Volume 44, Issue 11 - November 2009


November Surprise

It always surprises me that things that shouldn’t surprise me still surprise me. In these past few weeks two things happened that shouldn’t have caught me off guard, but they did.

First up was an interesting article in one of the general construction publications about the growing concern over a sample ordinance for high performance buildings developed and released by the Portland Cement Association (PCA). According to the article in ENR, the ordinance “which adds and amends the International Building Code, was developed outside the standard consensus process and is biased, toward concrete, says sources.”

This should not surprise me because major building material groups (and even some companies) have grown very smart over the years and understand that one of the best ways to make sure your materials are used is to muscle them in (or someone else out) of a major building code. That fight we had years ago in Dade County over hurricane materials (laminated glass vs. shutters vs. window film) was as much economic as anything else. But two things about the PCA?proposal gave me pause. The first was the idea that an industry, as a whole, could be so proactive in beneficial code development. Our industry seems to have to spend its time and resources reacting to what other industries try to inflict on us rather than proactively developing glass-positive codes. The second was the brazenness of the proposal, which would also effectively eliminate the use of wood in multi-family buildings. Gee, it was almost as if an HVAC organization was trying to regulate the amount and types of glass used in buildings (see page 14).

Second was a report on NBC’s Today show about injuries caused by glass in furniture which aired on the very day the ASTM?committee was to vote on proposed regulations.?(The group is rewriting its draft to re-ballot this month.)

This shouldn’t have surprised me because I’ve been pointing out the dangers of unregulated glass in furniture for years. To quote this column from July 2007:

"It is long past time for this industry to develop standards for glass used in furniture. The gentlemen’s agreements that kept the right types of glass in furniture do not translate well to overseas manufacturers. Our offices here receive at least one phone call a week from manufacturers abroad, mostly from China, seeking to learn what codes and laws govern the use of glass in furniture. These companies seem willing and eager to follow any laws and codes that exist but, if it’s not legislated or codified, they are not going to upgrade the glass and add expense beyond what is mandated by law …
An industry can lose control of its own issue when public, political or legal outcry becomes so loud that control of that issue moves into those sectors. There are warning bells about glass in furniture ringing from all three of those areas already."

What made my eyebrows rise was the obvious coordination among consumer groups and the mainstream media to get this report on the air the day of the vote. Those groups have to come together around this issue and if we as an industry do not act, then others will. It is not going away.
—Deb Levy

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