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Key takeaways from BEC

Lots to think about following GANA’s Building Envelope Conference

June 4, 2014  By Rich Porayko

Attending the BEC Conference makes you a smarter person and a stronger professional.

Attending the BEC Conference makes you a smarter person and a stronger professional. You meet with the most important players in the industry. Sometimes it’s only for a passing moment or even a nod from across the room. Other people you get to see on multiple occasions and have some real time to catch up and share news. Or, you might establish a new contact by sitting next to someone you have never met before for a meal.

PPG’s Richard Beuke suggested attendees focus on the hardest thing to manage in business: that which is beyond your control. Contingency planning against the unexpected is the key to success in the present construction environment, he said.


Networking aside, they say if you walk away from a conference or seminar with five or six takeaways, consider the event a success. At BEC, which returned back to the great Planet Hollywood this year, you are bombarded with information, often from the moment you arrive in Vegas. It’s not uncommon to be on the same flight as other BEC attendees and share transportation to and from the host hotel – the perfect time to hear expectations on the way to the event and candid reviews on the way back to McCarran. Even during the recession, BEC was a strong event; however, with commercial construction now picking up, you can bet that the event is going to continue to grow like crazy.


Organized by the Glass Association of North America (GANA) and moderated by industry blogger and marketing guru Max Perilstein, the seminars varied from technical to motivational with a talk on innovative change by keynote speaker, former NFL quarterback Ron ‘Jaws’ Jaworski. Jaworski is currently an ESPN NFL analyst who owns several businesses, including golf courses and restaurants, and co-owns the Philadelphia Soul arena football team with Philly-native Jon Bon-Jovi. In other words, Jaws is a very successful person.

Jaworski says he learned a lunch-bucket mentality while growing up in a steel town. “My parents taught me that this is a great country. You are going to be afforded great opportunity. It’s up to you to take advantage of those opportunities. They taught me the dignity of work. If you work hard, good things will happen. When you surround yourself with people that you trust, you give yourself the best chance for success.” 

Even if you don’t follow American football, Jaworski’s leadership and guiding principles were inspirational and struck a chord with the audience, “Define, delegate and lead. Empower people. Build and foster relationships. Be sincere. Be honest. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters,” said Jaworski. 

The event kicked off with a presentation by Richard Beuke, vice-president of flat glass for PPG Industries, entitled Anticipating and Managing Change in the Glass Industry. “VUCA is an acronym used to describe or reflect on Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity,” Beuke told his audience. “It is a word I first heard about six months ago. VUCA is a word you’re going to hear a lot more in the future. Three years ago it was Six Sigma then Lean, now it will be VUCA.”

“VUCA is an acronym first used by military leaders in Afghanistan and Iraq as they were preparing the plan for a non-traditional and seemingly unpredictable enemy invasions. Business leaders adopted the same terminology and use it as a planning tool for non-traditional economic business shifts that call for a different strategic approach. Think of VUCA as a way of predicting potential elements of change. It’s a means of anticipating change in your business and your everyday life.”

“The commercial construction market itself is a poster child of volatility. We’ve all lived this over of the last five years. There have been extreme shifts in commercial construction demand over the past 30 years. The peak to valley is $170 billion.”

“External events such as the savings and loan crisis in the nineties and the 2009 financial meltdown have all triggered such great collapses in the cycle. And even overbuilding can cause these types of fluctuations and volatility. The one constant in life is the business of change,” said Beuke.

GANA’s energy consultant, Dr. Thomas Culp of Birch Point Consulting, gave another informative presentation on overall trends including increased energy codes, code adoption and enforcement.  “Even if you are in a state where the energy codes are not being adopted, you are still seeing it in the specs,” said Culp. “We’ve seen an expansion of the green codes. We all know that LEED is still the leader, but there has been demand out there for new green codes. They cover the same concepts as LEED, material selection, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, but it’s written in a code format to make it a little more useful to city planners.”

“We made some good gains in daylighting. We’re seeing a lot more top-lighting,” said Culp. “The use of skylights as daylighting will be required in more spaces. They are already starting in warehouses and grocery stores. You will notice a lot of skylights in the newer Walmarts. They do it because they find it is very cost effective. They can save a lot of money, it increases sales and it happens to be good for the environment. Daylight zones are being required to be identified when floor plans are submitted to code officials. The purpose is to force the architect to think of the layout of the glazing, maximize daylighting, and work with the daylight designer earlier in the design process.”

 “Over the last year, there has been an attack on the glazing area where ASHRAE 189.1 was proposing to reduce the window to wall ratio from 40 per cent to 30 per cent which was a 25 per cent reduction. We didn’t want to set a precedent so this was a big deal. It would have affected schools, hospitals and offices. The industry rallied and submitted 72 negative comments all asking for the proposal to be withdrawn. That got some attention but they initially didn’t back off.  However, after learning more about all the studies showing the strong positive impacts of windows, daylight, and views on indoor environmental quality, health, and occupant well-being, they did vote to discontinue the proposal.” Culp, GANA and other concerned organizations fought back again and won another battle, however the war against the window-to-wall ratio wages on.  

Courtney Little, president and general counsel of ACE Glass, has a unique combination of construction and legal experience and always presents a great summary of legal issues affecting the U.S. and Canadian glass industries. Little asked the audience if anyone had heard of the Silica Rule. Not many had, but according to Little, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is developing a rule to limit exposure to respirable crystalline silica and prevent American workers from developing silicosis. Sounds like a good idea; however, according to Little, the parameters are unrealistic. Little said that his sources noted that a spoonful of silica dust spread over the area of a football field is enough to be considered hazardous. Several Canadian provinces are in the process of amending their own regulations and policies. Legislation or not, you need to be aware of silicosis and the Silica Rule.

Have integrity. Get to know and use VUCA. Prepare for stricter codes. Celebrate increased daylighting. The battle for the wall is not over. Everyone is concerned about industrial disease. There are six decent takeaways right there.

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