The "I" in the
BEC Sessions Hone in On Industry Knowledge
by Ellen Rogers
They say in Vegas the eye in the sky is watching us all,
but it’s a different “eye” that takes the stage once a year when the contract
glaziers head into town. I-words, instead, were the name of the game during
the 2014 Building Envelope Contractors (BEC) Conference, organized by
the Glass Association of North America, which took place March 16-18 at
the Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino. Here’s a look back at five key themes
that resonated throughout this year’s event.
Richard Beuke, PPG’s vice president of flat glass, provided the opening
keynote address, with a look at anticipating and managing change in the
glass industry. One unique acronym carried his entire presentation: VUCA.
This, he explained, is an acronym for volatility, uncertainty, complexity
and ambiguity, which was first used by the military in planning for unpredictable
“Business leaders have started to adopt the same terminology,” he said,
explaining it provides a means for trying to understand what happens in
the future. “The business of change is constant,” he said.
He provided a word-by-word breakdown of VUCA.
Volatility: Meaning sudden, unpredictable change. Major events
can cause volatility and have an impact on our lives, he said. Beuke described
the commercial construction market as a poster child of volatility, having
experienced extreme shifts in demand. Even overbuilding, he said, can
cause fluctuations and volatility. Looking at the glass industry specifically,
he said a number of companies are no longer supplying coated glass, etc.
Uncertainty: meaning the possibility of multiple outcomes. This
is happening even in terms of traditional building assembly. Beuke said
we are starting to see early stages of modular building in the construction
industry, and a number of projects are in the works with modular pieces.
“We don’t know where this trend will go, but it might impact the traditional
contract glaziers,” he said. Another example is in new building envelope
designs, such as dynamic glazing. As this trend evolves will the glazing
contract of the future also need to be an electrical contractor?
Complexity: Signifying what’s intricate or difficult. This type
of change requires high levels of capabilities and competencies, he said,
adding that we are seeing increasing complexity in the construction industry.
Even selecting glass can be a complex process for architects he said,
as there are an estimated 2000+ low-E products in the LBNL windows library.
“Designs are more complex today than they were 10 to 20 years ago,” he
said, comparing the stick and unitized systems to the new “origami,” non-linear
designs. “We’re adding tremendous complexity to the envelope,” he said.
Ambiguity: Such as interpreting a situation more than one way.
Beuke cited the advent of LEED and green building as examples. “Did you
ever foresee/imagine we’d talk about environmental product declarations,
cradle-to-cradle, etc.?” He also offered questions to consider: what will
the consumer of the future want? What impact will it have on construction?
What will modern society do now and in the future?
“What will be your approach to change? VUCA helps us understand and anticipate
change and prepare for the change we know will come,” he added.
And speaking of glass specifically, he said, “Complexity is what keeps
us up at night … [there are] a lot of challenges on the float glass side.”
When Jon Kimberlain of Dow Corning Corp., welcomed attendees during the
opening address, the chair of the BEC Conference told the crowd that this
year’s event was designed to be interactive. And several panel discussions
took place, covering a range of topics, beginning with a look at different
types of glazing systems. The program also included discussions with groups
of both consultants and fabricators.
While microphones were set up throughout the room where attendees could
stand and ask questions, that was not the direction they took. Instead
they opted to text in their queries. In the first session someone, for
example, asked about the expected life cycle of different types of glazing
systems. Larry Carbary with Dow Corning said the honest answer is “I don’t
know.” He said in June there will be an ASTM symposium on the durability
of adhesives and sealants, and noted that the first silicone job was in
1958 and is now being restored. He said it’s (the silicone) still rubbery
and flexible like it’s new.
A question about increasingly larger lites of glass was asked during the
fabricator panel. Panelists agreed this is a trend they are seeing. Rick
Wright with Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope® added it seems to be a very niche
market, pointing out that most of these large units are coming in from
Europe. “The reality is at some point there will be a need for replacement,”
he said, stressing that’s a consideration that will need to be taken into
account as these projects are designed.
Building facades are changing. That was a message Mic Patterson of Enclos
Corp. brought to the conference, as he looked at innovation and rapid
evolution in building skin technology.
“The thing about innovation is it’s not magic,” he said. “It involves
research and development and investment of resources.” He said in North
America the glazing industry has not invested enough in research and development
and as a result technology here is behind that of Europe.
He asked the question, “What are the drivers of change going on right
“I’m an advocate for more stringent building codes,” he said. “I saw what
happened in the 1970s and 1980s in Europe where energy efficiency was
mandated by law,” he said. “And that drove developments in an amazing
fashion that put Europe probably 20 years ahead of the U.S. We [in the
U.S.] spend time arguing about whether double-skin facades really have
merit … and they just build them over there. More stringent codes will
benefit the industry.”
Patterson also said to expect a lot of change in terms of analysis and
GANA energy codes consultant Tom Culp provided an update on some changes
and developments in the codes arena, taking a looking at the continuing
“battle for the wall.” In January, he explained, the glass industry was
successful in defeating the ASHRAE 189.1 addendum that would have reduced
window-to-wall ratio by 30 percent.
“We won, but we can’t rest on our laurels,” said Culp. “There is huge
pressure at [ASHRAE] 90.1 for the next step in window performance requirement
in the 2016 edition, and window-to-wall area will come up again as part
Speaking of ASHRAE 90.1, Culp said the trend is toward increased stringency,
particularly in terms of window requirements, pointing out they are seeing
a decrease in U-factor, while solar heat gain is pretty much stable.
He said the 2013 edition of 90.1 is overall good for the industry: there
is no reduction in glazing; no new minimum visible transmittance requirements;
there are expanded daylighting/orientation requirements; the envelope
trade-off method includes credit for daylight and shading but not reducing
window area; and there was no relaxation in air leakage requirements.
Courtney Little, owner and general counsel of Ace Glass delved into a
topic about which many contract glaziers were unaware: OSHA’s proposed
crystalline silica rule. OSHA is proposing a reduction in the permissible
exposure limit of crystalline silica for the construction industry.
“Silica is the most common construction and manufacturing material in
the world,” said Little, adding that it’s nearly impossible to control
on a jobsite.
“You will have to use HEPA vacuums, wet methods and no dry sweeping—I
can’t imagine a jobsite without a broom; I can’t imagine how you will
be able to enforce or do this on a jobsite,” he said.
Little said the rule change could be extremely costly. He noted that OSHA
estimates the cost to be $658 million annually for compliance, averaging
$1,242 per year in real business. According to Little, OSHA concludes
that for construction, most or all costs arising from this proposed rule
would be passed on in higher processes then absorbed in lost profits,
about a 5- to 7-percent increase.
He said the rule will also require increased training, initial training,
ongoing training and updates. He explained employees will have to demonstrate
their knowledge of the training subjects in written tests, etc. It will
mean slower production (putting on protective gear and taking it off every
day) and establishing/policing avid restrictive areas.
There will also be the cost of employee health monitoring, including an
initial health exam for employees who may be exposed to silica as well
as follow up exams every six months. Other costs may include retaining
an industrial hygienist to test each job site, which costs $200 to $400
per test; purchasing/maintaining personal protective equipment; and higher
costs of materials from suppliers who are subjected to the same costs.
For more on the BEC Conference look to www.usglassmag.com
for our daily video coverage from the event.
Ellen Rogers is the editor of USGlass magazine. Follow
her on Twitter @USGlass and like USGlass on Facebook to receive
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