The 2018 Building Envelope Contractors (BEC) Conference opened this morning with a panel discussion that offered an in-depth look at industry challenges, trends and market perspectives. Moderated by Jeff Haber of W & W Glass, panelists included Keith Boswell, with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill; Joe Conover with Clark Construction; Paul Goudeau, Saint Gobain; and Jeff Heyman with Benson Industries.
Commenting on the overall optimism in the industry, Haber opened the session questioning whether the industry is at the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end of the current cycle. He pointed out that there are many challenges and considerations that the glazing industry is facing. The panel then began addressing some of those that relate to design build and design assist collaboration efforts.
“Whatever the delivery method, I’m a big believer that there is a specific solution for a specific opportunity,” said Boswell. “When it works right, you a have a team where everybody is doing their work with a creative tension with other team members. So whatever the delivery method, the architect/engineer should have both the vision and performance aspect and then learn to speak the language of the other participants. When you’re communicating you get wonderful projects.”
Heyman agreed that “creative tension” is important.
“Something we’ve learned is that all parties have to start with a clear expectation of what they’re doing,” he said. “At the first kick-off meeting we’re clearly defining goals, benchmarks, milestones; etc. … Creating the right environment is the start. A Project has to have its own culture.”
Conover, the general contractor on the panel, added that the key is to manage that tension and turn a potential negative into a positive
“You need to tell us what your ‘sacred cows’ are up front; we need to understand your vision and what you’re trying to accomplish,” he said.
Haber next asked panelists to describe their specialty and roles in the design process.
Boswell said as the architect they create and develop the design then, ultimately, shepherd the design as others get involved.
“In the beginning, we’re the lead singer, but as we move into construction, if we have done our job right, we’re now the back-up singers …” he said.
“Our role is taking what the architect has drawn and realize it with metal, silicone, glass being mindful of the supply chain … [and] the lead times, etc. …,” said Heyman.
Goudeau added that it’s about mitigating the vision to an industrial capability and making sure the industrial constraints can be understood.
Panelists also provided insight into how façade contractors are selected for a job.
Conover said he tries to get to know façade trade partners as intimately as possible. Then, when looking at the job, he can say “this is the perfect job for this contractor. “
“You have to balance that with a level playing field, looking at the size of the job, the complexity of the job, and what their experiences are in …” he said.
Panelists also provided some advice for the smaller companies looking to break into more interesting, complex jobs.
“Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” said Conover. “Don’t take something too big or complex when you don’t have the resources to be successful.” He suggested teaming up with some of the larger contractors to take on a certain portion of a project, such as the podium portion of a high-rise.
The session also looked at some other considerations, including products and suppliers.
“We’re constantly looking at and evaluating suppliers,” said Heyman. “If we’re unitizing glass and we don’t have glass on time we have to ship a panel out with a piece of plywood in it.”
He added, “The schedule is one of the most important things to understand…What happens when there’s a breakdown in the supply chain, and how do you respond?”
Panelists also addressed some new technologies that are influencing their work, such as BIM and other programs.
“Some of our work is very rigorous … and a lot of what we’re doing has a high level of complexity … I find that a lot of the 3D and analytics we use, when used properly, are really beneficial.”
The BEC division meeting also met during the conference on Sunday afternoon and included a number of progress reports about the group’s activities, as well as a number of presentations.
As part of the technical committee update, Chuck Knickerbocker with Technical Glass Products reviewed the status of the Commercial fenestration Systems Manual, which is under development; there are several sections the group is still working on. Progress has also continued on the Project Managers’ Reference Manual, which the group hopes to have published by the end of the year. In addition, the Glass and Glazing Estimating essential document (formerly the Blue Print Reading and Labor Estimating Course) has been published.
Ben Beeler of AMS Inc. also provided an update on the North American Contractors Certification (NACC) as well as the development of the Architectural Glass and Metal Technician (AGMT) certification. Beeler noted that based on a survey done last summer that was sent to more than 340 industry representatives, they found that installer insufficiencies and contractor insufficiencies were the primary reasons for defects and failures. The NACC program is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), ensuring impartiality, and was developed to help distinguish glaziers from one another. Currently, 18 companies are certified and ten others are going through the application process.
While the NACC is a certification program for companies, the AGMT is being developed as a certification for the individual glazing technician. Beeler explained this program is for the experienced glazier and, like NACC, will be ANSI-accredited.
“This will help differentiate your workforce from others,” said Beeler. “It demonstrates a commitment to quality.”
Beeler expects the program to begin beta testing this fall and for it to be live in 2019.
The meeting also included a presentation on NFRC documentation from Paul Daniels and Ron Wooten with CRL-US Aluminum. Daniels said there seems to be confusion around energy codes, what’s required and what to look for. He explained the NFRC provides the U-factor, solar heat gain coefficient, visible light transmittance and air leakage. He also addressed the Component Modeling Approach (CMA), and said on the challenges he’s seen is that some people don’t understand that they can no longer just go by the center of glass numbers. With NFRC, you need the number for the complete system, which the CMA provides. He added that there are also differences in ratings for site-built versus manufactured products, adding that any time you change a component you have to change the numbers.
Chris Giovannielli with Kawneer also gave a presentation on his company’s new interactive web tool designed to evaluate the efficiency of solar protective devices, such as sunshades and light shelves.
He explained that the tool can be used to estimate relative annual cooling energy savings for the selected location and input parameters, taking into account both heat transmission through the envelope as well as solar heat gain calculations. Other considerations include hourly typical meteorological year weather data for all major U.S. and Canada locations, and thermal properties of glazing, the framing and the remaining spandrel section stored in a pre-defined database, among others.
He added that the tool will help users understand both aesthetic benefits as well as what the savings are for the owner if they put these devices on their buildings.
The BEC Conference continues through tomorrow. Stay tuned to USGNN.com™ for more updates and reports.