The Competitive Edge
BEC Conference Give Glazing Contractors
a Leg Up with Industry Know-How
Megan Headley and Ellen Rogers
More than 400 glazing contractors filled the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas
in March with the goal of learning more about their industry and where
it's headed. The Building Envelope Contractors (BEC) Conference, sponsored
by the Glass Association of North America, armed those contractors with
new knowledge on topics ranging from code updates to the latest industry
The State of the Industry
The conference opened with an industry outlook from Hugo Lara, chief executive
officer of the Monterrey, Mexico-based glass manufacturer Vitro, who offered
his perspective on "The State of the Glass and Glazing Industry."
Like other forecasters over the last year, Lara began with a relatively
grim prediction, noting, "We've seen some recovery but we're not
seeing the industry move back to the levels of 2007 … for at least the
next three to four years."
He presented several graphs showing past cycles, with the commercial drops
and growth clearly following trends in residential construction. Then
he offered a realistic forecast of the residential market: "We believe
it hasn't hit rock bottom yet. There are a lot of people who say it's
there, but we expect to not see a recovery in the residential market until
the end of this year."
Tougher yet for glass companies, while there's less demand for product
due to the down economy, Lara says the market is still saturated with
too much product.
"Even though there have been a lot of shutdowns in the last years,
especially in the last three years, there's still an overcapacity in the
market," Lara said. He added, "We believe that there's an overcapacity
of eight float lines in the North American market still, even after all
For complex problems such as the supply outpacing the demand for glass,
Lara encouraged his audience to "look for simple solutions in a complex
market." He offered three such solutions to his audience.
"Number one is the logistics, the supply chain-we need to find a
way to ship glass cheaper," Lara said. As a case in point he pointed
to A-frame racks used to transport glass, saying, "the materials
to ship glass are very expensive." He challenged his audience to
come up with new solutions to this logistical issue.
His second suggestion was to offer more and promote better offline value-added
products. Finally, he offered his third suggestion. "The markets
are not growing in North America … we need to look at the export market,"
Lara said. "We need to start talking and listening to our customers
abroad … showing the different options in the world, especially in what
we call the third world where they need a lot of glass right now."
For example, "All the glass and glazing in Mexico is monolithic."
He suggested considering providing value-added solutions to these markets,
adding, "What may now be a commodity product for us may be a value-added
product for our customers."
Another potential solution Lara offered for dealing with excess glass
capacity in North America was promoting it to the new solar glazing market.
"There's a lot of hope among the float producers that the solar market
is going to pick up. The only way we can see that capacity back up and
running is if we have a big impact on the solar market," he said.
Lara also pointed his audience of glazing contractors toward areas in
which to promote the use of glass. As GANA members had alluded to during
the earlier Glass Week sessions (see page 46), "Glass is another
building material-we need to find ways to substitute [glass for] current
His slides offered several unique examples of decorative glass products,
notably in interior applications. "The interior application is very
important," Lara said. He encouraged the industry to better promote
to architects the interior applications of glass (see April 2010 USGlass,
page 30, for related story).
"How we see the role of the glazier here is it's … to work together
with the whole supply chain and present solutions to the final users of
float glass," Lara said.
Energy Awareness Takes Center Stage
In a presentation on energy challenges facing the glass industry, GANA
executive vice president Bill Yanek emphasized that the industry "must
make the case for more glass." Several BEC speakers proceeded to
do just that, in promoting the high-performance products on the market
available to improve buildings' energy efficiency.
"Why is it important to reduce energy usage?" asked Mark Silverberg
of Technoform Glass Insulation North America during a presentation on
"The Future of High Thermal Performance Fenestration." He answered,
"We want to reduce our dependence on imported energy and secure our
economic independence." Some of the market trends and drivers behind
this include an increase in demand for LEED-certified buildings and the
fact that the energy-efficient return on investment has been documented
to be better than installing new power generation equipment.
And global energy codes are getting tighter and tighter. For example,
the 2010 ASHRAE code is about 25- to 30-percent tighter than the 2004
version and will likely be about 50-percent tighter in 2016.
Much of this is being driven by a push to create a net-zero energy building.
"[The Department of Energy's (DOE)] target is to have a commercial
net-zero building by 2025," Silverberg said. "Window performance
will have to improve by 60 to 80 percent over current efficient windows."
"A lot has to change," added Albert Stankus, also of Technoform,
during the presentation. "Improving the thermal performance of frames'
overall conductivity is critical." Other aspects that Stankus says
will see improvement include the glass package as well as the edge of
glass, which impacts both U-factor and condensation. And one consideration
for the commercial market, he pointed out, was overall compression resistance
to ensure structural performance.
New glass technologies are being introduced all the time to help reach
that zero energy goal-and among those being promoted by DOE are dynamic
"There are a lot of drivers in the marketplace pushing us to more
complex and active building facades," said Dr. Helen Sanders of SAGE
Electrochromics Inc. during a presentation on electronically tintable
glass in building envelopes.
Electronically tintable glass, she explained, offers a high-performance,
dynamic façade solution that "will help you have a competitive
advantage and beat some of the code issues coming down the pipe."
She continued, "It allows you to vary the solar heat gain coefficient
and visible light transmittance by touching a button."
Sanders also discussed some of the benefits of electronically tintable
glass, including reduced operating costs of the building.
"[The glass] can reduce peak demand by up to 26 percent," she
said. It also can provide up to 12 LEED points.
As far as installation, she said the product does not require much additional
work for the glazier, as a subcontractor typically handles the electronics
Before reviewing several case studies that feature electronically tintable
glass, she noted another benefit: "You can tint the glass and control
the glare, but you never lose your connection to the outdoors."
Fred Millett with Pleotint also focused on dynamic glazing technologies
with his presentation on "Adaptive Glazing - Sunlight Responsive
Thermochromic (SRT) Window Systems: Lower Energy Use, Enhanced Daylghting
and Solar Heat Gain Reduction."
"The sun is the greatest influence on the building envelope,"
Millett said. "Sunlight is overestimated and underutilized."
Thermochromics, he explained, are another option.
"Thermochromics absorb the sun based on its position in the sky and
as the glass is heated it controls the tint," he said. "This
saves energy by reducing the HVAC, the need for lights and lowers peak
Millett said the product his company produces is made with a PVB laminate
incorporating thermochromic properties and has all of the benefits of
Best Practices for Curtainwall Installation
Still, the energy-efficient products so much the topic of conversation
mean little in the field if they're not installed properly, as Chris Fenwick
of Kawneer Co. Inc. pointed out during a presentation on "Preventable
Causes of Curtainwall Failures."
"It doesn't matter what the components can do for you if they're
not installed properly, you're not going to get the same level of performance,"
Fenwick covered issues "that are exclusively within the control of
a glazier out on the jobsite." He broke the most common problems
down into two recurring categories: 1) critical perimeter and system seals;
and 2) assembly and installation.
Fenwick advised glaziers to "maintain proper caulk joint on all four
sides of the system … This may seem elementary to someone who's an industry
veteran but we go out in the field and see this time and time again."
He reminded the glaziers to use enough material to absorb the movement
of the glass and building, to create a cushion between aluminum and other
materials that might damage the material or its finish and prevent the
cold air on the outside from affecting the materials on the inside.
He also recommended cleaning the contact points with proper solvents.
"Do an adhesion test to make sure your materials adhere the way you
want them to," Fenwick said.
He added, "Make sure you've got glaziers taking the instructions
from the manufacturer and applying them in the appropriate places."
When it comes to assembly and installation, Fenwick said that the first
thing to address "is something as simple as the shims." He explained,
"They have to be in the proper location, need to be load-bearing,
non-compression and highly durable."
Like shims, setting blocks need to be of the proper composition for the
glass and system, and they need to be put in the right location. Using
the wrong materials can put undue stress on either the lites or the spacer.
Fenwick also advised his audience to locate and torque pressure plate
screws properly to prevent water and air infiltration.
BEC attendees also were treated to some tips for installation on retrofit
projects. Dave Hewitt of EFCO Corp. presented "Tips to Work on Window
Replacement Jobs." According to Hewitt, "It's an emerging, growing
market" (see February 2010 USGlass, page 20). He added, "When
you look at the economy we're in right now, it's very challenging … so
look for opportunities to get into businesses you're not doing right now
is very critical."
There are several reasons why an owner might wish to replace a building's
windows. Improving energy performance or meeting LEED requirements is
a common motivator today, but Hewitt said that hurricane impact and blast
windows also are a growing category for replacement windows. In addition,
Hewitt noted that there are a number of sources for obtaining federal
funding for replacement windows in historic buildings (visit www.nps.gov
for more information on the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives
Next Hewitt provided a checklist of items to consider before bidding on
a retrofit job. When you're dealing with retrofit you want to go out to
the jobsite first. But the best thing to do, Hewitt continued, "Is
have the window removed to see the interior of the wall cavity and see
what you're dealing with."
He pointed out that when bidding a retrofit job it's important to factor
in whether or not the framing materials will need to be removed. Hewitt
also emphasized being aware of perimeter anchorage. "It's very important
because often the surrounding structure isn't capable of supporting the
load of the window," he said.
In addition, Hewitt reminded glaziers to consider whether installation
certification requirements might be involved, such as the lead paint certification
requirements for buildings constructed prior to 1978.
"Understanding how you're going to access the opening or the location,"
Hewitt said, is another consideration. Will you be able to store your
materials on-site? Will you have to work after hours because the building
But with these suggestions in mind, Hewitt encouraged the listening glaziers
to learn more about this potential market for glass installation. "The
opportunities for historic renovation are huge right now," he said.
Megan Headley is the editor and Ellen Rogers
is a contributing editor of USGlass.
© Copyright 2010 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.