Volume 42, Issue 4 - April 2007

Ten Years Strong
10th Annual BEC Conference Focuses on Key Industry Issues
by Ellen Giard

No, buildings don’t have to be unattractive to be energy-efficient. Yes, buildings can be transparent and still help reduce energy costs and increase savings. Yes, glass can—and does—play a huge factor in bringing green buildings to life. Green building design and LEED certification are here to stay and the glass industry can be a major contributor. These were some of the key messages presenters conveyed to those attending the Glass Association of North America’s (GANA) tenth annual Building Envelope Contractors Conference (BEC). The conference took place March 4-7 at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. More than 520 attended; 34 states, three Canadian provinces and the country of Ireland were represented.

“This really is a who’s who of the industry,” said Max Perilstein of Arch Aluminum & Glass, who also serves as the BEC division chair. “We have a strong agenda,” he said as he opened the conference. “We want you to leave here with insight you’ve not had before.” 

Environmental Awareness
Architect Keith Boswell with San Francisco-based Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, James Bogdan of PPG and Henry Taylor of Kawneer Co. Inc. led a green building panel presentation. Each individual provided a different perspective to the discussion on the true costs of building green.

Boswell began with a discussion on Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification costs from the architectural and engineering perspective, and he showed projects from his firm that received LEED ratings. 

“LEED is a holistic approach in the design phase,” Boswell said. “Our costs are mainly in the research that takes place early on.”

He presented examples that showed how products such as light shelves and sunshades have been used to earn LEED points. High-performance glass, insulating glass units and double-glazed facades have also been used.

Bogdan spoke next. 

“U.S. buildings consume 70 percent of power plant electricity,” he said. “Commercial electricity prices are rising … that’s creating a great momentum for green building.”

He said the three major drains of energy are interior light, heating and cooling. Products such as new low-E coatings can be used to reduce these costs. “$15.8 billion is lost from buildings each year because of components not working together; $9 million of that is at the owner’s expense,” he said.

With these increasing costs in mind, Bogdan explained that the three areas in which glazing can contribute to LEED are: optimizing energy efficiency; using regional materials; and indoor environmental quality. 

Taylor was the third panelist. He began with a question for the audience: “Are you convinced that LEED/green building is a benefit to our industry?” A show of hands revealed that indeed, the majority is convinced. 

He next shared a few statistics. In 2006 the AIA set a goal to cut energy costs by 50 percent by 2010 and 90 percent by 2025.

“The costs of green are not that much, but the resulting benefits can be great.” Taylor said LEED costs are typically 5 percent more (compared to other projects), but that the extra costs are often already allocated to the project.

“It’s just a matter of shifting the dollars around, such as using glass instead of brick,” Taylor said. “The glass industry has nothing to worry about as far as LEED goes. The visible light transmittance of a brick isn’t very good.”

He talked some about the different areas and categories in which LEED points are available for glass, and mentioned opportunities for products such as photovoltaics. 

“This can be used in lieu of spandrel; it can also be used in skylights,” said Taylor. “You can allow in the light and generate energy. It is a cost, but a good cost for our industry.”

He encouraged everyone to recommend and suggest these high-performance products whenever they can.

“Five years ago they [architects, owners, etc.] would not have listened to you because it cost more,” Taylor said. “Today they will listen to you. Do not be afraid to suggest a better product because it costs more—they will listen.”

Electronically Tintable Glass
I’m too hot! I’m too cold! According to Dr. Helen Sanders of Sage Electrochromics, theses are the top two workplace complaints. Her company, however, developed a product designed to control the sun’s heat and light—electronically tintable glass.

“A significant reason why it’s too hot or too cold in a building is the envelope and a lot of that is made of glass,” she said. “Glass is static, but we live in a dynamic environment; we do not have control over sunlight or solar heat gain with a static building envelope.” In the past, building occupants have tried to solve these problems through the use of shades and blinds, but today a new solution is a building envelope with electronically tintable glazing.

“You can control glare, block heat in the summer, view the outside … users have individual control and you get an attractive building (no more exterior views where blinds are open, closed or at various positions all over the building),” Sanders said.

This all sounds great, right? But what about installation? How is installation different compared to other glazing products? According to Sanders, there really are no differences.

“It’s like a regular insulating glass unit, but it has a wire coming from it,” she said. The contract glazier installs the glass and a low-volt contractor does the electrical work. And what about the benefits for the contract glazier? Sanders said there can be many, including increased revenues and profits and a competitive advantage during the bid process.

Build the Best; Be the Best
The last day of the conference offered attendees three speakers: one who showed good and bad buildings; one who discussed preserving claims and managing risks; and one inspirational presentation on being the best you can be.

A.A. “Sak” Sakhnovsky of Construction Research Laboratory in Miami opened the program with his presentation on curtainwall testing and common causes of failure. He talked about the development of different testing standards and specifications, and explained that testing is essential to ensure the building will meet the requirements of different specifications and codes. He noted, for example, that the South Florida building code began requiring the water leakage test in 1957.

He also showed many images of good buildings gone bad, and explained the different causes of failure, including those that involved different types of curtainwall systems, including terra cotta, brick, metal and composite panels. There was one particular example that had everyone talking.

“The whole building basically had to be re-skinned at an astronomical cost,” said Sak. “I asked where the architect was, because most of it was his fault. ‘Oh he’s gone,’ the building owner said. I said ‘what do you mean he’s gone? Can’t you find him?’ ‘Oh, we know exactly where he is,’ the building owner answered. ‘He’s in jail for robbing a bank.’ Evidently, he wasn’t making it as an architect so he robbed banks on the side. Someone watching the evening news saw a grainy picture of him taken by a camera at the bank and went to the police saying ‘I know that guy. He’s my architect.’“

Richard D. Kalson Esq. Followed and discussed claims preservation and mitigation. “Contracts are everything,” he said and suggested having two contract options: one that’s fair and one that’s not so fair, “the one where you want to stick it to someone; where you really need to protect yourself because there’s a lot more risk,” he said.

He also covered the importance of understanding and being aware of all the different clauses that can be found in contracts. Two of the most crucial are pay-if-paid and pay-when-paid clauses; the difference between the language of the two is huge. Whenever possible, he advised, see that the contract has pay-when-paid over pay-if-paid. This way payment to the glazing contractor becomes an element of timing. “Negotiate out any provision that creates a pay-if-paid clause,” Kalson said.

“Be very careful of what you sign,” he warned, adding that he had had a client who gave up his right to collect for seven years and had to finance $334,000 for that amount of time. “Very few companies can do this,” he said.

Rocky Bleier, Vietnam vet and football star, was the day’s last speaker. Bleier played for the Pittsburgh Steelers when they won four Super Bowls, but was also crippled after combat duty in Vietnam. Doctors told him he would never play for the NFL again, but not to worry, he would still have a “normal” life. Bleier beat the odds, went back to play pro football and now travels the country with his motivational address, encouraging everyone to be the best that they can be.

“Life’s battles won’t always go to the stronger of faster man,” he tells his audience, “but sooner or later, the one who wins is the one who thinks he can.”

Technology Lessons 
On the first afternoon of the BEC conference, attendees decided which break-out track to follow: risk management (see story on page 26) or technology. The technology session provided a look at recent developments in several areas including fire-rated glass, thermal requirements and curtainwall, structural glazing and insulating glass.

Bill O’Keeffe, president of San Francisco-based SAFTI FIRST spoke first to attendees about developments and changes in codes and fire-rated products—“hot topics in fire-rated glazing,” he said.

Fire-rated glass is no longer just for interior applications, he said. Testing and innovations have led to the development of such products that can also be used, for example, in curtainwall.

“Today’s fire-rated products can have many added features,” O’Keeffe said. “Including defense against bomb blasts, design options, enhanced energy performance and more.”

Staying in check with the green theme, Dan Rogers of Vistawall Architectural Products talked next about changing thermal requirements and the effect on curtainwall.

He discussed how thermal modeling technology can be used to provide a snapshot of how the curtainwall will perform. Other thermal performance products he mentioned included sunshades and interior light shelves.

When trying to sell the high-performance curtainwall systems Rogers advised his audience to know the budget and project requirements. “You can up-sell based on what the mechanical engineers want,” he said. 

Ron Haber and Jeff Haber with W&W Glass Systems LLC next spoke about innovations in structural glazing systems. They provided a history of these systems’ evolution and also talked about some future developments the industry can expect (read more about structural glazing in the related article in the February 2007 USGlass).

The day’s final presenters were Ron Spellich and Doug Zacharias of Oldcastle Glass who spoke about insulating glass (IG) technology. Their presentation gave a basic description of IG, the market and different products, standards, certification and the role IG can play in green building.

Contract Glaziers and the NFRC 
Greg Carney, technical director for GANA, provided an update on the National Fenestration Council’s (NFRC) efforts to develop a rating and certification program, called the Component Modeling Approach (CMA) for the commercial industry. (Editor’s note: NFRC’s Spring Membership Meeting was taking place in Austin, Texas, at the same time as the BEC Conference.)

Carney began with a brief history of the NFRC and talked some about the events leading up to the group’s decision to create a program for the commercial market, beginning with its site-built program, which it launched in 2000. Carney said, in his opinion, the site-built program was based on the NFRC’s current residential program and “the residential industry is very different than the commercial industry.” By 2004 the development of the “non-residential” program had begun. 

Over the past three years, NFRC’s push to develop the CMA has been met with much resistance, as many in the commercial industry simply see it as unnecessary, though some progress has been made.

“I am cautiously optimistic [about the future],” said Carney. “There are still issues and challenges ahead, but hopefully we’ll continue to make positive progress.” 

To learn more about the BEC conference, visit www.glasswebsite.com. Next year’s event will take place February 18-20 at the Rio All-Suite Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. 

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