I always take it as a quiet honor when readers contact us
because they are having a problem sourcing a particular product. And I
take it as a quiet victory when we are able to help, which we are able
to do more times than not. But there’s one type of call I get, about once
every four to six weeks, that always starts with the same sense of frustration,
bordering on anger.
That’s the call from the purchasing or estimating agent who doesn’t know
where to turn. You can just about hear the sense of defeat coming through
the phone. The scenario has minor variations, but it usually goes like
“We are doing a ‘green’ job and the architect has spec-ed this particular
type of energy-saving glass. It looks like there are only one or two plants
in the whole country that make it. Both of them are half a continent away.
I wonder if they realize that everything they think they are saving on
energy and more is being spent to get this glass to the jobsite?”
It’s a common complaint—the green equivalent of the penny-wise, pound
foolish cliché. And it manifests itself in other forms as well. Which
is greener—the window system with excellent R- and U-values that can’t
ever be recycled or the one with slightly lower ratings but better repurposing
possibilities? Which uses more energy—the manufacture of glass or the
That’s where life cycle assessments (LCAs) come in and that’s why they
are important. Most industries involved with construction are in the process
of developing ways to compare the environmental impact of different building
To me the LCA is the equivalent of an industry-wide vaccination against
energy claims that are dubious at best and fraudulent at worse. And like
a vaccination, it will protect us for years to come while attacking those
industries without any immunity.
In fact, all the “big gun” industry groups—GANA, IGMA, AAMA and WDMA—are
working together to develop a systemized way of providing the environmental
impact of building products through a consensus. We would all do well
to follow the efforts of this joint endeavor and to get involved so our
industry’s products are defined properly for decades to come.
Speaking of “big guns,” this issue is full of them. It includes
our annual salute and overview of the contract glazing industry and the
companies that live it.
Being a glass manufacturer surely has tremendous challenges, and fabricators
are the accordion layer, constantly squeezed by suppliers and customers.
Retailers have trials that being in both a glass AND a retail business
bring. But nothing, nothing compares to the kamikaze flying that contract
glazing businesses must do. They soar amid a non-stop onslaught of incoming
GCs, architects, banks, suppliers, building owners, and they must navigate
through them with the precision of a fighter pilot traveling at the speed
of sound. And one mistake puts them on the ground for good.
I love the glass business for sure. And the contract glaziers in this
industry remain my heroes because of what they accomplish, despite all
the odds. —Deb
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