BEC Conference Looks to ‘The Next Level’ of Glass Industry Evolution

By Katy Devlin, Glass Magazine
March 5, 2019
COMMERCIAL, FABRICATION : MEETINGS AND EVENTS

Nearly 600 glass and glazing industry professionals have gathered in Las Vegas this week for the BEC Conference, where the theme is The Next Level.

“The theme for this year’s conference reflects where the industry is headed,” says National Glass Association Installing Committee Chair Matt Kamper, contract sales and estimating, Woodbridge Glass. “We’re pushing locally, globally to the next level. … It will affect the industry, the workforce, the built environment.”

The annual conference, hosted by the NGA, began Sunday, March 3 and runs through today. “This is the biggest BEC Conference in a decade,” says Kamper.

The conference agenda tackled a range of “next-level” issues, from next-level performance requirements to next-level education and training requirements.

Labor

Labor—finding and training employees in the continuously tight labor market—remains the biggest challenge for contract glaziers, according to conference presenters.

During the NGA Installing Committee meeting on March 3, Jenni Chase, NGA director of education, training and content, updated attendees on the NGA’s efforts to help companies address this challenge. NGA recently relaunched its interactive online education platform, MyGlassClass.com, with over 60 courses.

The critical topic of education and training continued during the BEC general sessions. During a session on advancing and improving project management, glazing contractor leaders discussed training the next generation of project managers. One panelist encouraged owners and managers to recognize the different skill sets of younger employees. Documentation, for example, comes much easier to tech-savvy millennials.

“Accept the type of strengths that they bring. If you’ve been in curtain wall for 30 years, you didn’t experience the type of documentation available now,” says Paul Robinson, operations manager for Pioneer Cladding & Glazing Systems

Keynote speaker Mary Kelly, an economist and former Navy officer, and current CEO of Productive Leaders, emphasized that training employees is a responsibility of companies, even if “you’re worried about training employees only to have them leave,” she says. “Your job is to train people for their next job. Military people know this. … To make profit, develop your people.”

Discussions of the topic will continue today with the panel, Training for Profitable Growth and Employee Retention. 

Performance

High-performance requirements and the related high-performance façade trends also top the BEC agenda.

“We’ve seen a steady increase in building performance requirements,” says Tom Culp, technical code consultant for the NGA and owner of Birch Point Consulting LLC. During the Installing Committee meeting, Culp provided an in-depth look at changes to the energy codes and standards that will affect contract glaziers. Primarily, ASHRAE 90.1-2019 has been finalized and includes another increase in stringency. The updates include the next step for U-factor and solar heat gain coefficient requirements for windows, doors and skylights in commercial buildings as well as mid-rise and high-rise residential buildings. (Learn more about the changes to ASHRAE 90.1-2019.)

During the panel, Cutting-Edge Facades: Thermally Efficient Fenestration Systems, glass and glazing supplier representatives discussed the high-performance product and system solutions capable of meeting those next-level building code requirements. “Commercial office buildings use 40 percent of electricity in the United States. … There is a great opportunity with our products and serves to impact this,” says panelist Cameron Scripture, Western regional sales manager, Viracon.

“Utilizing higher-performing products on buildings allows you to be more relevant with the ever-changing codes. It allows building costs to be lower … and [offers] lower up-front costs for HVAC,” continues Scripture. Using higher-performing products "improves occupant comfort. It creates more sustainable, longer-lasting buildings. It creates value for businesses. ... When it comes to higher-performing products, it just makes sense.”

Business management

Several sessions also looked at best practices for business management, including the importance of creating a strategic plan. During the session, Creating Your Winning Strategy for Business Success, four contract glazing company leaders offered lessons-learned from developing and implementing strategic plans at their own businesses.

Sky-high ideas become achievable with an effective strategic plan, says Giroux Glass CEO Nataline Lomedico. “We had a goal to become 100 percent employee owned by 2023. We became 100 percent employee owned 5 years earlier,” she says. “Lay down your goals in writing and continue to look at them. Stay focused on your goals.”

The panelists emphasized that creating a strategic plan is just the first step. But, even more important is sticking to that plan day-to-day. Some tips included closely tracking data, as it provides an unbiased metric of performance.

BEC continues today. For live coverage, follow @GlassMag or @KDevlinGlass on Twitter.