Volume 39,  Issue 11,  November 2004

Smart Thinking
Smart hardware, such as that found installed with access control devices or building automation systems, is intended to make life easier. For contract glaziers, however, that may or may not be the case when it comes to installing doors and windows in buildings equipped with automation wiring, at the very least. Door locks that can be controlled over the Internet or window shades that can be operated by remote control will give glaziers something to consider as smart technology becomes incorporated in more buildings. 

Types of Smart Hardware
There are several types of systems on the market now that will have contract glazing companies working around wiring and the new considerations involved, according to Maurya McClintock, head of the façade engineering team in San Francisco for the design and consulting firm Ove Arup, which is based in the U.K. Her list includes “daylighting, ventilation, automated blind control systems linked up with building maintenance systems [BMS] or daylighting, secondary shade devices, [and] also exterior shading devices, some of which are operable.” Keyless door locks and windows that open or close by remote control are other examples. What makes the systems stand out is that wires to a remote, central system can link them all. An individual operator can give orders for a variety of systems over the Internet or by voice commands over the telephone.

For instance, in systems involving solar control, a computer or a single operator may be responsible for turning on an office building’s electro-chromic windows when sunlight begins to aim directly into the rooms. By coordinating the window shade with the air conditioning unit, the computer prevents the unit from overloading. By coordinating with interior lighting, and dimming lights when natural light is bright enough to work by, the system increases energy efficiency. 

Problems for Glazing Contractors
The problem with installing these new systems arises with one or two small wires that demand the contract glazier step outside of the bounds of his area of expertise. Because contract glaziers must now deal with wires coming through the door or window when working around these devices, David Orban, director of business development for Adams Rite, expects to see more coordination with systems integrators or electricians in the future. 

“The problem that it creates for the glazier is that it makes the prep a little more complicated,” he said. “I think it’s a coordination issue.”

Even with the help of an electrician, door and window installers still must consider how to work around the wires.

“You have got to make sure you have clearance for all of your wires,” said Roney Anderson, a salesperson for Permasteelisa. “If you pinch [a wire], or have bare wires, then you’ve got a problem.” 

However, Anderson added that he couldn’t imagine that happening because all of the wiring should be self-contained. Overall, Anderson expects no problems in the glazier’s end of the installation with his company’s units. “We build everything unitized. We install the frames and then the electrician comes and hooks everything up,” he said.

John Geniesse, technical manager with the Door Hardware Institute (DHI), based in Chantilly, Va., sees the same issue in working with electric locks. “The problem to consider is the adequate preparation for wiring. You’ve got to allow for wires in the initial planning stage because sometimes they’ll run through door frames or through the door itself.” 

In those cases, electric hinges or pivots are required to manage a power transfer.

Mark Visbal, the senior associate director for standards and technology with the Security Industry Association (SIA), based in Alexandria, Va., says that running wiring through a door isn’t the big problem. He explained that fitting electric door strikes within the frame is sometimes an issue, but that is something that can be dealt with easily.

“The biggest problem is [when] you have a fire-rated door and the installer has to drill through it, and this violates the code,” said Visbal. 

Fire-stopping the opening, a process on which DHI has specifications and standards available, can solve the problem. However, this brings to the forefront the issue of working around codes in a technology that is still evolving. 

A solution for this particular problem could be soon in coming. According to Visbal, there are rumblings on the market about an integrated system where the wiring is all inside the door. “That would be a nice fix for it all,” said Visbal.

When it comes to installing curtainwall, specially-designed mullions help glaziers work around wiring problems. “They’ll run the wiring in the mullion system or the ceiling or floor,” said McClintock. A hollow design allows glaziers to run wiring through the mullion or special cap pieces can be placed on the ends of mullions to hold wires. 

According to McClintock, the biggest challenge for installing curtainwall around these wires can come from price, and even that is not a considerable problem when the costs of big systems are spread out and considered. 

Electrochromic windows bring their own considerations, although manufacturers argue for the ease of installation. SageGlass, which includes a film on an insulating glass or laminated unit, has two wires extending from one edge that are installed into a building’s electrical system. The unit uses low DC voltage and can be operated using a dimmer switch, remote control or central energy management system, according to company information. 

Mike Myser, marketing director with SAGE Electrochromics Inc., based in Faribault, Minn., says there are no complications with installing SageGlass. “Imagine a wire coming out of the window,” said Myser. “You just hook it up.” 

Other units, such as SwitchLite privacy glass, use AC voltage and require that the supplied power does not exceed 100V. An inline transformer and a specially designed power transfer box must be installed with the unit to prevent power surges. According to the Switch-Lite specifications, the wiring needs to pass through the window frame, which could affect the installation of the glass in areas ranging from frame size to the type of silicone that is used. 

Testing Smart Technology 
In October, Permasteelisa began taking smart hardware systems through a series of tests to work out any glitches before installation began on one of its projects. The Italian glazing company, with U.S. headquarters in Windsor, Conn., is incorporating smart hardware into its construction of the San Francisco Federal Building. In the case of the 18-story GSA project, smart hardware is being used to control what Anderson referred to as a software driven “HVA” system. 

“There’s no air conditioning in this building,” Anderson explained. “It will have to be closed six days out of the year for heat buildup.”
Instead of using air conditioning, airflow is managed by a central computer that opens and closes vents and the building’s operable sunscreens. Through this system, Anderson said, hotter air is exhausted through the vents and the cooler air is pulled in naturally. Such environmentally friendly practices may win the building a platinum LEEDs rating from the U.S. Green Building Council, according to Anderson. 

As far as installing windows around the vents and sunscreens, however, Anderson said there is little glaziers need worry about. 

“It’s not that much different from a standard unitized wall,” said Anderson. “There are wires and hook-ups, but that’s all self-contained.” He added that the controls for the hook-ups are actually within the framing system itself. 

“You’ve just got to be a little more careful,” Anderson advised. 

Old World Companies and New Technology
This technology is only beginning to find its presence in North America, partly from the influence of European-based companies. 

“The Europeans have been doing this for a lot longer than we have,” said McClintock. 

Even now, many of the companies that are performing this kind of work in the United States have headquarters in Europe, such as Permasteelisa. 

“Other companies are interested in this, but they’re not quite sure what it’s going to take,” McClintock added. Finding the necessary training and tools are one of the hurdles slowing the installation of smart hardware. 

While these delays may set U.S. companies behind their foreign competition, experts agree that this is a market to which glaziers will soon have to adapt. Although it brings its share of problems to the installation of doors and windows, the expanding automation business is also currently providing contractors with opportunities to create and influence how this technology transforms. For instance, McClintock cited one curtainwall glazing subcontractor that makes the actuators that lift hospital beds. The redesigned actuators will be used to open and close exterior shading devices, because the devices are proven to support heavy loads and they feature the extensions needed to support the opening and closing.

Whether it means working with new materials or working with a systems integrator, this chance to influence the direction of the new technology is one glaziers can’t afford to miss. 

Megan Headley is an assistant editor for USGlass magazine.


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