Challenging storefronts

Katy Devlin
July 15, 2009

Monroe Street main entrance of the Palmer House Hilton, Chicago.
  • Read the related storefront Q&A with Alvaro Correa of West Tampa Glass, Tampa, Fla.

Q&A with Mike Tracy, business development, Trainor Glass, Alsip, Ill.

What are the challenges you see when it comes to storefront jobs?

Achieving the architect’s design intent while giving the customer the highest value and most efficient system in regard to environmental considerations, such as wind load, snow load, water infiltration and solar control is always the balancing act for any storefront job. That said, most challenges arise from trying to match existing colors, finishes and metal profiles with new products. In Chicago many buildings can be more than 100 years old and it takes the solid, long-term relationships with vendors and fabricators that Trainor Glass has to get the job done right the first time.

Are there challenges coordinating products from so many suppliers?

Here at Trainor, we love to see “or approved equal” and other phrases of the kind on specifications. This allows us to use the vendor network mentioned above to find the highest value system for the customer and architect. Again, with national reach and proven relationships, anything is possible with excellent project management.

What do you do when not everything marries up on the job site?

With 17 offices and more than 55 years in the business, we can usually find someone on our staff that has come across the problem in the past. The key is to get out in front of these issues before getting to the job site. We utilize in-house mock-ups and testing to minimize on-site problems. Our Web site is a great internal tool for communication with our job site cams and PM Online system, so real time evaluation and trouble shooting is possible from anywhere in the country.

How do you overcome these challenges?

Trainor Glass Co. takes a proactive approach to every project. We set up coordination meetings with the general contractor as well as all of the subcontractors who tie into our work. We meet weekly to check progress and establish schedules that work for all of us. By establishing this overall team of subcontractors ahead of time, we are able to agree to hold sizes and order materials long before the openings are ready, so we have no problems meeting the owners and contractors completion schedule.

Do you fabricate any of your own metal products?

Trainor Glass Co. does not manufacture the aluminum or glass required for the storefront installations, but we do fabricate the frames for the stock length materials provided by our suppliers. We unitize our frames. We cut our materials, do all the necessary prep work, and caulk and glaze the frames in the plant. This gives us a great deal of quality control over the final product. It helps to eliminate the potential problems that may arise due to weather, especially here in the Midwest. In addition it allows for a cleaner more efficient installation as all frames are built and loaded in a sequence, so the installers know exactly what opening and in what order all of the frames go in.

What is a recent example of a storefront job that presented you with notable hurdles?

The renovation of the Palmer House Hilton on State Street, here in Chicago, had many challenges to overcome. Matching existing 100-year old storefront finishes on the interior and exterior was a lot of fun. The historic classification of the building coupled with the high-profile site gave us an opportunity to showcase the abilities of our vendor network, project management team and field installers. Most of the metal pieces on the job were custom fabricated and custom installed, with a result that was on-time and under budget to the delight of the GC, architect, historic preservation council and anyone who passes by.

Katy Devlin is editor for Glass Magazine. E-mail Katy at