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Monday, August 16, 2010

For those of you following the news at ASHRAE earlier this year, you were no doubt surprised by the vote to approve a reduction in permissible fenestration area -- from 40 percent to 30 percent for prescriptive compliance -- in standard 90.1. (Read a Glass Magazine article on the subject). This turn of events is a result of a continuing effort to improve the thermal efficiency of the building envelope. 

On the bright side, there was and continues to be a coordinated effort by the entire fenestration industry to maintain the 40 percent level. This is atypical -- normally, the industry is splintered by vested interests at code and regulatory bodies -- and demonstrates how important this issue is to all of us.    

Recent discussions of  R-value versus U-factor are symptomatic of this industry’s inability to effectively communicate product performance.   

It brings to mind how important it is for the fenestration industry to be sure that all of the benefits of windows, doors, skylights and curtain-wall systems are recognized by the building code and architectural community. These benefits specifically include ventilation and daylighting. To fully realize the potential benefits of fenestration systems, the industry needs to:

  • Provide a tool that measures the potential opportunity for natural ventilation as part of sustainable designs;
  • Establish a metric for the productivity and health-related gains from daylighting;
  • Reach a consensus on the energy-related benefits of daylighting; and
  • Work towards a consensus on the potential for positive solar heat gain benefits in cold climates.

Achieving the above would allow us to move toward an annual energy performance rating.

Please remember that NFRC is not a fenestration industry organization, nor do we represent their interests. We provide an organizational forum for valid, consensus-driven, energy-related ratings for fenestration products. However, we are tied to the success of the fenestration industry and hope that we can have a role to play in its continued growth.

--Jim Benney is the National Fenestration Rating Council’s chief executive officer. He has been involved in developing product and performance standards for the window and glass industry for more than 25 years. He can be reached at jbenney@nfrc.org.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Two forecasts came out last week with frustrating results. The monthly ABI was up two points but still weak, and the analysts there continue to worry about the volatility in the marketplace. The other forecast I saw was the Producer Price Index, and that was pretty depressing. The numbers of course were low, but the commentary was downright frightening. Check out this line:

"Public construction, once the bright spot of the industry, is petering out, and we are hopeful that the stimulus money allotted by Congress for infrastructure will be spent soon and help stem the tide. Virtually all of the sectors of commercial construction are down, and represent a cumulative 15 percent decrease."

Ouch. That is simply not fun. The "stimulus" money is supposedly still out there, and I know a lot of folks hanging their hats on that to help ride this out. In any case, and no matter the report you read, these are challenging times and the companies that handle these times the best, will be the horses when it turns... and I still believe the turn is coming.... 

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The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors. Write Perilstein at maxbcat@aol.com.

Monday, August 9, 2010

They don't just make energy-efficient construction materials, they also contribute to creating awareness and preparing young minds for this increasingly green world.

PPG Industries Foundation, Pittsburgh, took its energy-efficiency agenda a step further by teaming up with EconomicsPennsylvania, a not-for-profit economic education and financial literacy organization in the Commonwealth serving teachers and students in grades K-12, to create a new classroom curriculum called "The Economics of Alternative Energy," according to an Aug. 3 release. The curriculum will be introduced and made available to Pennsylvania high schools at the beginning of the new school year in September.

Teachers and students will explore the challenges of the energy debate and examine what action steps might be taken in the areas of conservation, exploration and need, said Andy Russell, former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker and volunteer vice chair of the EconomicsPennsylvania board of directors. "Issues such as energy choices, consumption, incentive, market price, public policy and 'greening' make this curriculum an effective doorway to learning experiences that will not only impact students and influence their thinking but also challenge them to consider possible life-altering decisions," he said in the release.

"[The curriculum] will provide students with a stronger understanding of economics by encouraging them to consider the many issues surrounding energy and the environment through the lens of the global economy," said Victoria M. Holt, senior vice president, Glass and Fiber Glass, PPG Industries, in the release. "Solving the challenges of energy supply, cost and use -- determining how to protect resources most effectively while affordably powering our ever-increasing energy demands -- is of crucial importance to society. As such, PPG Industries recognizes its responsibility as the world's leading coatings and specialty products company to address issues of energy security and climate change."

EconomicsPennsylvania will distribute information statewide about teacher training workshops and the availability of the curriculum and related classroom materials to school districts, curriculum directors and teachers with the anticipation of scheduling workshop sessions as soon as possible, according to the release.

—By Sahely Mukerji, senior editor, Glass Magazine

Monday, August 2, 2010

On a lighter note this week, here is an interesting article on "Gorilla glass." Probably none of us will handle this type of glass, but I love learning about the creativity and thought and work that went into this product almost 50 years ago, only so it could rest on the shelf until a use for it was found. And that waiting paid off, big time. According to the article, available here, Gorilla glass--invented in 1962--picked up its first customer in 2008 and has quickly become a $170 million a year business for Corning Inc. The company continues to devote a huge amount to R&D, and they must have many more glass products in the pipeline that we will see come to the marketplace in the future. I wonder if they have any innovations with architectural applications?

 

 

Mammen is president of M3 Glass Technologies, Irving, Texas.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

So as the news trickled out that Arch Aluminum hired a new CEO, my e-mail box filled with questions on how I felt about it and so on. Basically, I had one feeling, and that was one of bemusement since they hired a strategic marketing guy. It's "inside baseball" stuff, but trust me, I chuckled heartily when I saw a marketing exec as CEO. Outside of that, I really had no other thoughts aside from what I noted a few weeks ago about Arch and AGC both having new management teams in place. It should be a very interesting process to look back on and see what worked and what didn't. 

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The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors. Write Perilstein at maxbcat@aol.com.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Senate Democrats have taken the climate bill off the table. At least, they have abandoned the climate bill that would have instituted emissions caps on greenhouse gasses and promoted renewable energy production. In its place will be what Bradford Plumer of the New Republic calls a “very pared-back bill” focused on oil spill response, with a bit of money for home energy-efficiency retrofits (maybe some benefits for our residential window folks?).

Should industry (including the glass industry) be issuing a sigh of relief that emissions cap legislation has been delayed for the foreseeable future? (See Closer look: Climate bill, cap and trade could hurt industry). According to Lisa Reisman from MetalMiner in a July 26 column, yes. The discarded bill would have capped emissions domestically without including any provisions to move the country away from energy imports. “We can’t see how climate legislation focused on limiting emissions will reduce our dependence on foreign sources. In fact, we could assume the cost of energy would increase, thereby further opening up alternative sources of supply to fill the gap (e.g. imports),” Reisman said. And the original bill, if passed, could have put metals producers (and glass producers, as well as all of industry, I presume) in an “international competitive disadvantage,” Reisman said.

However, I worry the big picture news is not all good for our industry—or the U.S. economy in general.

On the emissions cap front, I want to re-state a warning I heard from a National Association of Manufacturers official during Glass Week that emissions regulations are coming (eventually) and can come from many sources, including the Environmental Protection Agency. Manufacturers should be prepared, even if this particular bill has fallen to the wayside.

Additionally, what about the segments of the glass industry that are investing in renewable initiatives, particularly the solar power industry? (See Max Perilstein’s blog from a couple weeks ago, Solar is here to stay)? How much longer will the solar industry be able to thrive without a major governmental push for renewables? And will solar no longer be a place of opportunity in our industry? (On the other hand, perhaps the emissions caps would have hurt glass companies more than a major boost in solar would have helped?)

What about the overall U.S. economy? We’ve been hearing that green jobs could be the key to reviving the economy. Are these jobs lost? And what does that mean for economic recovery? In a June 24 column lamenting the tabled bill, Thomas Friedman shared one anecdote about green jobs. “A day before the climate bill went down, Lew Hay, the C.E.O. of NextEra Energy, which owns Florida Power & Light, one of the nation’s biggest utilities, e-mailed to say that if the Senate would set a price on carbon and requirements for renewal energy, utilities like his would have the price certainty they need to make the big next-generation investments, including nuclear. ‘If we invest an additional $3 billion a year or so on clean energy, that’s roughly 50,000 jobs over the next five years,’ said Hay. (Say goodbye to that.),” Friedman said.

And finally, what about the United States’ future ability to compete in a green world economy? While the U.S. is postponing climate legislation, China is moving forward on its own domestic carbon trading program, Friedman said. Even if the United States is able to pass emissions reduction legislation in the next five years, the country and its industry will be noticeably behind China.

While I do issue a sigh of relief for our manufacturers, I issue a greater sigh of disappointment and trepidation. Climate change legislation that pushes our country away from carbon power and toward renewable is inevitable. I just hope it doesn’t come too late for the industry, the United States, and, yes, this world of ours. (Take a peek at this report from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences to see one worst-case scenario that results in large fractions of the planet, including most of the eastern United States, becoming uninhabitable).

What are your thoughts? Join the discussion.

--By Katy Devlin, associate editor

Monday, July 19, 2010

How many of you were forced to lay off employees in the last 18 months? More importantly, how many of you are looking to rehire those employees when the market rebounds? If your hand is raised, I have three words for you: Proceed with caution.

According to Jill Easley, owner of GlassRecruiters.com, the decision to rehire previously laid off staff can be a tricky one. Among the benefits: Former employees are a known quantity. You know what to expect in terms of job performance and how they will fit into your company culture. Training previous employees is easier, and rehired employees tend to be very loyal, Easley says.

But times have changed, for your company and your former employees. Productivity improvements might mean that former employees are no longer the best fit for the job. “For many companies, productively gains and the nature of the work have changed fundamentally since [the layoffs], Easley says. “Sometimes, former employees have to relearn their jobs, or they may no longer have the required skills.”

Former employees could also—understandably—have baggage. It’s important to know the individual’s circumstances, Easley says: Were they unhappy with salary, drive time, etc.? Are they still in the same location? Have they done anything to continue to stay updated on their skills? Have their goals changed?

Regardless of your take on rehiring former staff, it's always a good idea to audit your hiring practices and policies. Easley recommends referring to the "HR Guide to Employment Law" to help navigate the hiring process. And if you have experience rehiring former employees, please feel free to share your stories so we can continue to learn from one another. Thanks!

Jenni Chase is editor of Glass Magazine. Write her at jchase@glass.org.

Sunday, July 18, 2010
Does anyone really know what is happening with the economic state of commercial construction? I think for most people out and about, they will tell you the state is miserable to weak, but seemingly once every few weeks a report comes out that sings the praises of health and growth. (And yes I know there are various reports that say things are terrible too, but the “good” reports are what are baffling.) So what is it? Personally I think it’s both… yes both… I believe that the economy on our side is very weak. I also do see signs of life, but those signs are minimized by the overcapacity in our world. And overcapacity has led to pricing erosion that has never been seen before. So any bright spots are getting minimized, at least until the herd gets thinned out there, and quite frankly you wonder if that will happen. So until then, everyone keeps plugging along, and all of those positive reports get to be taken with a gigantic grain of salt.
 
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The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors. Write Perilstein at maxbcat@aol.com.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

In a recent McGraw-Hill Construction survey, 13 percent of those surveyed said project financing was getting easier to obtain, up from 7.2 percent in the first quarter. However, 39 percent of those surveyed said project financing is harder to obtain, versus 50.7 percent in the first quarter. The survey polled about 2,000 U.S.-based contractors and engineers.

The industry is worried about inflationary pressures once the market turns around, according to the survey, but half of respondents said they have seen little or no upward pressure on prices.

When assessing the construction market, 53 percent of respondents said the current construction market is still in decline, 36 percent said it had stabilized, and 11 percent said it was improving. However, survey respondents expect the picture to be different in 12 to 18 months, with 50 percent believing the construction market will improve and another 39 percent believing it will stabilize in 2011.

In his presentation, "2010 Outlook for U.S. Construction Activity – Midyear Update," on June 16 in Arlington, Va., Robert Murray, vice president, Economic Affairs, McGraw-Hill Construction, said, “As far as cost of financing, now and until the end of this year is a great time to go ahead with construction projects.” Tighter lending standards are still a major constraint for 2010, he said. A survey of bank lending officers shows a loosening of lending standards in the commercial and industrial sectors, but it is not visible yet in the commercial real estate sector. The short-term rates are still low and will remain low until the end of this year, he said.

What are you experiencing in the lending market?

—By Sahely Mukerji, senior editor, Glass Magazine

Monday, July 12, 2010

As many of you know, beginning this month, the National Fenestration Rating Council will require insulating glass certification for all products that are licensed as certified in accordance with the NFRC Product Certification Program.

This new requirement has been in the works for a number of years, with its roots in NFRC’s history. The Fenestration Durability Subcommittee -- later changed to the Long Term Energy Performance Subcommittee --had sought ways to communicate how products would perform over time. This subcommittee found this goal difficult to achieve, however, and the group’s work faltered.

An insulating glass research project funded by the Department of Energy, directed by the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance and supported by NFRC, provided the spark that led to the idea that one way to help assure long-term performance is to require fenestration manufacturers to test and certify insulating glass performance.

NFRC, being a consensus-driven organization, worked with its members and affiliated allies to consider how best to require IG unit certification; after all, there are a number of current bodies that test and/or certify insulating glass units. After numerous meetings, discussions and ballots, the requirement for certified IGs became an integral part of the PCP. In order to allow licensees the time needed to meet these new requirements, NFRC provided almost two years for them to prepare.

Now the time has come. We believe IG certification will provide value-added benefits to the NFRC label and associated certification programs. For those manufacturers still struggling with this new requirement, please know that NFRC does provide for hardship cases where program participants may not be able to meet these requirements due to unforeseen circumstances. Program participants who feel that they meet these circumstances should contact their independent certification program and inspection agency, and inquire about a request for extension.

If there are any questions regarding this information, please feel free to contact the NFRC office: 301/589-1776.

Where do we go from here?

So, what’s next for NFRC? An NFRC-sponsored program for Energy Star windows verification? Air leakage requirements? Should NFRC begin certifying products for air/water/structural? Stay tuned for more on these issues …

--Jim Benney is the National Fenestration Rating Council’s chief executive officer. He has been involved in developing product and performance standards for the window and glass industry for more than 20 years. He can be reached at jbenney@nfrc.org.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

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