Volume 49, Issue 3 - March 2014

Issue@Hand
deb@glass.com; twitter:@keycomm

Green Vaccine

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 this:

“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 HVAC systems?

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 products.

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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