Volume 45, Issue 2 - February 2010


Integrated Supplier

One Supplier’s Shift in Project Delivery
by Megan Headley

Ted Hathaway, chief executive officer of Oldcastle Glass, in Santa Monica, Calif., wants to know what’s happened to the construction industry.

“If you look at the relative labor productivity of building construction versus non-farm manufacturing, the construction industry has the legacy of being the least productive industry over the last 30 years,” the Santa Monica, Calif.-based executive says. “And the architectural community is trying to rethink why that has happened.”

He continues, “The design-bid build was an early, normative process; the notion was that you went out and bid out the facets of the building to get the lowest cost but then, as the process unfolds, you discover that you have brought in a plethora of suppliers that don’t have aligned interests. So you have a glass supplier that is working with a curtainwall supplier that is working with a skylight supplier that is working with an operable window supplier and you have several different suppliers—each of which has their own vested interest.”

An integrated project delivery (IPD) is an approach that the American Institute of Architects says integrates people, systems, business structures and practices into a process that collaboratively harnesses the talents and insights of all participants to reduce waste and optimize efficiency of design, fabrication and construction. Oldcastle Glass is aiming to deliver just that.

“It’s a major, major rethinking of how buildings have been built,” Hathaway says of this construction trend.

Hathaway has been positioning his company as an integrated supplier for architects since its acquisition of Southwest Aluminum Systems in 2003. Since then, the company has moved beyond the definition of a typical “glass fabricator” and has evolved into a building envelope supplier.

“For many years now we’ve acquired and been providing products and services that are well beyond the definition of a glass fabricator,” Hathaway says. “The products we engineer today are vastly different from anyone in our space—there’s no one else in our marketplace that has the breadth and the depth of building envelope products. And no one else has the ability to engineer those products as an integrated system.”

The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Centre is one such example of Oldcastle Glass’ IPD approach.

According to architects Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF), the design of the RBC Centre reflects the reinvention of Canada’s largest, and one of its oldest, banking institutions. The 43-story tower, with 24,000-square-foot floor plates, rises from a 10-story podium, which is articulated by horizontal fins and holds 48,000-square-foot floor plates. The architect says the glazed form of the tower responds directly to its north-south orientation and corner location with a shield-like glass volume on the east-facing Simcoe Street façade. The volume sets back and angles in to mark the building’s main entrance, giving the tower a distinctive profile. Floor-to-ceiling windows enhance daylighting, while sun-shading devices and automated blinds tied to exterior light sensors maximize efficiencies and minimize operating expenses.

Oldcastle Glass designed, engineered and supplied the building envelope, including 420,000 square feet of custom curtainwall, solar control glass for upper floors and sound-resistant laminated glass for the lower floors.

“[RBC] represents all of our own systems. We designed the system with state-of-the-art energy efficiency and provided the architectural glass in an integrated building envelope solution. You have 442,000 square feet of architectural glass and we supplied a complete turnkey system,” Hathaway says.

“We designed, engineered, fabricated and assembled it,” says Mary Carol Witry, president of Oldcastle Glass Engineered Products.

About the Centre
Oldcastle Glass was awarded a contract for the project in early 2007.

“This is the first major office tower in the city’s core in more than a decade,” Witry explains. “The way Toronto is spread out they didn’t have to build large boxes in a condensed space.”

From the beginning, the company worked closely on design with KPF in New York and the architects of record, Bregman + Herman Architects in Toronto.

“We partnered with KPF and functioned as a part of their team,” Witry says. “From design and engineering to testing and assembly we worked with them through the entire process.”

Following the design phase, Oldcastle Glass’ Toronto-based Engineered Products facility coordinated and handled the engineering side of the project, as it specializes in high-end, highly engineered buildings.

Witry says that the company supplied 442,000-square feet of glass products, including 6,800 unitized frames, for the 43-story building. Glass units measuring up to 5 by 11 feet featured PPG Industries’ Solarban 70, with thermal warm-edge spacers and argon gas. The energy-efficient units helped contribute to the LEED Gold NC rating that the building targeted.

The company’s scope also included sunscreens, operable vents, skylights, louvers, canopies, soffits and doors.

The tower’s bottom 24 floors required security glazing, which Witry says, “required bigger and thicker framing members, massive anchors and laminated glass.”

According to Witry, those high-security systems brought the only unforeseen challenge. “The lower 24 floors were changed very late in the game from standard to high security so we needed to adjust right in the middle of our shop drawing phase and make sure we still hit the same project schedule and that nothing slipped. We had to do a massive redesign to accommodate the high security. We were behind the gun to make sure we maintained the same project schedule.”

"The construction industry has the legacy of being the least productive industry over the last 30 years."

An Integrated Approach

While the project is fairly standard, the supply chain was anything but. Witry indicates that its shift from glass fabricator to building envelope supplier has given her company a bigger role in the early design stages.

“We have evolved from glass fabricator to partner in the design process; we provide solutions and ensure that our building envelope products work together so that the architect’s vision is realized, the schedule is met and the owner is proud of the completed building,” Witry says.

She adds, “With supplying the building envelope, you’re really part of the process. You’re a solution provider and you have input and you can help the project get completed on time. When you’re a material supplier you’re basically just reacting to what somebody is asking for.”

It’s a total solution that Witry says architects respond to. “Architects value the ability to partner with one company on the entire building envelope and get all their questions answered and their design fulfilled,” she says.

Hathaway agrees.

“As we have evolved and transitioned from a glass fabricator to a supplier of integrated building envelope solutions, people see us as a more desirable supplier and partner,” he says. “I think people are interested in partnering with us and developing strategic alliances that are positive for both parties.”


Collaborating with Columbia University on Promoting Construction Collaboration
At its core, the idea of integrated project delivery (IPD) is about increased collaboration among all parties involved in a building’s construction.

“The trend is clearly to have more collaboration, more partnering,” says Ted Hathaway, chief executive officer of Oldcastle Glass, headquartered in Santa Monica, Calif. “IPD is an effort to try and get the suppliers and the parties that are involved in constructing a building to work more cooperatively and more intelligently.”

While Oldcastle Glass’ movement toward IPD certainly makes the company stand out for potential architectural clients, the building envelope supplier is taking the concept of collaboration so central to IPD to another level.

“We are underwriting a three-year research grant with Columbia’s University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) for a program called the Columbia Building Intelligence Project,” Hathaway explains. “We’ve committed substantial research funds to the university to explore this conundrum of why construction is so inherently inefficient.”

According to information from GSAPP, the Columbia Building Intelligence Project is a three-year pilot project designed to explore new collaborative relationships that have the potential to transform the building industry. Each year, the project brings together leading experts from various sectors of the industry to uncover key questions and problems, some of which will be addressed in the Integrated Design Studio (IDS). The IDS breaks down the traditional model of studio education by having three studios team up in a dedicated space to explore the complexities of a design problem, with each studio taking a part of the building problem before eventually integrating the full scope of work with the other two studios.

“It is a collaboration between Oldcastle Glass and GSAPP to really bring the best minds from around the world to study and ask the question ‘why is the construction industry so inefficient?’” Hathaway says.

For more information on the Columbia Building Intelligence Project, visit www.arch.columbia.edu/c-bip.


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