Volume 44, Issue 4 - April 2009


GANA’s Las Vegas Show
The BEC Conference in Review 
by Megan Headley and Debra Levy

Russell Ebeid, president of Guardian Glass Group, delivered the industry equivalent of a gut punch during his speech on “the State of the Glass and Glazing Industry,” at the Building Envelope Contractors (BEC) Conference in Las Vegas in February. The BEC Conference was sponsored by the BEC Division of the Glass Association of North America (GANA) and took place this year at the conclusion of Glass Week (for more on Glass Week look for the May 2009 USGlass)

Ebeid Says Primaries Will Change Hands 
Ebeid provided the crowd with deep, global and forward-looking insight through a speech in which every sentence was food for collective industry thought. One comment in particular brought dead silence and then an audible gasp from the audience.

In highlighting the changes among the primary glass manufacturers, Ebeid said that three of the primary manufacturers most likely will be acquired or change ownership within the next year. He lamented the decline of the glass industry as its own industry with people at the top who truly know the business.“

North American glass manufacturers are in turmoil,” he said. “More than 50 percent of North American flat and 60 percent of automotive capacity has recently or likely will change ownership in the future.” 

And, he said, the primaries have done this to themselves. “Industry practices have led to making the sale of glass look more like an auction of commodities than anything else,” he added.

In a not-so-veiled reference to the introduction of so-called low-maintenance glass a few years ago, Ebeid cautioned against the promotion of products that don’t live up to their promotion. “What was it really?” he asked, “Was it low-maintenance? No-maintenance? With distilled water? If there is sun? The gap between what was promised and what was delivered affects the whole industry,” he cautioned.

He also addressed the emerging solar market. “We face a dot-com moment in time with all the rush to solar. It will take time to determine the winning strategy. Some very real opportunities are emerging. No matter what wins, solar will play a key role and may provide a number of opportunities for the glass industry.”

He discussed a “new paradigm” for the glass industry that uses a renewable source of energy and engages in recycling.

“Those who cling to the past risk becoming part of it,” he said.

Huffer Hits Glass’ Highlights

During his keynote address on “How Green Building and Energy Will Affect the Contract Glazier,” Russell Huffer, chief executive officer of Apogee Enterprises, returned to the basics—the reasons the world uses glass: providing great aesthetics, creating a view and harvesting daylight. According to Huffer, the green movement is giving the industry more value every day.

“Natural daylight is the most efficient way to light a building’s interior,” Huffer explained.

He remarked that more than half of existing commercial building stock is single-pane glass, and that more than 65 percent is clear-coated glass. “Our marketplace is ripe with this opportunity,” he said, urging contractors to focus on replacing inefficient stock. 

And while photovoltaic (PV) modules in all of their uses, particularly as integrated into facades, is a hot topic within the industry right now, Huffer once again urged his audience to focus on established coating technologies rather than PV, which still has leaps and bounds to travel before having enough efficiency to truly be worthwhile.

“I think harvesting light is many more times efficient than the use of building integrated [PV] systems,” Huffer said.

High Performing Glass
Greg Decker of Technoform opened his talk on the “Future of High Performing Fenestration” by pointing out the market drivers for high-performance fenestration, including rising costs of electricity and natural gas, the movement toward CO2 cap and trade, tougher energy codes and the prominence of LEED and green building trends. He noted that the biggest factors in the growth of high performance glass will be the new administration in Washington. He pointed out measures for improving energy efficiency in the stimulus plan and the fact that property values are beginning to be influenced by a building’s energy use.

High-performance fenestration is becoming available in a number of ways, Decker said. Triple glazing is become more common in Canada and the Northern United States, with some instances of quadruple glazing occurring. Films, tints, low-E, insulating glass units and thermally broken systems are all being further developed to continue improving energy efficiency, he added. 

There are also new technologies, such as building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) glass and switchable glazing. 

“I personally think this is going to be a pretty big area,” he said of BIPV. “I can see a time when the glass in commercial buildings, that you don’t look directly through, will have PV in that … the costs of that stuff are coming down.” He also predicted that within the next 10 years or so switchable glazing might start to gain some ground in exterior applications. 

“I think true sustainability is going to be a big trend over the next 20, 30 years,” Decker added. “It’s going to have impacts we don’t even know about yet.” And the companies that jump onboard now will win, he added. 

To further expand upon those energy topics, Bill Yanek, GANA executive vice president, spoke further on “Energy: A Crisis, Challenge, and Opportunity for the Flat Glass Industry (see February 2009 USGlass, page 10, for more). “We are energy intensive [as an industry]; there’s no way around that,” he commented.

Yanek said it won’t serve the industry well to stay in a “defensive crouch” as to the manufacturing process’ greenhouse gas emissions, but rather needs to focus on the critical ways in which glass can contribute to greening buildings. 

Vince Van Son of Alcoa provided an overview of the building blocks of PV systems, and noted that a lot of fabrication work can be done with the glass modules—but it can quickly become very expensive, more so once the package is integrated into a building façade. He noted, however, that there are lots of expensive façade choices out there that provide no benefits beyond the obvious one of aesthetics.

After explaining how the building blocks of solar modules work, Van Son closed with the noteworthy observation that, within the ten minutes of his presentation, the earth had received more energy from the sun than was used planet-wide in the last two months.

Successful Business Practices
Richard Kalson of Thorp Reed & Armstrong LLP led a presentation called “Risk Management through Contract Administration.” Kalson offered the sage advice, “You have to make sure all of your people company-wide follow the same rules.” As he noted, the law sees each regional representative as exactly that: representative of the company in their decisions. Kalson said to follow a very simple precept: get it in writing. 

Marcus Burkhart of Enclos Corp. had some very commonsense points when it came to safety during his talk, “Safety in the 21st Century: What is Required on the Job Site?”

“Why is it we have to fight daily to get people to comply with safety?” he asked. “All we want is to make sure no one gets hurt and no one dies.”

The audience of contract glaziers also heard information about how the upcoming National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) certification program will impact their work.

Tom Culp of Birch Point Consulting explained the importance of understanding the ins and outs of the NFRC’s Component Modeling Approach (CMA) for commercial project certification: “This is go year,” he said. “This is going to impact you starting this year” (see December 2008 USGlass, page 12, for related story). A 6-month pilot program, focused on California, began in March 2009, with full implementation of the program expected in October 2009. 

Yet, as Culp surveyed his audience, it became clear that only some of the attendees already were familiar with CMA. But, as Culp pointed out, certification will very soon be finding its way into specifications, and glaziers will need to begin scheduling in time for potentially lengthy delays for suppliers to certify their products (a process that can take one day to 100, Culp said, depending on whether the system is pre-certified or custom-made).

Culp advised the audience take several action when preparing for certification: understand what the system will require; develop a strategy for handling certification requests; consider splitting out NFRC certification costs as a separate line item on bids; build in time to get a label certificate; talk about certification with your metal and glass suppliers; and support your associations.

Greg Carney, GANA technical director, explained why that last item is important. He provided some history on NFRC and GANA’s involvement with it, as an advocate for the commercial glazing industry.

“We still question whether there’s a need for this program in the commercial marketplace,” Carney explained.

Culp agreed, cautioning the audience that many people involved in the NFRC process “feel that this encourages the use of standard systems, and we all know that the custom systems generally have better performance.”

Looking Ahead
Henry Taylor of Kawneer, the incoming chair of the BEC Division, summarized and elaborated upon a number of the key points discussed during the three days of presentations. He told listeners to plan for the worst and hope for the best when it comes to the next several months of the tightening economy, and then reminded the audience of the cyclical nature of the industry. 

For the upcoming year, Taylor offered a few words of advice. First, he said, stay close to your banker. “Bankers can cause companies to go under,” he said, making it key to be in communication with them. 

Look at your general contractors, he advised. He recommended focusing on working with those contractors with whom you already have a good relationship—but to also introduce yourself to those particularly strong contractors out there. “Make sure you service them well,” Taylor said. “I think servicing is going to be key over the next few years.” He added, “Make sure you know the value you bring to your general contractor and relay that to him.”

Taylor also advised glaziers to know their suppliers, and to work with those suppliers that offer products and technologies to differentiate your business. 

“Now is the time to build networks,” Taylor said. “Rely on them.”

Megan Headley is editor and Debra Levy is publisher of USGlass magazine.

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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.