designs that improve energy efficiency, drive occupancy and allow for higher rent prices.

“Some earlier buildings did not include insulating glass and they weren’t thermally broken; they were very rudimentary … as these first- and second-generation curtainwalls are aging out, the opportunity for renovation and improvement of these properties is
significant,” says Jeff Heymann, vice president of business development for Benson Industries in Portland, Ore.

According to KMR’s Glass and Glazing Industry Outlook report, more than 43% of glazing contractors anticipate an increase in retrofit/renovation work in 2019 compared to 2018.

For companies interested in taking on renovation work, experienced glaziers recommend focusing on relationships.


Heymann says it’s important for glaziers who want to do more renovation work to have an ongoing relationship with building owners in their region.

“Ask them about their long-term plans for their properties and which properties are candidates for upgrades,” he says. “… Renovation typically is being drive by ownership recognizing they have to upgrade their buildings to keep their tenants happier and to make their space more attractive, energy efficient and sustainable, especially compared to newer construction.”

Lyle Hill, president of Keytech North America in Oak Brook, Ill., recommends identifying the general contractors and architects that are involved in renovation and retrofit work.

Having a track history with a general contractor or owner is especially important in New York City, according to Mike Haber, managing partner with W&W Glass in Nanuet, N.Y.

“If an owner or a contractor is going to [do a renovation with the] building vacant, they need to have assurances that the people they hire are going to be able to perform technically and on time,” he says. “At that point in time the owner has no revenue stream so the schedule may be tight to get the project finished so they can move the tenant back into the building.”


When creating a bid for a renovation project, clearly defining the work scope is critical to success. Heymann says it’s important to understand existing conditions and where the demolition scope ends and new installation begins.

“Think about what may arise and make sure you have accounted for that, or have talked about that with your customer so that you don’t have scope gaps or get into disagreements about who was responsible,” he says.


Demolition and removal of materials is usually the responsibility of a demolition contractor when working on the exterior of an unoccupied building, but Heymann says that Benson has been asked to include a demolition contract in its price and have that as part of the company’s oversight on the project.

“In either case, you have to coordinate well with a demolition contractor and work out a program that works best for the owner and for you as far as how you’re going to proceed with respect to logistics, equipment needs, what your anticipated rate of production is going to be, how the demo relates to you, and how the demolition relates to the new curtainwall going in (top/down, floor-by-floor, in zones, etc.),” he says.


Cleaning and protection are other considerations glazing contractors should keep in mind when forming their bids.

“For existing construction with finished tenant space, protecting flooring and other items becomes paramount,” says Heymann. “That is something you have to work out with the building owner and tenant to figure out whether it’s in your scope or someone else’s scope.”

According to Hill, cleaning and protecting the glass itself after installation is usually excluded from a glazing contractor’s scope.


Haber says that in the renovation world, the main thing glazing contractors need to be careful of is unforeseen conditions.

“Let’s face it, when you bid these jobs the building is normally occupied, the existing façade is still in place, and you’re working off a set of drawings for a building that might have been built 50-60 years ago,” he says. “A lot of times what we find out is that what they actually built doesn’t really match the bid documents as far as existing conditions go.”

If there are any obstacles a glazing contractor knows about, it’s important to address that in the bid or work scope.

“Sometimes you have no clue what you’re going to find,” says Hill. “… You are only responsible for what you’ve quoted. I encourage people to put in their bid that their pricing is for the scope as defined … The unforeseen is the unforeseen and you’re entitled to be compensated if it affects you or the pricing of your work in any way.”

According to Hill, in the past decade, he’s seen general contractors wanting subcontractors to include allowances for unforeseen problems, which is something glazing contractors should be wary of when formulating a bid.


Heymann emphasizes that on any project, but particularly those with existing conditions, the glazing contractor must adhere to sound waterproofing principles. This is especially true when dissimilar materials are involved.

“If you’re doing a window replacement where window meets brick, be careful to understand how the cavity wall works in relation to the new window, and that your flashing and caulking details are sound,” he suggests.

While renovation jobs sometimes require special considerations, Hill says that glazing companies can always count on these repair and replacement jobs because “new construction has peaks and valleys but there’s always renovation work going on.

Recladding for Posterity

The 1271 Avenue of the Americas building in New York City has undergone a reclad to improve views, access to daylighting and energy efficiency. The 48-story building was originally designed by Harrison, Abramovitz, & Harris and built in 1959.

Pei Cobb Freed & Partners is the design architect for the building’s renovation. The new double-glazed curtainwall includes 50% more vision glass, according to the firm.

J.E. Berkowitz fabricated approximately 400,000 square feet of Guardian Sun’ Guard SNX 62/67 glass of various thicknesses. The glass features three layers of a silver low-E coating to reduce solar heat gain. Sotawall unitized the glass for the project and glazing contractor W&W Glass was responsible for the recladding/repositioning of the building.

Mike Haber, managing partner with W&W Glass in Nanuet. N.Y., says that W&W was asked to provide early assistance for budgeting and scheduling on the project from general contractor Turner Construction, which led the company to bid on and secure the job.

W&W and Sotawall collaborated to create a custom curtainwall system for the 1271 Avenue of the Americas project. Haber says that specific sightlines needed to be maintained while meeting energy efficient performance criteria.

“… The existing vertical piers remained and we had several constraints,” he says. “One was the existing building conditions of the structure. Another was that the actual stone vertical pillars had to remain in place. It was critical to make sure that the new facade system fit and worked with the existing conditions and those existing vertical columns. We had to be very careful that the curtainwall systems fit in the openings that were there between the stone.”

Haber says that while certain structural conditions forced W&W to install the curtainwall system from the outside rather than the inside of the building, the buildings installation was relatively straightforward.

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