Volume 47, Issue 4 - April 2012


Glazing Goes Techno
Top Tech Tools Every Glazing Contractor Should Try
by Megan Headley

Glazing contractors who spend their time in the field or meet with clients can benefit from a bevy of online tools designed to ease the construction process. From tracking products to calculating angles, from reading CAD drawings to keeping an eye on the jobsite, there are a number of tools available for the industry … and ideas of how to adapt those tools not yet geared toward glass.

1. There’s an App for Everything
We’re not talking about “crack & break it,” the app that allows you to (virtually) break all the glass you want without repercussion… No, as smartphone apps get hotter, glass industry manufacturers have developed tools available from Apple and Android to help glazing contractors at their job.

Companies such as Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope have apps available to help contractors locate where to buy glass products while Guardian offers a free Sunguard app as one option for helping users find a nearby completed project with details about the product installed.

“The mySAFTI app is the first and only fire-rated glazing app for smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices,” says Diana San Diego, director of marketing for Safti First in San Francisco, of another such app. ”This free, easy-to-use, interactive design tool helps users select the correct fire-rated glass product based on fire rating (20-180 minutes) or application (door, wall or opening). Users can also view and email product fact sheets, save their favorites, browse the project gallery or contact Safti First from the app itself. “

“It comes in very handy both in the office and in the field,” says John Kimicata of Rex Glass and Mirror Co. Inc. in Pittsburgh of this app. ”Having the ability to quickly reference sizes, limitations and product options helps to quickly move along a conversation with customers and designers.”

“I like how it has the specifications for all the different ratings and make-ups at your fingertips and you can email submittal info on the go. It also helps in explaining ratings and application to the people in the field,” adds Russel Rawlins of glazing contractor Performance Glass Inc. in Raleigh, N.C.

There are a number of general construction apps likely to pique jobsite interest as well. Harvey Swift, assistant director of education and training for IMPACT, suggests taking a look at some of the crane apps currently available. For $15.99, Crane & Rigger can help glazing contractors quickly reference capacity charts on hundreds of rigging items from D-Rings to Slings. It calculates common rigging and load formulas quickly and easily with various sling and load calculators, and includes load charts and specifications for more than 600 crane models. The Crosby Group’s Sling Calculator includes more than 15 calculators and utilities to aid in determining sling tensions, calculating a load’s center of gravity and computing the volume and weight of a load. My Crane Charts is another app that Swift says allows users to upload information on different makes and models of cranes.

Other general construction tools are finding a presence in the mobile world. Chet Willis, who handles business development at Western Window Systems, advises trying an app called TurboViewer. “I use it daily on my iPad for viewing CAD details of die drawings,” Willis says.

The free TurboViewer application is the first in a series of apps designed for architecture, engineering and construction professionals. It supports both 2D and 3D CAD DWG files for the iOS platform. Multi-touch navigation allows users to pan, zoom and 3D orbit around DWG and DXF™ files. To view drawing files, users can send an email with DWG or DXF attachment to their iPad/iPhone email clients. Drawing files also can be viewed through web downloads, FTP, Dropbox, WebDAV and iCloud.

Swift reminds potential app users to read customer reviews before committing to an app. “You can tell reading the reviews a lot more about the app than you can from the manufacturer’s description,” he says.

2. Measure Twice with Online Calculators
Speaking of measuring glass—most of the major glass manufacturers and fabricators today offer some type of online performance calculator. Guardian’s Building Energy Calculator helps users compare annual energy costs for a variety of glazing types in locations throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. Users can compare energy cost and consumption information for as many glass make-ups as desired. Results are summarized in data tables, illustrated graphically and available for customized report generation when complete.

PPG Industries offers an architectural glass product performance calculator to assist users in the evaluation of glass performance when specifying windows for new and retrofit building designs. Based on the Enermodal FRAME plus Program, the tool estimates the thermal and optical performance of a window system that includes PPG glazing using criteria such as U-value, solar heat gain coefficient, ultraviolet transmission, fading and color index. The company also recently released an electronic glass binder (see related story on page 50).

The Pilkington Sun Management Calculator is an interactive online tool for generating 3-Part Specifications in Construction Specification Institute format. It provides solar, optical and thermal properties of Pilkington glass products, including a variety of exterior appearance color options, a range of glass thicknesses and single- or double-glazing options. The company’s Thermal Stress Calculator is designed to help users determine when to heat-treat different types and combinations of glass under different conditions in order to resist breakage from solar-induced thermal stress.

Cardinal, meanwhile, offers an energy calculator that allows the builder or end-user to enter specifics house details, from orientation to shading use, and then input window combinations to see how adjusting framing and low-E glass options can drastically alter heating and cooling costs.

AGC Flat Glass North America offers a customer-driven glass performance calculator as well; the end-user can see how varying the combinations of glass type or thickness, coating type, airspace and other configurations all impact the ultimate performance of the final glass. Upon completing the data input, the user is given the option of generating a three-part spec then and there.

In addition, there are third-party produced calculators that may prove helpful to a glazing contractor in the field. As Swift points out, every glazing contractor can benefit from having a scientific calculator handy, and there are free versions of the basic tool available. In addition, there are construction calculators, such as the Construction Master Pro. “It’s not cheaper than buying the construction calculator, it’s just a matter of convenience that if I already have a cell phone … I can either spend $15 to buy the separate construction calculator that I can carry with me and leave somewhere or I can download the construction calculator app for the same price and have it on my phone on my hip at all times,” Swift says.

Or check out the BlockLayer app on Android’s platform. The app provides calculations for squaring up mark-outs, bevel gauge markers or centering spacing balusters, and more. The related RunTalk is an Android app that speaks running measurements while users mark them out. Hit “auto speak” and the app will say the measurements at set intervals.

3. Lite Tracking Made Mobile
Fabricators right now seem to be getting the biggest benefit from lite tracking technology, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be found soon in a jobsite near you.

Currently, the technology allows fabricators to label a specific piece of glass and track it throughout the factory.

John Dwyer, president of fabricator Syracuse Glass Co. in Syracuse, N.Y., uses the FeneVision web center software from FeneTech Inc. in Aurora, Ohio. “We give our customers a user name and password, and from our website they can not only track their open orders through our plant, they can enter orders, create quotations, generate quotations to their customers, reprint old orders or invoices, lots of things. We also laser mark many of our glass products with the order number and line number, so the customer can enter that number and see exactly what that glass is and its size. All of this information can be accessed from a smartphone. We also scan all documents related to an order, and attach those documents to the order in the computer. We can see all that in the office and, soon, our customers will be able to see all that too,” Dwyer says.

“As an integrated system, FeneVision provides the ability to track the status of production at any level desired, such as an individual lite of glass as it moves through the production process,” explains Ron Crowl, president of FeneTech. “This status can then be monitored through our online web center product that not only allows quotes to be generated and orders to be placed but also the status of placed orders to be viewed.”

Crowl notes that he is not aware of lite tracking applications specifically for glazing contractors that ties back to the manufacturer. However, he agrees, “I certainly do see a value for something like this.” Crowl points out such an application could be helpful to indicate the storage location of lites within the construction zone; allow the glazier to electronically reorder a damaged lite from the jobsite and specify the reason for reorder; or even allow the glazier to indicate the completed installation of a lite and receive indication of what is left to be done.

Of course, there are online tools available today to help contractors track equipment and even help pedestrians track a job’s progress.

4. Quick Response with These Codes
Quick response (QR) codes, such as those seen throughout this magazine, are becoming more prevalent in the construction industry.

For example, back in February 2011 New York City Mayor Bloomberg announced the use of QR codes on all Department of Buildings permits, providing New Yorkers with instant access to information related to buildings and construction sites throughout the city. Similar to how a barcode provides information through a scanner, QR codes provide smartphone users with immediate access to data by scanning the displayed code with their devices. By downloading a free application on a smartphone, New Yorkers are able to scan the QR code of any construction permit and instantly learn details about the ongoing project, including the approved scope of work, identities of the property owner and job applicant, other approved projects associated with the permit, the complaints and violations related to the location, and the user has the ability to click a link that initiates a phone call to 311 to make a complaint.

In other applications, General Equipment Co., a surface preparation tool company, includes QR codes on its products. When scanned with a smartphone, the codes direct users to videos, literature, operational tips, service information and manuals. They are printed on weather- and damage-resistant data plates, which are securely mounted on each piece of equipment. It’s a model that could easily be followed by glazing suppliers (see related information below).

Practical Uses for QR Codes
Mike Van Egeren, creative director at Bang Creative, a company specializing in e-marketing and content development, offers a few suggestions of how QR codes could benefit glazing contractors and the glass industry at large in a number of applications:

• On trucks and/or installation signs—post all your contact information, including phone, email and social media links;

• At trade shows—visitors to your trade booth can scan a code and register to win instantly. This is a great way to gather contact info and do post-event follow-up. You can also link to themed videos and demonstrations, or just contact info;

• On consumer and trade print—generate printable coupons;

• In retail applications—post a QR code on your store displays and link those to videos. Infrared video, for example, might be a handy way to compare the thermal performance to competitors;

• On packaging—a QR code can link to installation instructions, how-to videos or any type of PDF manual. The nice thing about this solution is that you can update the information and repost it to your landing page without ever changing the QR code;

• On jobsite uniforms—it’s actually pretty easy to create custom t-shirts and hats with QR codes. Your workers become walking billboards; and

• On business cards—an obvious application, but a good one.

5. Jobsites Caught on Camera
Construction webcams have been used by general contractors for years, but there may be benefits for subcontractors as well.

“Our company is similar to many specialty trade subcontractors,” says Ted Miller, CEO of Miller-Clapperton Partnership Inc., an Austell, Ga.-based fabricator and installer of metal composite material. “Our scope of work will not usually support a full-time onsite project manager. Therefore, we are dependent upon our project managers to travel to jobsites on a continuing basis to keep track of the progress of precedent trades to know when areas are ready for field dimensioning, etc. There have been too many occasions where we have been told by a general contractor that an area is ready to be field measured, we purchased $1,000 worth of plane tickets, assigned two men to go to the jobsite for two to three days, and arrived [to] find that the area in question has not been framed or does not have adjacent termination points in place.”

That’s where a webcam comes in. “An increasing number of our projects have jobsite webcams,” Miller says. “This relatively ‘low-tech’ tool produces benefits immediately. All subs can view progress or lack of progress on the areas of the building where the webcams are stationed; at the office, at home, at the airport, anywhere where you have Internet access. This has really benefited our company in planning field-dimensioning trips and other aspects of the project.”

Megan Headley is a special projects editor for USGlass.

She can be reached at specialprojects@glass.com or follow her on Twitter @RMeganHeadley.

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