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When James O'Callaghan, director, Eckersley O'Callaghan, presented the first design ideas to Steve Jobs for the Apple flagship store in SoHo, New York City, it featured all-glass stair treads paired with a metal rail system. Jobs responded, “I think you should make it all out of glass,” O’Callaghan recalled. And thus began Apple’s iconic and increasingly innovative structural glass stairs and storefronts. 

Attendees at the BEC Conference yesterday in Las Vegas were treated to a tour of the evolving innovations in glass at Apple, where designers and engineers continued to push the envelope of what is possible in glass design. 

First structural glass circular stair, at the Apple store in Osaka.

Two-story circular stair, in New York City. 

Refurbished Apple glass cube, with just 15 glass panels. 

Istanbul Apple store, made of just four massive glass panels. 

Photos by Eckersley O'Callaghan.

From the beginning, the idea was “a very simple structure,” O’Callaghan described to the group of about 400. At each step, and in each new store, “we began to strip away the levels of connection. … Each time, there is a small incremental change.” 

That first location in SoHo featured the all-glass stair rail and treads, with minimal hardware. A location designed soon after in Los Angeles includes a stair that can meet significant seismic loads. “The stair is hung rather than supported at the base, and it can accommodate lateral sway,” O’Callaghan said. 

Next came longer staircases (a 5-meter stair in Beijing), and circular staircases, like that in Osaka. “This required chemically tempered glass,” O’Callaghan recalled. From single-story circular staircases came two-story staircases (14th St. in New York).

In 2006, the company moved beyond stairs to develop a glass cube entrance to the 5th Ave. underground store in Manhattan. However, the dimensions of the cube—30 feet on each side—required 106 panels and 250 primary fittings, and thus more interruptions in the clarity of the space. 

So, the design team began investigating ways to get larger glass lites, requiring fewer connections. “We were looking for large format glazing applications where we [could] maximize transparency and minimize fittings,” O’Callaghan said. 

Working first with seele, which bought a 15-meter autoclave, O'Callaghan's designs began to feature much larger lites of glass. “However, the logistics associated with such large lites were quite challenging. There were no machines to lift the glass, or to ship the glass,” O’Callaghan said. Beijing North Glass also made large investments in equipment to produce the large lites for Apple, including developing a tempering machine to handle 12- to 13-meter curved glass for the glass drum at Apple IFC Shanghai

With large format glass now available, the company began exploring glass railings made of one lite of glass, like that used at the Hamburg, Germany Apple Store. And, in 2011, it refurbished the 5th Ave. glass cube with the large glass, totaling just 15 panels and 40 fittings. “There is a certain elegance when we start to strip down the connections,” O’Callaghan said. 

The newest developments in glass for Apple include glass walls that act as structural support for the roof structure. The company completed a store in Palo Alto, California, where glass columns support a steel roof. And, the new Apple store in Istanbul consists of just four massive panels of glass that are joined at the corner with silicone joints and topped with a carbon fiber roof. “It’s drilled down to the minimum. It’s almost not there. This is a successful conclusion regarding where we are trying to drive design,” O’Callaghan said. 

And of course, there are the large-scale architectural feats on display at the now under construction Apple headquarters

Looking ahead, O’Callaghan says even larger lites are coming, with 4 meters by 20 meters now possible. And, he sees great architectural possibilities with Corning’s Gorilla Glass, an ultra-thin, ultra-strong glass. “This is different than float glass. We are able to use a cold bending method to create new forms. It’s something that can be a flexible material on the skin and used to create more lightweight structures,” he said. 

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

Finding and keeping skilled labor has been a top concern of North American glazing contractors for several years. The problem that has been brewing since before the recession has only worsened as the construction economy improved and demand escalated. Fewer young people are entering the industry and the current workforce is aging, putting pressure on companies to find solutions, and to find them fast.

The topic of labor lead discussions during the panel “Contract Glazier Challenges” at the 2017 Building Envelope Contractors Conference, hosted by the Glass Association of North America. More than 400 industry representatives attended the conference, which was held Feb. 6-8 in Las Vegas.

“Labor, labor, labor. … This is the big issue for our industry,” said Ted Derby, business development manager for LCG Facades, and BEC panelist.

“We all agree, the biggest challenge is the struggle to find qualified people,” added panelist Bill Sullivan, president of Brin Glass Co. 

While the topic of the industry’s labor shortage is not new—Glass Magazine has covered it extensively in the magazine and online—I have noticed in recent months that the conversation surrounding labor has begun to shift. Company leaders, including those on the BEC glazing panel, have started to offer solutions—or at least, the beginnings of solutions. More and more, owners and managers say they are being proactive and taking steps to address labor and training concerns at their own companies. 

Each of the BEC glazier panelists offered insights into what their firms have done to address the challenges of finding and training workers.

Some companies are looking to expand their workforce by recruiting from a more diverse population. National Glass & Metal Co., a union glazier based in Philadelphia, has been working with the local union to find people. “There is a big push in Philadelphia … to expand minority involvement, women’s involvement, in the industry. We’d like to see more of that happening,” said Joe Clabbers, president. “We see great pride in seeing guys and gals develop in this industry.”

Companies are also actively recruiting inside schools. “We are going to tech schools and high schools,” said Stephanie Lamb, chief operating officer, Giroux Glass. “Giroux Glass goes into schools on career day. We’re searching for employees, but also working to get young people interested in this industry.”

Finding workers is only half the battle. Glaziers also have to train new employees and find ways to keep them. This training is more critical now than ever, as projects become more complex, the panelists said. “We needed to do something to help stabilize our workforce. The architects and engineers are challenging us with every new product they are developing. We need to be able to respond with expert quality people in the field,” Derby said.

Some companies, including LCG, handle their training in-house. “We instigated our own in-house training program about two and a half years ago,” Derby said. “We meet every Wednesday, year-round. We go through everything from fabricating a curtain wall, to installing and erecting it.”

Clabbers said National Glass has worked with the apprentice trade center in Philadelphia. “The center is accredited with the Department of Education. When an apprentice finishes, they come out with their associate’s degree. That has been a good recruiting tool,” Clabbers said. 

To share your company’s proactive solutions to addressing the skilled labor shortage, leave a comment or write to me directly. 

 Katy Devlin is editor in chief of Glass Magazine. Contact her at kdevlin@glass.org. 

The team of glaziers from C&H Glass knew their storefront installation work would be delayed upon arriving at a Bismarck, North Dakota, jobsite following back-to-back winter storms that dumped several feet of snow on the region. Snow had blown into the unprotected openings of the building creating drifts of 3 to 4 feet inside the structure, obstructing the crew’s workspace.  

“I don’t usually include that we will do snow removal in our bid. But, when there are 3-foot drifts inside, we have to shovel out before we can work,” says Russ Heier, owner of C&H Glass, a commercial and residential glass company based in Bismarck.

Russ Heier, owner of C&H Glass. 
Snow piles in the C&H parking lot. According to Heier, the company's usual seven parking spots are down to just three or four due to the snow. 

North Dakota is experiencing a snowier than usual winter, presenting construction challenges. While the first major snow didn’t occur until December, by the first week of January, four winter storms had blanketed the area with feet upon feet of snow. Sub-zero temperatures combined with strong winds, created near unmanageable snow drifts and dangerous conditions.

“We have been getting 30 inches at a time,” Heier says. “This is a little abnormal for the region. We do get storms with this much snow, but it is usually in the spring, and it melts away.”

The heavy snowfalls and cold temperatures have made for difficult conditions in building construction, the most notable of which has been project access, Heier describes.

“We have to be able to access the jobsite and the openings,” Heier says. “Many jobsites are on the outskirts of town, and it takes three to four days for snow removal on the roads just to get there. Once we are there, we have to gain access to the openings.” That has led to hours of shoveling work for Heier’s crew before they can begin installation.

The cold, wet conditions also affect the openings themselves, both in new construction or existing buildings. “The majority of what we do right now is door problems,” Heier says. “Automatic doors stop working in the cold. There’s ice in the tracks. Swing doors stop working.”

Frost heaving has also created problems. “The way this snow came—wet at first, then cold—caused heaving cement. The cement comes up and makes the opening too tight,” Heier says. “We have been cutting doors down for fit.”

The snows created problems from above as well, due to the excess weight on the rooftops. “We had one job where it wasn’t the cement coming up, but the roof was coming down due to weight,” Heier says. “Removing snow off roofs has become big business.”

In addition to snow, the bitter cold presents its own set of challenges. The most important consideration is worker safety. “We know [our glaziers] will have to take frequent breaks. We keep the vans running all day for warmth,” Heier says.

The installation process itself also changes in the cold as sealants, in particular, are affected by the cold. “We are limited because of temperature. We take care of the majority of the installation. We set the glass, and put in stubs—3-to-4-inch long pieces that keep the glass centered. This will shut out the majority of the weather, and we come back when it is warmer to finish,” Heier says.

 Katy Devlin is editor in chief of Glass Magazine. Contact her at kdevlin@glass.org. 

In the past four weeks, I have witnessed a grand display of future-focused aspiration and innovation in the glass industry. This began at glasstec last month and will continue this week at GlassBuild America in Las Vegas, and it was the central tenant of last week’s 2016 Facade Tectonics World Congress.

The two-day façades conference, organized by the Facade Tectonics Institute, brought together academics, architects, engineers, manufacturers, façade contractors and more for high-level research based discussions on the future of the façade industry. The message of the conference was clear—the construction and design industry is witnessing a remarkable and fast evolution toward buildings that perform better, are made with more sustainable materials, and are healthier and more comfortable for occupants.

“What drives me is the recognition of the role the façade has in addressing the issues that affect our planet—climate change, sustainability,” says Mic Patterson, current president of FTI and director of strategic business development for Schüco USA.

“We are committed to the advocacy for high performance facades,” says Helen Sanders, incoming president of the FTI and vice president of technical business development for SageGlass. High-performance buildings of tomorrow will not only need to lessen the impact on the environment, but will also need to be healthier for occupants, she says. “By 2020, according to the World Health Organization, the top two health issues will be heart disease and mental health. Our challenge is to create a building that is healthy for people. The building envelope is part of that,” Sanders says.

These future buildings, and their façades, will be more complex; they will feature new materials; and they will push the envelope of what existing materials, like glass, can do. Meeting the demands of these projects requires collaboration among all players, from the architects to the glazing contractors. It relies on continued advancements of materials and changes in how those materials integrate with the building as a whole. This future building industry will present great opportunities to companies up and down the chain, if they get on board.

“The changes of the recent past are accelerating. We are seeing a fundamental change in material systems and how we use them,” says Bill Kreysler, president of panel fabricator, Kreysler & Associates Inc. “This is a time of change. The most dangerous thing you can do is not.”

“The drivers in our field are owners, manufacturers, architects, engineers, glazing contractors,” says Chris Stutzki, founder and owner of Stutzki Engineering. “It starts with the owner to push change to the architect and engineer. They have to push the manufacturers to make new products. They push the glazing contractors to learn how to install.”

Large-scale changes to the industry will be slow in coming. However, many smaller changes have already begun. Better-performing products, next-generation glasses, and more efficient equipment were discussed during the FTI conference and are on display at glasstec and GlassBuild America. These changes are all key to the greater evolution in building better buildings.

The time is now to get informed and get involved. In the words of Steve Selkowitz, senior advisor for building science at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: “think big, start small, act now.” 

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

From eye-catching, previously unimaginable glass applications, to never-before-seen automated machine solutions, glasstec 2016 exhibitors demonstrated what is now possible in the glass industry. See the innovations that were on display.



glasstec 2016 Part 1

Featuring photos from A+W, AGC, Bohle, Bystronic, Cricursa, Trosifol, Dow Corning and EuroGlas.

glasstec 2016 Part 2

Featuring photos from Fenzi, Forel, GIMAV, Guardian Industries, Intermac, Langendorf and HEGLA.

glasstec 2016 Part 3

Featuring photos from Lisec, OmniDecor, NSG Pilkington, Quattrolifts, Sedak, Sevasa and Vetrotech Saint-Gobain.


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

Requirements for product life cycle declarations are officially on the books. Is your company ready? Calls for life cycle assessments are appearing in everything from the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program to ASHRAE and the International Green Construction Code. For glass and glazing manufacturers looking to compete for sustainable building projects, completing LCAs of products will be essential.

“Ultimately, the industry is moving toward more life cycle thinking,” says Helen Sanders, vice president of technical business development for SageGlass. “It’s not just, ‘am I saving energy in the building.’ It’s, ‘am I making the right choices with the materials I’m using?’”

A key driver of this trend is LEED Version 4, Sanders says. As of this month, LEED v3 certification will be completely phased out in lieu of LEED v4, which provides points for LCAs in the Materials and Resources category. Life cycle has also made its way into IgCC and ASHRAE 189.1, which are in the process of being merged. The green construction codes allow users to follow a performance path that calls for a whole building LCA. “If someone wants to pursue a whole building LCA, they will come to you for information on the life cycle of your product,” Sanders says. 

For several years, industry organizations have been working to prepare for these LCA requirements for glass and glazing products. The groups have developed Product Category Rules for numerous industry product types, from flat glass to fabricated glass to window systems. These PCRs provide the framework that allows manufacturers to develop Environmental Product Declarations about the life cycle of their individual products. 

In April 2014, the Glass Association of North America and NSF International developed a Flat Glass PCR. In September 2015, after years of work, a joint association task group published the Window PCR. The PCR, developed by GANA, the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance and the Window and Door Manufacturers Association, covers single windows, skylights, curtain wall and storefront, for residential, commercial and institutional buildings. And, in August, IGMA and GANA officials announced the approval and release of the PCR for Processed Glass.

“The completion of the PCR for Processed Glass is the successful culmination of a combined industry effort spanning many years that started with the Flat Glass PCR, and then the Window PCR,” said IGMA Executive Director Margaret Webb, in the announcement. “This PCR was developed as a core product with processes for coated, laminated, heat-treated, decorative and insulating glass. The industry can now provide credible EPDs for their customers.”

The design and building industry is moving toward product transparency, asking manufactures to make life cycle disclosures, and these industry PCRs allow manufacturers to provide this information. So, is your company ready? 

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

Last Thursday, more than 17 million Britons voted for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. The immediate repercussions of the impending British exit, or Brexit, on financial markets were sudden and severe. Beyond the markets, some economists are warning of a recession in the UK that could extend into Europe and beyond, and are readjusting GDP forecasts for both Europe and the United States (the U.S. GDP forecast for the second half of 2016 is down to 2 percent, from 2.25 percent).

The longer term economic effects of Brexit are uncertain. Some economists speculate that the markets will begin to stabilize, while others forecast a more medium- and long-term slowdown. Other economists are even optimistic. 

Also unclear is the impact that Brexit and its related economic repercussions will have on U.S. construction and manufacturing—and thus on the North American glass industry. (Learn more about how UK construction might be affected here and here, and how UK manufacturing might be affected here). Will the U.S. construction economy face a slowdown? For manufacturers and suppliers, will exports suffer? Will a higher dollar negatively affect sales?

Since the referendum last week, economists and officials from several real estate and manufacturing organizations have weighed in to offer some insight on how Brexit, and its related market uncertainty, might impact U.S. companies. One interesting report came from the National Association of Manufacturers, which posted a video interview and related article on the impact of the vote on domestic manufacturers.  

“Europe is an important market for U.S. manufacturers. Roughly one fifth of all exports we sell abroad go to Europe. And the United Kingdom is actually our fifth largest trading partner. The bottom line is there is certainly a lot of uncertainty over the next few weeks, few months,” says Chad Moutray, chief economist for NAM. Additionally, “this is going to add a level of uncertainty in general to the overall economy. We have already struggled a bit this year with exports and other global headwinds. This adds to that.”

In addition to the economic uncertainty, the Brexit raises questions about potential trade and policy implications, according to Linda Dempsey, the vice president of international economic affairs for NAM.  “We expect that yesterday’s vote is going to be a real drag on the ongoing negotiations that the U.S. and Europeans started three years ago—the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,” Dempsey says. “It’s going to have a really big impact on the trade negotiations to the detriment of manufacturers in the United States who want to break down barriers.”

However, Moutray said the more dire predictions about the fallout from Brexit are probably overblown, at least for U.S. manufacturers. “The bottom line is that this is going to be something that continues to add a level of uncertainty,” he said. “Expect exports to fall a little bit certainly in the intervening months. But in the long term, I wouldn’t expect any major ramifications from it so long as those trade agreements continue to allow access to flow between Britain and the European Union.”    

Several officials from the NAIOP Commercial Real Estate Development Association also offered more cautious optimism about the extent of the Brexit impact on U.S. real estate. “The direct impact of Brexit will mostly be felt by Britain and the EU and will probably have a minimal direct impact on the U.S. economy and U.S. commercial real estate,” says Gerard Mildner, director, Center for Real Estate, Portland State University. “The risk is that other countries will copy Britain and impose trade barriers. The most exposed U.S. sectors will be export businesses (e.g., aerospace, agriculture, technology), port-related industrial property and the financial industry.”

What impact do you think Brexit could have on the glass industry and on your company? Have you adjusted your internal forecasts because of the Brexit vote? Feel free to comment below, or email me directly. 

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

Philadelphia hosted the 2016 AIA Convention, May 19-21. The event included hundreds of exhibitors over 170,000 square feet of booth, gallery and lounge space. Glass Magazine stopped by the show to visit the numerous glass and glazing companies on hand at the event. Companies from across the industry continue to push the envelope of performance, aesthetics and technology.

Check out a photo gallery from the show floor, or catch up on even more news from the event in the @GlassMag twitter feed.

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

Laminated glass was patented in 1909 and entered the mass market as a life safety product. In the late 1920s, laminated windshields became a common safety feature for vehicles, saving countless lives. It then became a critical material for building security and protection. Fueled by the terrible destruction from hurricanes during the 1990s, laminated glass became mandatory for structures in storm-prone areas. And it grew into an important safety solution for man-made threats, from simple break-ins to more devastating bomb blasts. The building industry has looked beyond just the safety benefits of laminated glass to aesthetic and acoustic performance as well.

The strength and security of laminated products garnered the attention of architects, as they sought to push the envelope of what’s possible with glass. The last decade has seen exciting developments in everything from point-supported facades to glass stair treads to glass balustrades. Laminated glass is maximizing transparency, while ensuring safety and security. This envelope pushing has also opened the door for more “extreme” glass possibilities. 

About two years ago, I was able to experience the extreme possibility of glass when I visited “The Ledge” in Chicago. I stood 1,353 feet above the ground in an all-glass box cantilevered 4.3 feet from the Willis Tower. It was incredible. I experienced some of the thrill of skydiving, base-jumping or hang gliding (all extreme activities that I will likely never attempt), but with complete confidence in my own safety.

From “The Ledge,” I looked between my feet toward the grid of streets far below, where cars appeared as moving specks of light. My heart raced and my stomach dropped. But, through the adrenaline, the still-rational part of my brain continued to assure me that the three layers of laminated glass under my feet, on all three walls of the box, and above my head, were more than enough protection.

Glass has become a favorite material for these safe, but extreme, applications, such as the Grand Canyon Skywalk, where visitors can stand 70 feet from the rim of the Grand Canyon at the, 2,000 feet in the air. At the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, tourists can walk 4,700 feet above the ground along a 200-foot skywalk that traces a sheer cliff-face of Tianmen Mountain. Starting in June, visitors to the new the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles will be able to pay $8 to slide down the glass enclosed 45-foot Skyslide running from the 70th floor to the 69th floor.

We highlighted several extreme glass applications in the May issue of Glass Magazine, including the impressive Glacier Skywalk in Alberta, Canada, featured on the cover, China’s Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge, and Tilt! in Chicago (pp. 38-44). This issue also provided an important look at another type of safety glass, capable of handling extreme situations—fire-rated glass. On page 14, view an updated guide to fire-rated glass codes and standards.  

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

Glass Magazine is launching its inaugural Reader Photo Contest. The contest is intended to celebrate what’s possible with glass and glazing; to recognize the complexity and aesthetic value of industry products and processes; and to provide a glimpse into the everyday experiences of workers in the glass and glazing community.

Readers are invited to submit photographs that highlight the achievements and advancements seen across all segments of the glass industry, from the factory floor to the jobsite. The winning photos will run in the July issue, coinciding with the prestigious annual Glass Magazine Awards.

The deadline for submissions is Friday, April 29.

A panel of judges—including Glass Magazine editors—will select finalists, and readers will be able to vote on winners on GlassMagazine.com.

Read the guidelines for entry and to submit photos.

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

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