Volume 51, Issue 2 - February 2016

Delivering the Goods
Why Contract Glaziers are Crucial to the IPD Process

by Nick St. Denis

In the construction and architectural world, efficiency is not limited to just energy.

Take a look at any large-scale commercial, institutional or high-rise residential building, and chances are, behind it is the story of a group of professionals from various industry trades working in unison to complete the project on time, and on budget.

Collaboration has been the name of the game for some time in the building community. Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is now a commonly employed approach in which the design team is formed in the early stages and includes not only the architect, general contractor and developer, but also various subsectors of the project team—including the contract glazier.

“In the last several years, this has been the way to fast-track projects and get them going,” says Jeff Haber of Nanuet, N.Y.-based W&W Glass. “Once a client or owner has decided they are committed to a job, they want to get it done in a hurry. With IPD, the timescale from start to finish—concept to turnover—has been shrunken dramatically.”

Glazier a Key Player

The glazing sector has become an important factor in the process given the many intricacies involved in modern-day building envelope designs.

Mic Patterson is vice president of strategic development for Enclos’ Advanced Technology Studio based in Los Angeles. Patterson says factors that increase project complexity include “convoluted surface geometries, unfamiliar material configurations, accelerated delivery, schedules and the increasingly challenging site conditions​​ presented by dense urban environments.”

“It is not uncommon for all of these conditions to be in play on today’s large commercial and mixed-use building projects,” says Patterson. “The façade is generally the most complex and logistically demanding system in a contemporary building project. In addition, the building skin provides the largest component of the weather envelope in tall building applications, and there is great pressure to complete this work so that the interior trades can get started as early as possible.”

Haber says many independent architects don’t possess the in-house experience to complete the documentation and make these systems work. “You need the façade contractor, façade designer and/or manufacturer to help finish the document,” he says. “… Construction managers are spread so thin they can’t manage and coordinate all the trades. So what better way than to get the steel, concrete and glass guys on board early?”

Haber says up to 45 percent of W&W’s projects in recent years have been in the IPD/design-build/design-assist category. His company isn’t alone.

Kevin Carey of Alliance Glazing Technologies puts that number at approximately 40 percent for his Romeoville, Ill.-based company.

“They need that collaborative effort to maintain their budget and schedule,” says Carey, noting that the glazier is able to maximize value to the owner when involved early. “If I know that I’m part of the team, I’m more comfortable with allocating full-time resources to it.”

The contract glazier can help steer the project team in the right direction with glazing system selections, glass types, sizes, thicknesses, finishes, makeups, etc.

A New Age

Technology is key to making it all work.

“The ability to share a 3-D design in real time is a huge benefit and time-saver,” says Haber. “It’s much easier to share design intent on GoToMeeting with a Revit model than have to get on an airplane and hand-sketch the whole thing.”

Carey adds, “[Technology] helps streamline the process. I could be sitting with the project team, where we all have laptops and are putting up information as we go. We can be that much more productive.”

In an IPD scheme, the subcontractors also maintain dialogue among one another.

“Concrete subcontractors are usually big, as are any adjacent façade elements and precast panels that aren’t in our scope,” says Carey. “That coordination picks up a little more when talking about dimensions and tolerances.”

Project delivery approaches have evolved over the years as designs continue to get more complex.
This requires contract glaziers to get involved much earlier in the process, as their role in the project team is now more critical than ever.

Added Responsibility

While the IPD approach is time-efficient from an overall project standpoint and makes for a much smoother installation phase, it does come with challenges.

“It kind of shifts some of the burden from the architect to façade contractor,” says Haber. “You still have to do engineering, load calculations, etc. … For companies like ours, the five or six biggest companies in the country that do what we do, there’s a limited number of resources we all have. Which means we have to pick and choose our opportunities to deploy those resources in a way that works best for us. It has forced us to re-look at our business, and who we do business with.”

Patterson says there is still “widespread misunderstanding” about the various collaborative delivery processes.

“Many think that design-assist, for example, is about inviting the façade contractor in early and getting them to do as much free work as possible,” he says. “Collaborative delivery processes such as IPD and design-assist do not make the work easier or cheaper, and they are no simple panacea for complexity. The kind of deep collaboration that reduces risk and enhances successful results is far more demanding on management resources, and the outcomes are entirely dependent on the quality of management processes and capabilities.”

Good for Business

The glazing industry has much to gain in this world of team-based approach.

“Whether you’re a vendor, façade installer or façade engineer, the industry as a whole is better off with collaboration,” says Haber. “Successfully complete high-end façades benefit everybody.”

“The only thing to watch for is the economic effects,” adds Carey. “If the market dips again, I hope the construction community can continue to use these processes … This collaborative effort up front pushes our industry forward.”

Integrated Project Delivery and design-build differ in contract types and approach, but both underscore the importance of collaboration between the contract glazier and the project team. The Prism Tower at 400 Park Avenue South, installed by W&W Glass, was a complex design-build project.

the author

Nick St. Denis is an assistant editor for USGlass magazine. He can be reached at nstdenis@glass.com.

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