glassblog

Monday, March 29, 2010
Lions and tigers and bears? That’s nothing. The glass industry’s got codes and standards, and emissions regulations. Oh my.

The major threat to the glass industry right now, according to some presenters and industry officials here at Glass Week in Las Vegas, isn’t the economy, but proposed codes and standards, and emissions regulations or legislation. The economy, and construction industry, will recover (though, perhaps not as soon as we’d like). These codes and regulations, however, could limit the use of glass in buildings and weaken manufacturers' abilities to compete.

On the codes and standards front, ASHRAE 90.1 topped the conversation during the meetings. The 2010 version of the standard limits the window to wall ratio of buildings at 30 percent, down from 40 percent. A 25 percent reduction in glass could severely hurt an already suffering industry.

Fire-rated glass manufacturers are also facing code movement toward less glass. The sprinkler industry is issuing proposals to limit—or even eliminate—fire-rated glass in interior fire corridors, according to several fire-rated manufacturers.

And glass manufacturers could possibly see emissions requirements coming through legislation or through regulation. Both Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency are working to limit manufacturer emissions nationally. The California assembly has a bill that could be approved in the near future. Emissions regulations could make it difficult for U.S. glass manufacturers to compete in the global market.

What is the industry to do in the face of somewhat overwhelming forces? Bill Yanek, executive vice president of GANA, recommends coming together to help influence change. Energy codes, such as ASHRAE, aren’t going away. However, a whole industry voice to recommend performance-based standards that provide benefits for daylighting, rather than just eliminating windows, can make an impact. And a fire-rated glass industry, often-divided over code issues, can only challenge the sprinkler manufacturers through one voice. Emissions regulations are also coming, sooner or later. Glass manufacturers need to keep up with advancements in climate change proposals, and the industry collectively needs be vocal with government bodies about its interests.
By Katy Devlin, associate editor

Sunday, March 21, 2010
Last week, President Obama signed an $18 billion jobs bill to spur hiring by giving tax breaks to small businesses. The bill also includes $20 billion for highway and transit programs.

The bill was passed March 17 on a bipartisan 68-29 vote, according to an AP report. The new measure would exempt businesses hiring unemployed from the 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax through December and give employers an additional $1,000 credit if new workers stay on the job a full year. Taxpayers would reimburse Social Security for the lost revenue.

In addition to the hiring tax incentives and highway funding, the bill would extend a tax break for small businesses buying new equipment and modestly expand an initiative that helps state and local governments finance infrastructure projects, according to the AP report.

It remains to be seen if the bill will spike hiring in the construction sector. Construction employment continued to shrink in most American communities as 313 out of 337 metro areas lost construction jobs between January 2009 and January 2010, according to a new analysis of federal employment figures released March 18 by the Associated General Contractors of America, Arlington, Va.

Phoenix lost more construction jobs (27,600) than any other city in America, according to the AGC report. Steubenville, Ohio, and Weirton, W. Va., experienced the largest percentage decline in construction employment (44 percent, 1,600 jobs), followed by Grand Junction, Colo., (34 percent, 3,400 jobs); Las Vegas (32 percent, 24,500 jobs); Napa, Calif., (32 percent, 1,100 jobs); and Santa Cruz, Calif., (31 percent, 1,100 jobs.)

Eau Claire, Wis., added the most construction jobs (500) between January 2009 and January 2010, and experienced the largest percentage increase (23 percent) the report noted. Other cities adding construction jobs included Ithaca, N.Y., (9 percent, 100 jobs); Michigan City, Ind., (6 percent, 100 jobs); Waterbury, Conn., (5 percent, 100 jobs); and Grand Forks, N.D., and Minnesota (5 percent, 100 jobs).

The report stated that 230 metropolitan areas experienced double-digit percentage decreases in construction employment, while no city experienced a double-digit increase in construction employment. Meanwhile, 18 cities nationwide lost more than 10,000 construction jobs between January 2009 and 2010.

What’s your take on the new jobs bill? Is it going to encourage construction company owners to hire? How will it influence the glass and glazing industry?

—By Sahely Mukerji, Senior editor, Glass Magazine
Monday, March 15, 2010
Like you, I’m not immune to the seeming barrage of discouraging news regarding the construction industry out there. And frankly, sometimes I find it hard to see beyond the negative headlines. So, in an effort to brighten my outlook, I recently contacted several industry executives whose companies are doing well in this tough economy. Perhaps not surprisingly, some common strategies emerged as I listened to their success stories. One struck me in particular: Sometimes, you have to spend money to make money.

I don’t know about you, but when cash is tight, my first instinct is to save money rather than spend it. Yet, that’s exactly what these successful companies are doing. Take Maryland Glass & Mirror Co. in Baltimore, for example. It recently invested about $1.75 million in new equipment. While the company typically operates on a cash basis—“If we can’t pay for it, we don’t buy it”—officials felt strongly that an investment in new equipment was necessary to grow the business. The addition of a tempering furnace, in particular, enabled the distributor/fabricator to offer its customers a more extensive choice of products. And although it required a major cash outlay, it will save the company money in the long run. “We’re our own largest customer,” said David Dalbke, president. “We have purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars of tempered glass products from other sources. Now, we have control and can produce a quality product in a just-in-time delivery fashion.”

At Flat Glass Distributors, Jacksonville, Fla., the decision to invest in capital equipment was part of its effort to “redefine customer service” through improved turnaround times and higher product quality. So far, it’s paying off, said David Cates, vice president of sales and marketing. “We’ve been able to get customers because we’re doing a better job than our competitors,” he said. “It’s all about market share. I don’t get people telling me the economy is getting any better.”

To encourage businesses to invest in new equipment—and banks to lend them the money to do so—the Obama administration has proposed the creation of a $30 billion “Small Business Lending Fund” targeted at community and smaller banks to increase small business lending. In its FY2011 budget, the administration also proposed extending the Recovery Act provision to allow small businesses to immediately write off up to $250,000 of qualified investment, providing an immediate tax incentive to invest in plants and equipment.

If your company has found success in other ways, I’d love to hear about them as I continue to cover industry strategies for staying strong in a weak market. If you have a story to share, please leave a comment or e-mail me at jchase@glass.org.

Jenni Chase, Editor, Glass Magazine
Monday, March 1, 2010

Official Washington leaves much to be desired these days.

Here we have the presidency, the House and the Senate all in the hands of the same party, and yet we have a classic case of legislative gridlock. We're even starting to see progressive senators jumping ship, including Indiana's Evan Bayh, who cited partisan bickering and a disturbing lack of progress for his decision to retire.

Frankly, it's probably fortunate for business that our elected officials are mired in the muck. You know Washington.

And then there's the economy. Stuck in neutral, seemingly unable to burst forward due in large measure to weak consumer confidence, a still-sluggish housing market, and commercial banking still climbing out of the ditch of overcapacity, problem loans and tight lending.

We're at a standstill.

It's perfect timing for Alice in Wonderland to arrive in our local theaters. In that wonderful, classic fable, there's a metaphor that could just as easily have been written to describe today's politics: The Red Queen's race through the looking glass.

"Well, in our country," said Alice, "you'd generally get to somewhere else -- if you run very fast, for a long time."

"A slow sort of country," said the Queen. "Somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that."

Sound familiar? Is this what Bayh was talking about when he announced that he'd had it with the "do nothing" pace of Congress?

Indeed, getting from here to there is tougher than usual, for some.

There are several areas, however, where some officials -- especially at the agency level -- are pushing the ball forward, in the name of energy efficiency, and the like. Should they succeed, the results could be extremely costly to you ...

-- A move is afoot to limit the amount of glazing on commercial construction. I am part of a working group trying to head-off limits to the use of glass in the name of daylighting. The regulation, known as ASHRAE 90.1, is likely to come up at the ICC hearings in May. Bob Trainer's clarion call in an earlier blog for the "Got glass" campaign resonates strong.

-- I received an e-mail last week from a program manager in the environmental pollution control division within the state government of California. She was asking for help in gathering some facts and figures on the auto glass segment. It appears they're moving forward with their auto glass glazing requirements that she spoke about last year at an NGA event, which will require mandatory tinting by 2012. While there is mostly opportunity for the industry here, they are looking at requiring all shops to maintain and report on jobs completed within a 2-5-year period. This could increase your administrative costs by 5 to 15 percent.

-- Lead paint rules covering renovation and repair on homes and other structures built prior to 1978 are scheduled to take effect on April 22. How this ever escaped the Bush Administration, I'll never know; but it's clearly fueled by an even more activist EPA. Katie bar the door! Click on this link for more details.

While Congress may be running the Red Queen's race, it appears the agencies have no intention of relenting. At a time when business needs all the cooperation it can get from the government to grow and add jobs, it appears some activists have gotten the opposite message.

That's why now, more than ever, you need to get involved. When you see something objectionable or harmful taking place, respond quickly and proactively. Write your policymakers. Let them know you're watching, and tell them what they need to do better. In this tumultuous election year particularly, they should listen more attentively, even if they are huffing and puffing through the Red Queen's race.

— By David Walker, Vice President of Association Services, National Glass Association

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.

Monday, March 1, 2010
Official Washington leaves much to be desired these days.

Here we have the presidency, the House and the Senate all in the hands of the same party, and yet we have a classic case of legislative gridlock. We're even starting to see progressive senators jumping ship, including Indiana's Evan Bayh, who cited partisan bickering and a disturbing lack of progress for his decision to retire.

Frankly, it's probably fortunate for business that our elected officials are mired in the muck. You know Washington.

And then there's the economy. Stuck in neutral, seemingly unable to burst forward due in large measure to weak consumer confidence, a still-sluggish housing market, and commercial banking still climbing out of the ditch of overcapacity, problem loans and tight lending.

We're at a standstill.

It's perfect timing for Alice in Wonderland to arrive in our local theaters. In that wonderful, classic fable, there's a metaphor that could just as easily have been written to describe today's politics: The Red Queen's race through the looking glass.

"Well, in our country," said Alice, "you'd generally get to somewhere else -- if you run very fast, for a long time."

"A slow sort of country," said the Queen. "Somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that."

Sound familiar? Is this what Bayh was talking about when he announced that he'd had it with the "do nothing" pace of Congress?

Indeed, getting from here to there is tougher than usual, for some.

There are several areas, however, where some officials -- especially at the agency level -- are pushing the ball forward, in the name of energy efficiency, and the like. Should they succeed, the results could be extremely costly to you ...

-- A move is afoot to limit the amount of glazing on commercial construction. I am part of a working group trying to head-off limits to the use of glass in the name of daylighting. The regulation, known as ASHRAE 90.1, is likely to come up at the ICC hearings in May. Bob Trainer's clarion call in an earlier blog for the "Got glass" campaign resonates strong.

-- I received an e-mail last week from a program manager in the environmental pollution control division within the state government of California. She was asking for help in gathering some facts and figures on the auto glass segment. It appears they're moving forward with their auto glass glazing requirements that she spoke about last year at an NGA event, which will require mandatory tinting by 2012. While there is mostly opportunity for the industry here, they are looking at requiring all shops to maintain and report on jobs completed within a 2-5-year period. This could increase your administrative costs by 5 to 15 percent.

-- Lead paint rules covering renovation and repair on homes and other structures built prior to 1978 are scheduled to take effect on April 22. How this ever escaped the Bush Administration, I'll never know; but it's clearly fueled by an even more activist EPA. Katie bar the door! Click on this link for more details.

While Congress may be running the Red Queen's race, it appears the agencies have no intention of relenting. At a time when business needs all the cooperation it can get from the government to grow and add jobs, it appears some activists have gotten the opposite message.

That's why now, more than ever, you need to get involved. When you see something objectionable or harmful taking place, respond quickly and proactively. Write your policymakers. Let them know you're watching, and tell them what they need to do better. In this tumultuous election year particularly, they should listen more attentively, even if they are huffing and puffing through the Red Queen's race.

— By David Walker, Vice President of Association Services, National Glass Association

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.
Friday, February 26, 2010
I got an e-mail the other day from a Mr. J.E. Swain, and he asked two questions:

1. "Why is the double-glazing industry producing 20-millimeter space partially filled argon gas units? Considering argon gas optimum gap between glass panes is 14 mm with a maximum of 16 mm, any wider, the gas reduces the efficiency and durability by approximately 35 percent, and why partially filled instead of full fill? 2. "Why is there no easy way for the consumer to determine the extent of argon fill of any double-glazed unit that is supplied?"

I forwarded his e-mail to a few experts within the industry, and this is what I got:
On the first question, Margaret Webb, executive director of the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance, Ottawa, Ontario, suggested contacting the manufacturer directly. In general, she said, "Manufacturers will gas fill to the concentration required to obtain a specific rating for code compliance. This can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer as the overall thermal performance values are determined by the entire window assembly; [it] is not just a function of gas fill. Typically, gas fill will improve thermal performance of a unit by 5 percent."

Tracy Rogers, technical director, Edgetech I.G., Cambridge, Ohio, said that some manufacturers do not have optimized IG packages and best fit IG systems into existing framing systems. "A window system design must consider other dimensional requirements than just the IG unit overall dimension," he said. "Other manufacturers are designing for acoustical performance and, in this case, the greater the glazing gap the better; regardless of gas type. Lastly, some don’t understand proper design for thermal optimization."

Jeff Haberer, tech services engineer, Cardinal Corp., St Louis Park, Minn., said that introducing 20-mm spacers isn't a trend that he's seeing. "We have offered a 19-mm spacer for some time as it allows the use of two 3-mm glass lites to make a 1-inch overall thick IG unit that fits in most commercial glazing frames," he said. "This, plus a slight improvement in sound control (3dB) are the only advantages that I see."

On the second question, Webb said that the industry has not developed a non-invasive method of determining the gas fill in the field. "Calibration of any measurement device would be required for the specific field conditions, which change frequently even within one day," she said. "At the present time, the method of determining the gas fill of a unit is by removing the window from the building envelope and sending it to a lab. This need not be a destructive test but there are measurement devices that can be more easily calibrated in a lab setting where the environmental conditions can be controlled."

Rogers offered: "If a window manufacturer provides product that is certified under the National Fenestration Rating Council, the design gas fill content (argon, krypton, etc.) is listed on the temporary label (on the glass). If this label isn’t available, the product can be traced by the CPD # on the permanent label as posted on the NFRC’s Certified Product Directory on the NFRC Web site. If not NFRC certified, then they have to go by what the manufacturer provides."

Haberer said, "The difficulty in measuring argon has been pursued for decades now. There are now non-destructive ways of determining gas fill. They are relatively easy to use and determine gas content, but they cost approximately $12,000."

In the U.K., the British Fenestration Rating Council has a parallel program and requirements, Rogers added.

I'd love to get your feedback as well, and I'm sure so will Mr. Swain. Add your answers as comments or e-mail me, and I'll make sure they reach him.

—By Sahely Mukerji, Senior editor, Glass Magazine
Monday, February 22, 2010
In my last blog we covered the basics of goal setting: 1) set the goal, 2) develop a plan, 3) keep the goal and plan in front of you, 4) focus on the reward for accomplishing it.

By now, you have either done nothing toward achieving your goal, have started but lost confidence in achieving your goal, or are making progress toward reaching the goal. Regardless of which stage you are in, it is most important to know where you currently are in your progress toward reaching your goal.

Goal checkup questions
Ask yourself:
1) Are you serious about your goal? If not, you’re wasting time reading this blog.
2) Where exactly are you?
3) How do you feel about what you’ve accomplished so far?
4) Do you have any external support encouraging you in this quest?
5) What adjustments, if any, do you need to make to be successful?
6) Are you using any of your five senses to make the reward real?

Dealing with competing priorities
One of the biggest challenges to hitting a goal can be friends and family who unintentionally ask you to do things that distract you from your primary target. Let me give you an example: I stated in my last blog that I have a personal goal of running 56 miles on my 56th birthday later this year. I am a member of the Glass Professional Forum. We are an informal group of glass shop owners from throughout the country that meet several times to discuss “best practices.” These meetings are very important to me and the success of my company. Our next meeting will be in NYC in May. We are deciding the specific dates now. I let the group know that I will not be attending because I have some long-distance runs scheduled for those dates. Nicole Harris, publisher of Glass Magazine and a member of this group, said she could run part of the way with me in Central Park. She said she could get others of the group to also run different distance legs with me in Central Park. As an aside, I may be the only person in the country that has not been to NYC, and it is a dream of mine to run in Central Park. I am confident that we are going to work out the details that will allow me meet with my peers, complete my long run and realize a lifetime dream simultaneously.

At first, it appeared that this meeting with my peers could be a distraction toward reaching my goal of running 56 miles. However, it could also keep me on track to reaching my company’s growth goals. How do I resolve the apparent conflict between these two critical goals? Every time competing priorities appear, it is a good thing. It tests your commitment, sharpens your thinking, and hones your priorities. The questions to ask are:
1) How do I resolve the apparent conflict between these competing goals?
2) How will this situation help me accomplish my goals?
3) How can I turn a potential distraction into a positive tool to help me succeed?

A quote to apply: “Limits, like fears, are often just an illusion” -- Michael Jordon.

—Bill Evans, president, Evans Glass Co., Nashville
Thursday, February 18, 2010
The architectural community has struggled through this recession. Faced with two years of declining business, firms have downsized, cut services and, for many, closed. According to a Jan. 20 New York Times article, employment at architectural firms nationwide was 184,600 in November, down almost 18 percent from its peak of 224,500 in July 2008. And in a recent AIA survey, 18.8 percent of respondents said their firm would be considerably smaller in 2010 because of downsizing; 3.9 percent said their firm would probably close this year.

In our architects issue in May, we would like to feature some of the products and services that architects are demanding in this changed economy, and we would like your input. Please email me or post a comment to the following questions if you’d like to share your thoughts. And thanks!

  • In your experience, what is the glass and glazing education level of architects? How much do they know about the latest industry products? What types of products are they expressing the most interest in?
  • How often do architects turn to your project managers for guidance on a project? What services are they asking you to provide?
  • How have the changes in firms (downsized staff and services) affected the way you do business with designers?

--By Katy Devlin, associate editor

Monday, February 15, 2010
All the news on the economy trending toward the negative can wear you and your co-workers down. The construction and our glass industry have been down. All companies have made changes and adjustments.

There are small signs of rebounding segments in the economy. It’s time to turn our mindsets, energies and strategies to the positive. The glass industry saw unprecedented growth during the last construction cycle run-up. People like to live, work, and play around the products and installations our industry produces. This exciting trend did not go away, it just slowed.

All industries go through peaks and valleys, along with down cycle economies. Ours will rebound, and it starts with us! We need an all-industry push to "Grow glass!" We have a multitude of great products for many applications. We need to showcase our products and educate our markets on the exciting ways to use them.

Like “Got milk,” it should be “Got glass.” We have the most innovative and differentiating products in the construction market. Showing these products, samples, colors, textures, specialty aspects and performance characteristics is fun!!

The more we educate consumers and show off our products, the faster our industry rebounds. Do renderings of what a new front or façade could look like and get them in potential customers' hands to think about. It works! The potential in the solar energy market is massive. Glass companies must stake a claim and make it our market. The remodel and retrofit of old energy-wasting systems is another potentially huge market.

Tired old showrooms and marketing literature won’t cut it. Let’s spiff it up. Every time we have any interaction with customers we should introduce, explain and use visuals of the exciting new products and systems.

Glass products made it into bathrooms to a high level of success. Now, how about kitchens, walls, floors, ceilings, and hallways? We have awesome innovative new products for homes and offices. What about glass doors in homes? In Europe and Japan it’s very prevalent, but not in the U.S. -- yet!

Just had a restaurateur tell me how his exciting use of glass increased his wine sales and business overall. Glass adds value and business. It’s cool, trendy and makes you feel good.

Learn from our vendors. They have great varieties of offerings and applications. Why wait around? Let’s market and sell. Re-energize and train our people on promoting glass. We need to be up with the positive and "Grow glass."

--Robert J. Trainor, chief executive officer, Trainor Glass Co., Alsip, Ill.
Friday, February 5, 2010
I honestly didn’t know what to think when I learned last year that the bid to supply blast-resistant glass for the new World Trade Center tower went to a Chinese company. On the one hand, I’m all for cost savings, provided the product or service is high quality. On the other, I identified with PPG spokesman Jack Maurer when he said in a Patriot-News interview: "This is going to be an iconic U.S. building that will have Chinese glass in it. At the end of the day, this glass could be made in the United States."

These feelings resurfaced when I read a recent New York Times article, in which Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) echoed Maurer's sentiment. “Imagine China building a huge structure intended to be an important national symbol and importing glass from the United States to build it," Brown said. "There is no way the Chinese would do that.”

In the New York Times article and a subsequent Toledo Blade piece, the national media called attention to the declining state of domestic glass production, citing Beijing Glass’ winning bid as evidence of U.S. glass manufacturers’ struggle to compete against foreign suppliers. The Chinese glass industry, specifically, experienced a three-fold increase in exports to the U.S. from 2000 to 2008, while the U.S. trade deficit with China on glass tripled in the same period, according to an Economic Policy Institute study.

“Our domestic glass industry is the most efficient in the world, but it cannot compete against production that is heavily subsidized by the Chinese government,” said Scott Paul, executive director for the Alliance for American Manufacturing, in a letter to glass executives last fall. “As a result, glass production in the U.S. has suffered in recent years, with plant closings and thousands of lost jobs throughout the country.”

According to an EPI release, the U.S. glass industry has contracted by about 30 percent—nearly 40,000 jobs—since 2001. Sixteen states, among them California, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, have lost at least one out of four of their glass industry jobs since 2001. See how the float plant landscape in North America has changed over the past five years, here.

To help domestic glass manufacturers compete, some are pushing for tariffs on Chinese imports. Others, like Sen. Brown, are calling for a national manufacturing policy to lower the cost of doing business in the U.S. As for the glass manufacturers themselves, some—like Guardian, which The New York Times reports will supply the glass for the upper 85 floors of the tower—are continuing to expand glass production overseas. Read how, here.

"Those who are looking through the rearview mirror, waiting for the glass industry in this country to come back, should know it isn't going to come back, not the way it was," said Russ Ebeid, Guardian chairman, in the New York Times article.

What do you think the future holds for domestic glass production? Is a return to growth in the cards? Is government intervention the answer?

Jenni Chase, Editor, Glass Magazine
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