Blogging is a great way to share what I’m thinking. In this blog post I take the liberty to make a few (just the edge of my brain) observations and express opinions about projects, trends, issues, codes, and futures in regards to glass, glazing, cladding, enclosures, façade’s, building envelope systems, etc. Call them what you will, let’s get right to it.
1. Projects rarely, if ever, start on time (how about never). Everyone MEANS WELL. It just doesn’t happen. I wish I had a dollar every time I’ve heard, “And the curtain wall contract is going to be released by….”Yawn….snore….What’s that you said?
Most importantly, the “install” date never changes. The cladding must be installed by such-and-such date and the building completely enclosed. I get that. It’s the owner’s building. There are covenants and move-in dates. But never mind that bauxite can’t be mined and processed into extruded aluminum in two weeks, and glass can’t be shipped in three.After waiting eight weeks after design-assist to get approved die and profile drawings, going through endless design iterations, and being on the receiving end of delays in returned shop drawings, it’s impossible.
By the way, if you can do the shop drawings in 12 weeks with three people, doesn’t that mean you can do them in one and a half weeks with 24 people? Doesn’t it work that way? Just add more resources!
2. “V-E” (Value Engineering) is too often a euphemism for “cheap.” Lots of emphasis typically on “V” and not “E.” It’s supposed to be an ROI decision, not “who or what is the cheapest.” It’s supposed to be about maximum “bang for the buck.”
3. Right now I see a gap in the release and cadence of large monumental projects. There are many new projects being bid. They are also delayed in being released. At least that’s my observation. Plus, glazing subcontractor clients now have more choices after absorbing initial market demand increase a few years ago. They are being more specific about the jobs they are pursuing. Owners are taking their time making decisions and selecting teams; drilling through costs; vetting the process.
4. Design-assist is a terrific methodology for executing curtain wall and exterior façade projects. In fact I think EVERY curtain wall project should be a design-assist project. EVERY SINGLE ONE. I’d love to debate on this issue.
The problem with design-assist is that there are as many definitions as there are shades of gray in Cleveland, Ohio. Unless everyone is on the same page contractually and with methodology (use the buzz phrase “in alignment”), it can be a nightmare. Reality: Only a prescriptive definition and scope of work—accepted by all, defined from top to bottom—creates a clear and manageable path for success. Otherwise there’s lots of tension.
5. The supply chain (products and services) in façade projects can be complicated to manage. It shouldn’t be, and doesn’t HAVE to be, but you’ve got that pesky problem that we aren’t working with a repetitive, fixed product. A building product changes every time. Designs change. Building sites change. Teams change. No two jobs are alike. Many decision makers and influencer’s in the supply chain can influence the process or send it in a different direction.
Communication is one key to effective supply chain and project management, but most of us do a poor job at it. Most enterprises (B2B) are even worse. How about we just send ONE MORE EMAIL? Maybe that will fix the problem. Communicating well is a differentiator.
Online platforms for collaboration like Slack, One Note, and others will change (are changing) the face of project communication.
I am using many platforms all the time to connect and carry on conversations and develop relationships. These include face-to-face meetings; phone calls; email; texting; Twitter DM; Twitter feed; LinkedIn, Web News, Blogging, In-bound marketing, smoke signals, carrier pigeon, billboards, fax. (Ok, I lied about the fax.)
Social media for construction and engineering firms is a giant desert. A dry, parched ground waiting for moisture. I hope the glass and glazing industry, and those who support it, “get with it.” If not, then those in the space and dominating social media streams and relevant feeds will continue to expand and be recognized as the experts. And why not? Firms and people that are the most engaged are those that express the most desire and passion to make a difference, to connect, to communicate their brand. Be Social or be irrelevant.
John Wheaton is the founder & co-owner of Wheaton & Sprague Engineering, Inc., also known as Wheaton Sprague Building Envelope. The firm provides full service design, engineering and consulting services for the curtain wall/building envelope/building enclosure industry, and works at “Creating Structure” for clients. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter, @JohnLWheaton1.
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.