glassblog

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Researchers working in the windows unit of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Building Technologies Department are perhaps the luckiest people in the window and glass industry. Not only is the view stellar—the various lab buildings are nestled high in the Berkeley Hills, overlooking San Francisco, the Bay, and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge—the work coming out of LBNL’s Building Technologies Department is paving the way for the future of energy-efficient buildings and windows.

LBNL’s Windows and Envelope Materials Group, led by Steve Selkowitz, hosted attendees of the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance 2014 Winter Conference at the beautiful lab site last week, for a guided tour of the various window activities. LBNL has done work in the window industry for more than 30 years, collaborating with industry to “make windows smarter at the level of the window; make windows smarter at the level of the home [or building],” Selkowitz said during the tour.

LBNL conducts a wide range of research, development and performance testing with the goal of converting “windows from net energy losers to net zero, and then becoming energy suppliers to buildings,” according to the group’s resource guide.

At the lab campus, the LBNL windows group operates a number of test facilities, including: the Advanced Facades Testbed; Mobile Window Thermal Test Facility; and the Quantitative Infrared Thermography Facility. However, the main attraction of the LBNL window facilities tour was FlexLab, or Facility for Low Energy eXperiments in Buildings.

According to LBNL officials, the FlexLab will allow users to:

  • Conduct focused research or product development on single components or whole-building systems integration
  • Replace any building system such as exterior building envelopes, windows and shading systems, lights, HVAC, energy control systems, roofs and skylights, or interior components such as furniture, partitions and raised floors.

The lab, which will be operational later this year, contains four 600-square-foot test beds, including one that rotates. Because nearly every building component of the test bed can be replaced, a designer or building owner could essentially create a project mock-up to test every aspect of building energy performance, from HVAC to daylighting. Individual product manufacturers, or industry groups, could use the facilities to test performance of a range of products in varying situations.

“FlexLab embodies everything we’ve learned over the last 30 years,” Selkowitz said.

Visiting the lab was fascinating. However, the real excitement will be watching how activities at LBNL, particularly in FlexLab, pave the way for better and better energy efficiency in windows and whole buildings.

Devlin is editor of Glass Magazine. Write her at kdevlin@glass.org.

Monday, March 10, 2014

It’s a milestone post for me this week. But before I get to that, it’s funny that a subject I have written a ton about over the years hit the news again this past week. Once again we talk about the adventures of LEED. It’s been known for a while that Ohio was looking to ban the LEED green building rating system. This past week the Ohio State Senate passed a resolution asserting that LEED should not be used on state buildings. And lately, there’s been a mobilization of groups striking back against LEED's structure and its biases against certain industries. I hate the overall thought of banning, but if it can force some change somewhere down the line, I am all for it. In the end, I will be stunned if the state follows all the way through. If they do, it could truly open the landscape for better systems.

Elsewhere…

  • At the IGMA meeting this week, Julie Schimmelpenningh gave an updated presentation on safety glass that continues to strike a chord. We have the technology and innovation to do more with protective glazing; it’s time we really push that envelope to its furthest point. There are factions in our industry that make too many excuses for why we can’t do things, and it just hurts us more than you realize. 
  • If you missed this presentation, I believe Julie is giving it, or some resemblance of it, at BEC next week during the technical committee meetings. If you were in any way, shape or form interested in advancing our world, this would be a session to attend. BEC kicks off next Sunday. So my blog for next week will have some of that flavor to it. I'm looking forward to a really strong event.
  • Congrats to C.R. Laurence on their latest news of opening up a super center in Denver. No question that company continues to press all of the right buttons as it pertains to some of their hires over the last year, new product development and now expansions. 
  • Once again it's time for the most significant honor in our industry to be bestowed. The Glass Magazine Awards are now accepting nominations. This is the time where you can throw some recognition towards the people, the projects and the products that truly make our industry great. The fact that I got to work with a few past winners, notably the great John McGee of Binswanger Glass, is something I am really proud of. 
  • With this post, I hit a pretty mind blowing landmark. This marks the 500th entry on the blog since it started in 2005. I simply can’t believe it. Looking back, so much has changed since I started this adventure. The industry is so different. Some players have changed pretty dramatically since then, and my approach to this blog has evolved as well. The one constant is that it's still great therapy for me, and it’s still an honor to communicate with the industry the way I do. Thank you for continuing to read and comment both publicly and through e-mail. I am sincerely grateful.

Read on for links and video of the week...

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him at MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com.

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 3, 2014

Last week, I experienced firsthand the incredible abilities of glass at the extreme—specifically, a glass floor 1,353 feet in the air, and a fire-rated glass assembly quite literally maintaining its cool in the face of 2,000-degree temperatures.

Vetrotech Saint-Gobain hosted a group of building industry professionals and press for a two-day product launch and educational program, which I’m going to refer to simply as an “extreme glass” event. The event began at the top of the Willis Tower (formerly, the Sears Tower) in Chicago, with a Vetrotech product launch reception and a visit to “The Ledge,” all-glass boxes cantilevered about 4 feet from the building.

Willis Tower

The glass is comprised of three layers of ½-inch, low-iron, tempered and laminated glass. The floor also features a sacrificial tempered glass layer on the walking surface. The glass boxes of “The Ledge” are designed to retract into the building for cleaning and maintenance.

The original Sears Tower architect, SOM, designed the ledge, with structural glass designer Halcrow Yolles. MTH Industries completed the installation of the 1,500-pound glass panels.

On the second day of this “extreme glass” event, the group visited the Underwriters Laboratory fire testing location just outside of Chicago. We were given a tour of UL’s building materials lab that concluded with a viewing of the fire test for Vetrotech’s Contraflam 120 in a corner arrangement.

The fire test chamber starts at room temperature and reaches 1000 degrees within five minutes. At the conclusion of the 2-hour test, the temperature will be closer to 2100 degrees. The Contraflam product consists of two or more sheets of toughened safety glass with a transparent intumescent gel interlayer that reacts when exposed to fire.

As the interior of the test furnace rises, the interior tempered glass lite breaks. The interlayer begins to cloud and bubble as it is exposed to the fiery temperatures. But the exterior lite of glass remains safe to the touch—about 100 degrees in this case. Pictured above is the interior of the furnace and Vetrotech's Kevin Frisone, sales and marketing manager, North America, touching the exterior of the glass during the test.

Thanks to Vetrotech for the extreme glass tour. I continue to be amazed at the possibilities of glass products, particularly in these extreme situations.

Devlin is editor of Glass Magazine. Write her at kdevlin@glass.org.

Monday, March 3, 2014

We have a severe labor shortage in our industry when it comes to glaziers. I don’t think I am telling anyone anything new here. It feels like every company, big and small, is looking for folks to install. But we also have a severe shortage in another part of our world: project managers. It is mind-blowing to me how many companies are looking for PMs right now. In fact, I would say the need for project managers might be surpassing the need for glaziers, based on the fact that companies are adapting to their field labor shortages by buying installation equipment (everything on the floor at GlassBuild America last year sold out) or pushing more unitized systems or some other approach. People are making things work. On the project management side, it's not that easy and the solutions are not at the forefront.  Eventually, this industry has to address these issues, because it’s only getting worse.

Elsewhere…

  • Good news! The Construction Backlog Index from the Associated Builders & Contractors has hit a post-recession high, and it's also tracking almost 4 percent better than this time a year ago. I also believe that the weather-related slow start to 2014 (starts in January were dreadful) will eventually result in a mini-boom thanks to delays and pent-up demand.  Staying positive here…
  • Speaking of positive, a few weeks ago dynamic glass manufacturer View was featured in a Fox Business Channel report. This was a really nice piece that put not only View and the dynamic glass world in a great light, but our industry as a whole as well.  Getting solid traditional media coverage is crucial to our messaging of innovation.  Congrats to the team at View on getting this one.
  • The celebrity keynote speaker at BEC next month is Ron Jaworski. This week, Jaworski made news when he said heralded quarterback Johnny Manziel would not get picked in the first three rounds of the NFL draft if he was making the choice. The reason this is news is most experts think Manziel may be one of the first few players picked overall.  Jaworski is known for making news-making statements, so I am wondering if at BEC he will do the same. I could see him saying, “Low-E Glass is the past; I’m going with something else.” Or, “no aluminum for me; only vinyl for my curtain walls.” And our world would go crazy.
  • This week, there was an auction for 168 licenses to run a cab in New York City.  The low bid was $650,000, and the high was $965,000. For ONE cab. That just blows my mind.  Not being from New York or knowing the city that well, I had no idea that a million-dollar investment in a cab was such a good one. That is craziness!
  • Last this week, can someone tell Mother Nature we’ve had enough? What a winter this has been. And supposedly forecasts are calling for a cooler than normal spring and summer. I joked on Twitter that this winter is like what the folks in Minnesota experience every year, and my pal Garret Henson from Viracon noted it’s even a bad one for them, being the fourth coldest on record there. Now when it's even stupid cold in Minnesota, you KNOW it’s a bad winter!

Read on for links and video of the week...

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him at MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com.

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, February 24, 2014

To me there’s one trend that is dominating our industry, and it's probably not what you think. It’s a product line that fabricators are seeing as a great path to bottom-line success. It isn't anything to do with energy efficiency. That trend is major and constantly growing, with the utter importance of energy improving products on our industry receiving coverage here and throughout the media. But right now, that’s not the product segment that is seemingly growing at an insane clip. The hot mover is actually decorative glazing.

One look into the current issue of Glass Magazine tells the story. In the Top Glass Fabricators Products section, 13 of the 22 profiles are decorative related, with only three related to energy. Decorative glass allows fabricators to easily diversify business and help the bottom line. Add in smart suppliers—both from the paints and machinery side—and the entry into that world is not daunting at all.

With that said, do I wish that the pages of Glass Magazine were filled with new energy-related and innovative products? Sure. And I believe they exist, but they’re not as sexy from a promotional side as decorative, and the supply chain from the energy side is not as streamlined into the fabricator like the decorative suppliers are. Overall for me, I have been involved in decorative before it became hip, so it’s pretty amazing to see how it's absolutely taken off.

Elsewhere…

  • As I am known to do, I studied the ads in the current GM issue as well. Props to DFI for their very creative bridge ad. It’s memorable and different. And for many, makes us feel like we’re all in this adventure together.
  • Last week I talked about the BEC Technical meeting. This week, here is just a quick note on the overall conference scheduled for next month. A very strong agenda is in place; kudos to the excellent Jon Kimberlain of Dow Corning and his committee that put it together. From a glazier perspective, you just need to look at the afternoon session of day one and see the value in pieces on sealing, installation equipment, OSHA, codes and more. Day two features the celebrity talk with former Philly Eagles quarterback and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski. “Jaws” should be fun since he brings a boatload of energy to everything he does.
  • One of the former celeb keynotes at BEC was Mike Eurizone, the captain of the U.S. Olympic hockey team in 1980. He mentioned in his presentation that, if his game winning shot went just one inch to the left, he’d be painting bridges in Boston now and not speaking to a bunch of glass people. I thought of him when the U.S. Women’s hockey team missed out on a gold medal by an inch when their empty net attempt hit the post. Heartbreaking for them. And yes, since both the U.S. Men and U.S. Women both lost to Canada, I will be singing “O Canada” in public, and on video in the coming months. Congrats to all of my friends up north on the wins!
  • One of those friends is Rich Porayko, who picked up a fantastic interim gig this past week as head of the Canadian Glass Association. Rich is a class act and excellent man, and the CGA tapped him to guide them through the process of finding a permanent executive director. I am confident Rich will do a great job for that organization and be a major asset to the new management that comes in. Plus I am jealous. I mean he’s running an organization for the entire country! That’s just awesome. Remember us little folk, eh Rich?

Read on for links and video of the week.

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him at MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com.

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, February 24, 2014

Our industry is full of glass experts. And I have heard those experts respond to a tremendous range of questions regarding glass and glazing. What is the thermal performance of this window? Will this insulating glass unit experience condensation in the winter? Can this product withstand hurricane-force winds? And these experts are working to answer even more complicated questions, like what is the cradle-to-grave life cycle of this glass unit?

While glass experts field these more practical product questions on a regular basis, I wonder how often they receive perhaps the most rudimentary query about glass: Why is glass transparent? Why does molten sand turn into a transparent, solid material after cooling? And, that leads to other curious questions. If visible light and heat can pass through glass, are ultra-violet rays allowed through as well? Can you get a sunburn through glass?

A recent TED-Ed talk by Mark Miodownik answers these questions in an animated video. Perhaps it will prove a useful educational tool for any curious customers out there.

Devlin is editor of Glass Magazine. Write her at kdevlin@glass.org.

Monday, February 17, 2014

I found it funny when Katy Devlin looked back to 2004 in her blog last week, because I have been having the same discussions—looking back 10 years and realizing how so much has changed in the glass industry. If you told me then what our world would look like now I would have never, EVER believed you. I’d be more apt to believe in flying cars and a Jetsons-like community than the different industry landscape we have now. It's only 10 years, but so much has changed. Think back 10 years and remember how different things were—what the products were, who the suppliers were, who the voices of the industry were. What a different world.  

Now, think where will we be in 2024. I’m actually trying to avoid that thought; I’m still thrown by thinking about the past to now! 

Elsewhere…

  • Guardian released a new app recently with a focus on glass performance for windows. It is a very sharp and impressive tool. It's a great reference and training piece too, so if you have some new people, you need to download this and have those folks devour it. It also paints our industry in a very positive light, which we always need.  Kudos to the team at Guardian who led the charge on this one. To download, search your app store for Guardian Window InSight.
  • One comment I receive at least once a week is, “I didn’t know about that.” Well in our industry, there are two events that can help solve that dilemma: GlassBuild America in the fall and BEC next month. And speaking of BEC, you really should attend the technical meeting the night before the event opens. Chuck Knickerbocker of TGP will lead it, and he’s a tour de force. Thanks to him and his team’s effort, his session next month is loaded with tons of info and three strong presentations: one from Jon McFarland of Wheaton-Sprague, "Benefits of BIM & Curtain Wall"; one that brought the house down at GANA’s Annual Conference by Julie Schimmelpenningh, "School Security & Safety"; and one from Jim Benney of NFRC, "Codes and the NFRC," which will be helpful to attend to know and understand what will affect you and your business going forward. Plain and simple, if you are a contract glazier, you need to be there. Plus, the rest of the event has excellent presentations planned as well, which I’ll get to next week. It is worth the time and budget.
  • Olympic hockey is so enjoyable, but now there’s even more on the line for me. Thanks to a bet with my friends at RavenBrick—proud Canadians—if Canada beats the U.S. and wins gold, I will have to stand up in a restaurant and sing “O Canada.” But if the U.S. wins, they will have to do the same with the “Star Spangled Banner.” I don’t think I can lose on this bet: If the U.S. wins I am thrilled; if Canada wins, I will have a blast belting out “O Canada” and may even mix some of the French version in, too.
  • The largest solar power plant in the world opened up in the California-Nevada desert last week. This project is an important milestone for anyone who cares about the future of solar energy. It has been an adventure getting here as it has been slowed by lawsuits and worries about the effect on the environment. That conundrum has been interesting to watch since the same people who are against fossil fuels and are pro sola, have lined up against this plant because of its effect on the wildlife, etc. Regardless, this project could continue to renew and improve efforts to get more solar energy going.

Read on for links and video of the week...

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him at MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com.

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, February 10, 2014

My first major assignment when I joined Glass Magazine as an intern in 2004 was to provide research assistance for The World of Glass—a detailed database of float glass plants operating worldwide, which was eventually published as a map and chart in the August 2005 issue. For me, this proved to be a challenging, fascinating, and at times inspiring introduction to the complex and multifaceted glass industry.

That 2005 World of Glass feature, began, “The furnaces burn day and night to form fiery pools of melted sand that transform into flat ribbons of glass as they float down long beds of molten tin.” It’s from this fiery origin that we get every window, mirror, windshield, glass shower door. And as such, any shift at the primary glass level reverberates throughout the entire industry.

During my 10 years at Glass Magazine, our industry has been rocked by a global recession, transformed by an accelerating green building movement, and altered by a growth explosion in emerging markets. So, it was with great interest that I returned to the state of the global primary glass market in the January/February issue.

I was struck, first and foremost, by the extent of the damage the float glass industry has suffered due to the extended market downturn. It is no surprise that plants were shuttered, and lines put on hold. However, the extent of the capacity reductions—estimated at 25 percent in North America alone—was startling.

Also impressive was the extensive investment in emerging markets throughout the course of the downturn. While North American and European plants were closing, lines in Brazil, Russia, India and China were coming online.

In the in-depth feature, “Brave New World of Glass,” we present these major changes at the primary level, along with profiles of the leading global players. The market shifts will trickle down to every player in the industry, and businesses need to be ready and aware. But as Scott Thomsen, the former president of Guardian’s Glass Group, says in the article, “after experiencing prolonged economic downturns in North America and Europe, there are no challenges, only opportunities.”

Welcome to the new World of Glass.

Devlin is editor of Glass Magazine. Write her at kdevlin@glass.org.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Last week the Glass Association of North America held its Annual Conference in Florida and quite a few interesting tidbits came out during the event. The highlight was the celebratory lap for the group of people that worked so hard on the ASHRAE Window to Wall Ratio issue. It was nice to rehash such a significant moment in our industry. However, along with the cheers was the major caution that “it’s never over” when it comes to attacks on our world; we can’t sit back on our laurels. We have to keep innovating, then pushing AND implementing said innovation. I believe we have great momentum, and we do have excellent products both available now and in the pipeline. Let’s keep going!

Also in the news from the conference:

  • A presentation on the new LEED, known as LEEDv4, opened eyes. I think it has potential to be very difficult on our industry, especially on regional manufacturer categories. It’s not mandatory until mid 2015, but you better start understanding and learning it now. It does feature many “good” things for energy efficiency, but also has a comical and bizarre “Quality View” category that is just weak. Just when you think these guys get it, you see that they don’t.
  • The Energy Day was very strong. Kudos to Mark Silverberg, Dr. Helen Sanders, Stanley Yee and the rest of the team that set it up. The speech by Dr. Mikkel Kragh of Dow Corning was mesmerizing. The ideas and information he presented were among the best I have seen.
  • Lots of people were honored throughout the event. A memorial for Greg Carney was done with perfect tone; a great way to remember a great man. Jim Benney of NFRC made a heartfelt speech about Greg. Carol Land is retiring from the organization and was honored in front of the crowd. I, for one, will miss her. She has always been tremendous to me, and these events will never be the same without her influence. Other very well-deserving folks won awards as well, and I want to give public props to Valerie Block of DuPont for all she does for that organization and for our industry. She’s had, and I would assume will continue to have, an important role in how certain standards are set and explained.

Elsewhere…

  • Got news that Tim McQuade of Northwestern Industries is hanging it up. This is another big departure to our industry. Tim helped build NWI into an absolute force in his 20 years as president there, and 39 years in the industry overall. I personally will miss Tim, as he was always willing to hear me out on whatever lame-brained adventure I was onto. Thank you Tim, and enjoy your retirement! Rick Nelson will take over there, and I am sure he already has my e-mail and phone numbers blocked!
  • Also last week, the International Builders Show took place in Las Vegas. Every single report I got back said it was awesome and the best in years. That is very exciting. It means we surely have some positive approaches going. It also says that trade shows ARE a good and important way of doing business. Nice to see.
  • Last this week, the Olympics. I always enjoy many aspects of the Winter Games, but I am really looking forward to the hockey. It usually never fails to bring great action and drama. I’m going with the Fins in a major upset.

Read on for links and video of the week...

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him at MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com.

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, February 3, 2014

Last month, the glass industry once again united to quash a proposal that would have reduced glass on buildings by 25 percent in the ASHRAE 189.1 standard. This was the second such attack on glazing area that the industry has defeated at ASHRAE. Each bout in this “Battle for the Wall” shines light on the heart of the issue: a view by many in the building community that glass is simply a poor energy performer. The industry has been fighting a battle for the wall, when perhaps it should be fighting the war of perception.

The primary driver of these proposals to reduce window to wall ratio at ASHRAE is “the misguided opinion that ‘windows are just poor performing walls,’” says Tom Culp, owner of Birch Point Consulting LLC, and code consultant for the Glass Association of North America and the Aluminum Extruders Council. Culp represented the glass and glazing industry during the recent ASHRAE hearings.

“It is a challenge to change these perceptions, many of which were formed years or even decades ago when, in all honesty, glass was a fairly poor performer in terms of energy efficiency compared to other wall materials,” said Glenn Miner, director, construction, PPG Flat Glass in “The New Era,” from October 2013 Glass Magazine.

Proponents of less glass on buildings often promote a narrow view of energy performance. They only look “at something like R-value, without considering how high performance windows can actually outperform walls when considering daylighting, passive solar gains, etc.,” Culp says. “There is a tendency to just look at the output of a computer model and see a small difference in BTUs without thinking about real world design, and why people put windows in buildings. Instead of minimizing windows, they should leave the window area decisions to the building and daylight designers, then focus on putting in the best window possible.”

The industry has an opportunity to harness the momentum from the recent victory at ASHRAE to work as a unified group to shift this perception by many that glass is a poor energy performer. The recent fight at ASHRAE brought together 126 individual companies and 13 associations to support the interests of the glass industry. Those voices working together could make a difference changing minds about glass performance.

First and foremost, the industry needs to promote the energy and health benefits of glass and glazing (see “The New Era” for more on this front). Obviously, a reduction in glazing would harm the glass industry. But, it would also harm building occupants, while limiting potential energy savings.

The industry should educate about best design practices when it comes to glass and glazing. There is such thing as too much glass. Or, perhaps more accurately, the wrong glass type used too extensively in the wrong place on a building. Misuse or overuse of glass can create inefficient and uncomfortable buildings, while potentially providing fodder for the proponents of less glass (see “Power of Perception,” from December 2010 Glass Magazine for more on this).

And, the industry needs to keep improving the energy performance of its products. As Scott Thomsen, former president of the Global Flat Glass Group, Guardian Industries, said during his keynote talk at last year’s BEC Conference, “we need to improve energy efficiency or lose surface area.”

These are not groundbreaking ideas. Proposals to change perceptions and promote performance are often discussed at industry meetings and in industry publications. But, it’s time to bring them to the building community at large to prevent future battles. “We cannot assume [WWR won’t come up again], and proposals to tie requirements to window area could pop up again in the future,” Culp says. “We can’t just go back to ignoring the issue again. … The discussion is not over, and people need to stay engaged.”

Get involved with industry trade organizations. Keep informed. And promote performance through smart design. The industry has won the most recent battle; now it’s time to win the war.

Devlin is editor of Glass Magazine. Write her at kdevlin@glass.org.

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