Volume 35, Number 2, February 2000



                            latest news developments

Chicago Takes Legal Action Against
CNA Over Fatal Glass Lite

The city of Chicago has filed suit against CNA Insurance over the 2-foot square, 1/2-inch thick glass lite which dropped 29 floors on October 8 from the CNA Building on Chicago’s South Wabash Avenue. The lite hit and instantly killed 37-year old Ana Flores who had been walking with her toddler (see October 1999 USGlass, page 13).

“We’re seeking code compliance and recovery of emergency response funds,” said building commissioner Mary Richardson Lowry. As part of the suit, CNA is charged with approximately 50 code violations.

Although legal action has been taken, Lowry said the two parties have been working together to resolve some issues. “We had a status call with CNA in late January which resulted in the decision to pursue window film testing,” Lowry said. An additional status call will take place in March.

The building commission is working closely with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc., an architectural firm headquartered in Northbrook, IL, specializing in construction technology. Lowry said the firm is currently conducting window film testing. “They will present the testing methodology to us upon which we will comment,” said Lowry. “The decision to install window film (on the buildings 4,900 windows) has not yet been finalized—but it is very likely.” And, if and when the decision is finalized Lowry said, “It [the building] will require the highest level of a secure filming system.”

However, according to Lowry, film may not be the only safety precaution taken. “The firm is looking at as many as five alternatives,” she said. “We are testing to determine the best methodology … and are looking at what will give the greatest degree of comfort.”

Calls to CNA went unanswered at press time.

Kawneer Sets the Record Straight; Leyland
Talks Candidly About Layoff Speculation

While many in the industry are speculating about Kawneer’s future, including talks of “massive layoffs” and a “possible sale,” Kawneer agreed to be interviewed by USGlass to set the record straight.

According to Bob Leyland, vice president of sales and marketing, roughly 20 people have recently either been laid off or retired from Kawneer. “Out of 3,000 Kawneer employees, I wouldn’t call these massive,” said Leyland. One of these retirees is Dow Ruch, former vice president of sales, who has been with Kawneer for 30 years. Leyland, who formerly served as vice president of marketing, now assumes both the sales and marketing role. While Ruch worked out of the company’s Franklin, IN, office, the new position occupied by Leyland, is now based out of the company’s headquarters in Norcross, GA.

Leyland said the layoffs that did occur centered around the sales team. “The sales organization was restructured [as part of Kawneer’s reengineering effort] … so we may provide better overall service,” said Leyland. According to Leyland, the sales organization was previously comprised of multiple layers and is now a flatter structure. “There are no other planned layoffs,” he added.

Other industry speculation concerning Kawneer is that its parent company, Alcoa, hired its new president William Cralley (see page 102) to position the company for a sale at year’s end. Leyland, who is involved in Kawneer’s strategic planning efforts and future growth plans said, “This is totally unfounded. It is more that the competition wishes this was true.”

According to Leyland, Alcoa sees Kawneer as a valuable asset stating, “Alcoa recognizes the added value we bring to their business and is committed to helping us grow and prosper.”


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