Potpourri: a Few Reflections on the Industry

This month’s blog comes from the gut; in random order, issues, topics, ideas, observations.

Contract language. We need to be paying attention to definitions and how they relate, or not, to contract language. “Design-assist” is not the same as contractual “design build.” Being mis-aligned on this between architect, CM or GC, glazing sub, and delegated designer/engineer makes for a lot of tension at a minimum, and a fail at worst. 

Shop drawings. The shop drawing submittal process is not to be an extended part of the architect of record’s architectural design process and is not meant to help them complete their drawings, unless of course this is known up front. Too often we’ve seen “design assist” be someone’s version of using the glazing sub and their engineering partner’s production shop drawings as a means to keep designing until it’s time to ship material. This has to be controlled and boundaries set, or it is costly.

Change orders. “Value engineering” typically means coming up with cost effective alternatives within an existing scope of work and design basis, not changing one or both. There’s a difference between value engineering and a scope change producing a change order. Listen for nuance in the conversations and decisions particularly in pre-construction design, and keep a clear benchmark or boundary. Someone from the glazing team has to be willing, able, or appointed to speak up during this process.

Soft skills. Communication, good or bad along the continuum, is still the number one predictor for project success or failure. Similarly, communication problems or struggles are the number one cause for risk management issues on projects where a claim is made against one or more parties. Communication is still considered a soft skill in our whacky world because we can’t put some definitive metric to it. It’s only measured by the success of the outcome. Isn’t it time we put project communication at the top of the list? Of course, the good side of this issue then, is that communication is a differentiator in organizations and in people. Communication matters.

Inexperience. I finally saw the statistic that we have all felt or experienced; one that resonated with many of you and that I wrote about in my prior blog “Inexperience.” Forty percent of people polled around AEC industry issues sight “inexperience” as the number one problem in completing projects. Thanks to PSMJ Resources—see page 9 of the June issue for more information.

Social networks. Yes, social media is a thing and while we should know the pitfalls—if it’s free we are the product—it’s also here to stay, at least in this current culture. If we aren’t visible on one or more of “the big 4” —Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter—then we aren’t perceived as completely relevant, or we are easy to forget about. At a minimum we reduce our inbound marketing opportunities. Stay engaged, be real, be organic. It’s not that difficult. Just keep posting and trying new approaches. You’ll see what sticks.

Unemployment. Attracting and keeping talent is the differentiator in our day; while we could say that it always has been, it’s truer now than ever. Unemployment allegedly is around 2 to 3 percent across all fields, but that is the rate of job transfer at any one time. I’ll bet with the number of open positions in our companies the unemployment amongst technical professionals on all sides of the AEC fence is negative. People are the difference and there are more vocational choices and contexts now than ever before. Get used to it. There’s much competition from other tech fields and it’s not going to get better. We’ve got to get better at differentiating, and creating, positive lasting experiences if we want people to choose to stay in the glass and glazing field, whether on the design side or the construction side.

Fall 2019. Guess what? It’s September. That’s right, 33 percent of the year remains. Let’s make the most of it and all the coming days before us. I hope you’ve made GlassBuild part of that equation. I’ll be there on Sept. 17 and 18 and hope to engage with you. Stay strong!

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 jwheaton@wheatonsprague.com and on Twitter, Instagram and Word Press @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.

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