Cost competitiveness has put the use of offshore curtainwall and glazing systems from Asia on the uptick in Canada in recent years. While that has raised pricing concerns from domestic suppliers, questions about potential quality control and delivery issues have also come into play on the design and construction side.

Halsall Associates’ Ehab Naim Ibrahim addresses attendees of the Top Glass Conference & Exhibits Wednesday.

Consultants Ehab Naim Ibrahim and Hamid Vossoughi of Halsall Associates addressed the topic Wednesday at the Top Glass Conference & Exhibits, presenting a seminar on the challenges and opportunities posed by sourcing offshore curtainwall and glazing.

“You’re not going to be able to ignore them,” said Vossoughi, noting that China represents 20 percent of the world population. “They’re going to continue to work and compete in the marketplace.”

So as the supply of offshore systems continues to grow in Canada, Vossoughi said it will be important to keep the focus on quality, regardless of whether it involves offshore or domestic products. Whereas the façade used to be non-permeable and static—serving protective and aesthetic functions—Vossoughi said it is now a “skin, responsive, adaptive, permeable, dynamic integrated and complex.”

Ibrahim added that Asian companies have entered the market because “they’re offering a price for curtainwall that is the same as the local window wall.”

Ibrahim discussed a recent project upon which Halsall worked on in where the builder opted to utilize an Asian supplier for its glazing system. He explained the process of working with the offshore companies. Halsall helped design a custom system and worked extensively with the manufacturer. During the manufacturing process, he made 10 trips oversees to check on progress and participate in system testing. Mock-up testing included a dynamic water as well as thermal cycle.

The project was a success, though Ibrahim noted some of the positives and negatives of working with an offshore manufacturer. Some positives included that the foreign engineers were knowledgeable of common standards and open to learning about other requirements. He also said availability of the manufacturing staff to work on adjustments was a plus.

Cons, however, included a longer review and revision process to draw project performance criteria. Also, schedule/timing issues were more prevalent due to distance. Communication was another hurdle, given the language barrier. Ibrahim also talked about his experience with the glass manufacturer, which he said had a strong quality control program—at least during the time he was there.

The two presenters concluded that the use of offshore curtainwall glazing systems provides both challenges and opportunities, and that it’s absolutely crucial to do due diligence whether working with a foreign or domestic entity.

Top Glass concluded Wednesday. Check out more™ coverage of the event.