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June 25, 2012  By Rich Porayko

Organized by the Glass Association of North America, the Building
Envelope Contractors Conference returned to the Paris Las Vegas Hotel
and Casino this past March with speakers and sessions designed
specifically for contract glaziers.

Organized by the Glass Association of North America, the Building Envelope Contractors Conference returned to the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino this past March with speakers and sessions designed specifically for contract glaziers. In addition to educational and professional development opportunities offered, the conference included a meeting of the BEC Technical Committee as well as the very popular networking receptions and table top exhibits.

Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope CEO Ted Hathaway addresses the conference. Hathaway sees opportunity in North America’s aging institutional infrastructure. Half of the U.S. government’s buildings were built between 1950 and 1995.


BEC division chair, Henry Taylor, who is the architectural services team manager for Kawneer, kicked off the event by telling the audience that the purpose of BEC is about sharing ideas. “BEC is about encouraging dialogue and conversation,” he said.


One of the highlights of the conference was the highly anticipated keynote presentation from Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope CEO Ted Hathaway, who described how technology is changing the glass business. “We need to think about the impact that the buildings we construct today have on the environment,” said Hathaway. “As an industry, how can we use new technology to build smarter building envelopes? Considering that in the United States, buildings consume over 49 per cent of the nation’s total energy, we need to re-examine past practices as the envelopes can no longer be passive or stupid. In fact, 50 per cent of the 8,603 buildings owned by the United States government were constructed between 1950 and 1995, and all of them are in need of upgrading.”

According to Hathaway, buildings currently account for 75 per cent of the carbon emissions on the planet, “So if we are serious about reducing greenhouse effects, we need to take a very serious look at how we construct buildings in the future and how we retrofit the existing stock of buildings to achieve improved energy performance.”

Hathaway told the attendees that technology and collaboration are the two crucial elements that will make for smarter building envelopes. “The technology that is coming out of the manufacturing and software industries is what is driving the new design-build process,” he said. “Three dimensional modeling with BIM, Revit, Rhino, Grasshopper, Navisworks, Nitya, horizontal software and iPhone apps are revolutionizing the ways buildings are designed and creating an opportunity for tremendous collaboration in all stages of the design-build process.”

Hathaway stated that energy efficiency, sustainability and environmental stewardship are guiding the technology and, by default, building designs. “The idea is for the building to exist in its environment in the most efficient manner. All of these technologies facilitate the creation of smart building envelopes.”

Reinforcing the energy efficiency theme, Chris Dolan, director of commercial glass products for global glass manufacturer and BEC co-sponsor Guardian Industries introduced Guardian’s new SunGuard photovoltaic glass units which are being produced in partnership with San Mateo, Calif.-based Pythagoras. The companies announced that Guardian SunGuard PVGU is a BIPV solution that replaces standard vision and spandrel glass or skylights with a glass product that converts direct sunlight into energy.

According to Dolan, a recent report from industry analyst firm NanoMarkets estimates that the total market for BIPV glass will reach US$6.4 billion in revenues in 2016 compared to $1.5 billion in 2012. “SunGuard PVGU will help architects and building owners who are looking for solutions to achieve net-zero buildings,” said Dolan. “The product lets in diffused light, increases energy efficiency and generates electricity from the building facade, helping projects meet the new green energy codes. Additionally, BIPV projects may be eligible to earn substantial federal tax credits.”

Victor E. Corniellier, CEO of TSI/Exterior Wall Systems, provided a sobering yet inspirational seminar entitled “Leadership in your Contract Glazing Firm.” “I have a passion for this industry,” said Corniellier. “I have been in it my whole life. Today our industry is very, very pained. Take a look around. We see businesses that are collapsing and closing their doors while others are reorganizing. You can say, ‘Well, that’s one more competitor that I don’t have to worry about,’ but if you have that attitude, it is wrong. Because what is happening to our industry is the net result. We have all used this phrase: ‘How the hell did they do the job for that price?’ You hear it all over the country.”

Corniellier presented a slide listing the names of ten well-known glass and aluminum companies that have recently gone out of business. “It is over for Trainor Glass, a pillar in the industry.

Moving into the future, we want to be sure that we are not adding more company names to that list. If you talk to surety underwriters, they will tell you that contract glazing is one of the highest risk industries in the building trades nationwide.

There are national and regional companies in the glass industry that are not going to be here this time next year. My point of this doom and gloom, and I’m not a doom and gloom guy, is that you have to be a realist. We have to figure out how we’re going to get through this. We’re dealing with downward banking pressure on small business the likes of which we have never seen before.”

Corniellier provided several takeaways to help leaders better navigate the current environment, including recognizing the difference between process failure and people failure, emphasizing the importance of leading through tough times with relationships, improving internal and external communication and using basic tools such as mission statements and SWOT analysis. “Culture is not something that is simply written, it must be engrained in individuals,” he added. “Strategy must be communicated and shared with all levels of the company. It is not something that is shared in an executive meeting or board room.” Safety is paramount. Corniellier suggested having your employees adopt the buddy system: “I’ve got your back.”

Corniellier wrapped up his presentation saying glaziers should live by three four-letter words: cost, cash and risk. “None of us is too big to fail,” he said. “These three words are the vital signs of your business.”

Another well-attended, thought-provoking session was the roundtable panel entitled “How Contract Glaziers Can Assist in Building the Buildings of the Future” featuring the four stakeholders of a commercial contract: owner, architect, general contractor and sub-contractor. Each speaker discussed what his desired outcome was and what a well-executed contract looks like. “This session is designed for the glazing contractor to better understand the perspective and expectations of where these stakeholders are coming from,” said Taylor.

One of the high points of the panel discussion was the presentation by David Bellman, senior vice-president for Avalonbay Communities. “I figure if it has to do with glass and aluminum exterior wall, if the guys in this room can’t figure it out, it probably can’t be done,” said Bellman.

“By definition, I’m the overall guy. I am not an external wall guy. From my budgetary standpoint, we are looking at the total package. We are looking at how the systems work together. We cannot keep up with the high performance coatings. Getting those coatings tested and into the market and understanding how they perform is important to us. Combining storefronts with exterior walls would make my life easier. There are companies that are looking at do this and I think that would be a great idea moving into the future.”

According to Bellman, there is available capacity built into production schedules, however these are starting to be absorbed now and Bellman cautioned that perhaps with some of the projects moving forward there might be some production consideration in the pipeline. “From our perspective, the things that constitute a well-formed contract is for the specification in design and design execution to be met,” he said, adding that developers are looking for product manufacturing to be high quality and delivered on time. Bellman said that developers such as Avalonbay want a glazier that can follow the pace of the job, fulfill commitments related to installation, be punctilious and complete the job and close the building on time. “Watertight dates are among my key dates. I want to know when the envelope is watertight. It is a major milestone for developers.”

Rich Porayko is a professional writer and founding partner of Construction Creative, a marketing and communications company located in Metro Vancouver, B.C.

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