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Low-E, high empathy

I do tell my wife stories about the conversations I have between the panes of glass that ultimately lead to empathy of another kind.

November 26, 2021  By Geoff Shellard

As someone who visits job sites as part of my responsibilities being an architectural glass sales representative, there’s always excitement that comes along with the unknown. What will I see? What will I find? And ultimately, the detective comes out.

In a previous life, I’ve been in people’s homes, businesses, on movie sets and in once-moving vehicles as one of the faces for a bio-hazardous recovery company doing trauma-scene cleanup, mould inspection and remediation, and was trained in the art of inspecting homes for residential sale. If I wasn’t on the hunt for mould, drugs or blood, I was looking for indoor air quality issues to help people live more comfortable lives.

My travels took me from one end of B.C. to the other. No matter the reason for my visit, no matter the cause for concern, there has always been a place in between the client and the resident, the renter and the homeowner, the owner and the occupants, that requires a unique set of skills to navigate.

At times I have had to enter job sites with empathy first, magnifying glass second. Suppressing emotions in order to assess and address things no one in their lifetime should ever need witness. At other times, I was inspecting to find faults that assaulted senses so I could offer solutions and relief. This brought me satisfaction. And playing with people’s dogs – one of the perks!


Now, as an architectural glass sales representative for a glass manufacturer in Langley, B.C., site inspections do not hold the same je ne sais quoi. I have no grandiose story to tell of a house flooded when the pipes burst, or of a drug lab remediation where baby lizard eggs were found in a freezer. Now, I come home around 5:45 and proceed to not tell my wife tales of shattered lami from seagull projectiles. There would be no wow-factor at the dinner table if I regaled her with tales of a fogged IGU (other than for me knowing it’s maybe the only one I will see for the year) or of back-painted spandrel units installed in a vision area with pinholes.

I do tell my wife stories about the conversations I have between the panes of glass that ultimately lead to empathy of another kind.

Empathy as a supplier of glass products that ultimately envelope a family of first-time home buyers weathering the ever-rising temperatures in the summer and the pending winter ice storms as the result of climate change.

Empathy for the entrepreneur who just signed a lease in a concrete tilt-up with our units gracing the storefront where they greet masked clients, hoping to still be in a business a few months from now.

Empathy for the clients who should have been off the job site one, two or three months ago if it weren’t for supply chain issues and labour shortages. Wondering daily when the curve will flatten, not only for COVID, but for the price increases and the reasonable predictability of what comes next once a contract is signed.

When in the field, my site inspections have taken on another facet. Meeting with my clients, their clients, and all parties of interest, I am not only inspecting glass but people’s temperament with their daily challenges. I am using empathy to inspect for resolve that the wave is crashing. Empathy, as I inspect for hope that the tide is turning. And where TriSeal and silicone prevent failure, a little empathy is also applied to help prevent others’ failure.

Geoff Shellard is a senior architectural glass representative for PFG Glass in Surrey, B.C.

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