Knowledge is Power: Glazing Certifications Unlock Opportunities

Have you ever stepped back and reevaluated your business? Industry experts, such as those on the Forbes Coaches Council, recommend that you do, stating that taking a step backward can push your company forward. For owners of glass, glazing and architectural metal companies, self-reflection and a deep dive into company procedures can fuel growth even during times of uncertainty.

These steps help ensure that your business model is sound. Another step that owners can take involves opening the doors to third-party assessment organizations, which ensure that high standards are consistently met. Programs include the Architectural Glass and Metal Technician Certification Program (AGMT) and the North American Contractor Certification (NACC), among many others.

Handing Over the Reins

NACC and AGMT program development director Jeff Dalaba says both programs help fill a void for building envelope and glazing construction by providing an independent third-party verification of installer qualifications for the building owner and general contractor to reduce their risk in hiring the glazing subcontractor.

The AGMT certification program is a personnel certification process featuring a third-party, independent assessment of an experienced glazier’s knowledge of and ability to perform fundamental glazing procedures properly.

“Having AGMT-certified glaziers removes my concern for installation errors,” says Bryan Edelman, the general foreman at Chandler Architectural Products, a West Springfield, Mass.-based glazing contractor. “Knowing top-tier craftsmen are teaching our less experienced apprentices is very reassuring. AGMT sets the foundation for quality and production.”

NACC independently assesses a contractor’s processes and procedures. According to NACC, the certification process reduces the risk of poor building performance by minimizing errors, improving documentation and establishing standards for business and glazing.

Certified Subcontractors

Jeremy McLain is quite familiar with the NACC process. As Chandler’s vice president of operations, he was part of a team that earned the NACC in 2019. McLain says the certification process forced company officials to focus on each aspect of operations and adjust when needed.

“We have definitely seen a lot of improvement with our quality control and safety programs,” says McLain. “Our experience modification rate has dropped significantly by putting a lot of written plans and procedures in place. It’s created a culture where most people focus on quality and safety more than before. There’s a lot more buy-in.”

Lower experience mod rates often lead to lower worker’s compensation insurance rates. McLain adds that obtaining certifications gives companies many benefits, such as winning bids for certain projects led by general contractors who want qualified subcontractors.

“The certification process makes you analyze yourself rather than getting stuck in the day-to-day, we’ve always done it this way,” says McLain. “You start thinking of different ways and different efficiencies. We’ve seen a lot of growth in that area too. We also get involvement from our field and shop personnel. The process makes them wonder if there are better ways to do things and if they can contribute. They take pride in that.”

Jeff Scalisi, vice president of operations at Livermore, Calif.-based Architectural Glass and Aluminum (AGA), adds that certification programs ensure that projects boast competent contractors who are well-versed in what needs to be done. AGA became NACC-certified in 2016.

Views from General Contractors

For subcontractors eager to rise above the fray, getting certified goes a long way when catching the eye of general contractors, says Tina Donnelly, project executive envelope specialist at Turner Engineering Group, Turner Construction.

Donnelly says architects typically specify whether they want the glazing subcontractor to be certified in the project specifications. If an architect requires a subcontractor to be certified, the general contractor and the owner ensure that the competing contractors meet the specifications during the bidding process.

“Architects require certifications only for certain projects,” says Donnelly. “But I know these certification programs greatly benefit the subcontractors and the general contractors. They result in higher quality installations.”

NACC or AGMT certifications are not currently universally required in project specifications. This contrasts with the Air Barrier Association of America’s (ABAA) Quality Assurance Program (QAP), which ensures proper materials, installation and air and moisture barrier system inspections. Suppose a contractor loses a bid to a non-ABAA contractor. In that case, QAP administration staff will contact the architect and general contractor to ensure the job is awarded to an ABAA-accredited contractor.

Donnelly explains that QAP worked hard to make inroads in the construction industry. Program officials met with architects to ensure the specifications included the certification program. This greatly improved the quality of work, adds Donnelly.

“I have found that when tradespeople go through certification programs, it gives them a great deal of knowledge and empowers them to be a part of the installation,” she says.

Glazing certifications are necessary now more than ever. Donnelly explains that some of the most challenging design features on a building are glass, glazing, curtainwall, windows and storefront. That’s because the sheer volume of glazing jumped since the early 2000s, replacing many brick and block systems. As a result, glazing subcontractors found themselves in an expanding market where demand outstripped the supply of qualified installers.

And if a glazier doesn’t understand the technical performance of a product, they don’t have the confidence to put it together correctly the first time. Donnelly says that qualified glaziers will understand how to install the product correctly the first time, which improves their relationships with general contractors.

Why Aren’t Glazing Certifications Required in Project Specifications?

Certificated glaziers lead to improved workmanship and fewer failures or defects, says Donnelly. Sounds good, right? However, she explains that adopting universal rules to require certifications is like rowing a boat through heavy surf.

“It’s an old industry, and it’s hard for them to take on new technology and new thought processes,” she says. “As silly as that sounds.”

Dalaba states that NACC/AGMT programs have steadily grown, with 65 certified contractors and 1,355 certified glaziers in North America. The program and initiative to improve glazing quality is recognized in MasterSpec and has been required on more than 750 projects year-to-date in 2023.

Joshua Huff is the assistant editor of USGlass magazine. Email him at jhuff@glass.com and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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