Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Use technology, best practices to improve productivity

A panel of experts talked about Keys to Enhancing productivity at the 4th Annual ENR-CURT Construction Business Forum, June 15-16, at the Sheraton National Hotel in Arlington, Va. Paul Goodrum, associate professor, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Kentucky, College of Engineering, Lexington, Ky.; Albert Schwarzkopf, senior project engineer, Merck & Co. Whitehouse Station, N.J.; Jim Shoriak, director, Major Projects – Refining Group, Marathon Oil Co., Houston; Steve Toon, CE&T productivity engineer, Bechtel Group Inc., San Francisco; and Dave Umstot, vice chancellor of facilities management, San Diego Community College District, took part in the panel.

The experts agreed that using technology and best practices were key to improving productivity. “The construction industry is one of the largest manufacturing industries in the U.S., worth about $1 trillion, little lower now, maybe $800k-900k,” Goodrum said. “Construction lags behind other industries [in terms of productivity]. We need a productivity index. The data is there, but how you can begin to accumulate it is the question. We see a lot of variability in project performance. From project to project we’re not necessarily doing what we need to do. We need to ensure what needs to be done is being done. Technology can get you there.” Integrated design processes, such as BIM, allow designers, builders and trade contractors to work in a collaborative 3D environment during design and construction, he said.

There’s a need for workplace productivity analysis, Toon said. “Figure out how much time is spent doing direct work at the work place. All those pieces come together when you do the analysis. We want labor productivity at the back end. We need to embrace technology and need to implement it earlier on. Health and safety issues, HR policies, all need to be in place, and not shot from the hip.”

Doing the right thing in the wrong time is not necessarily productive, the experts agreed. “If not coordinated, productivity’s compromised,” Umstot said. “Timing the project is important. The owners need to put that in place. All of the contractors need to have input in the plan. Measure productivity on key activities, do a selection of the key activities, and roll those up in sector indexes. Theoretically, it can be done, but it’s expensive.”

Contractors who have the motivation, adopt best practices and succeed, the experts said.

“If we all improve productivity best practices, it will benefit the industry as a whole,” Schwarzkopf said. “We need to get better at that as an industry. If we do it, the rest of the world will follow, so we’ll need to keep improving.”

What’s missing now is a metric of best practices, Goodrum said. “We need to measure the practice. That’s the next step.”

Do you agree? What do you do to increase productivity in your company?

—By Sahely Mukerji, senior editor, Glass Magazine

Monday, June 21, 2010

Requirements for blast-resistant glazing projects

Are you considering jumping into the fray to receive some of the trickle-down recovery money? Perhaps you’re considering a project that requires blast-resistant glazing. If so, it's important to know what to expect, as many architect design teams have hired blast consultants to review submittals in detail. The stickiness of the submittal process really depends on who is looking at the submittals and who is preparing the submittals. Below are some submittal requirements that are typically necessary for a blast-resistant project:

Cover-all Performance
Usually, the specs will have a cover-all performance statement like: “provide design of glazing system to meet the minimum blast requirements of UFC 4-010-01.” But what’s usually missing are the specific performance design requirements - level of protect, explosive weight category and stand-off distance. Getting these items identified at the beginning of a project is essential for the project to flow smoothly.

• Glass Thickness Design
UFC 4-010-01 Tables B-2 and B-3 have minimum thickness listed for single pane and insulating glass. Usually, the minimums work in every case, but it must be shown by calculations according to ASTM E1300.

• Framing Components Design
Calculations are typically required showing that mullions deflections and stress do not exceed allowed limits. The limit for deflection is typically L/160 for static blast loads determined from the UFC criteria.

• Connections/Joinery Design
Calculations are required to demonstrate that all of the internal joinery, including glazing stops and the anchors to the structure, are able to resist the minimum of two times the static blast load from UFC criteria or the glazing resistance determined from ASTM E1300.

• Glazing Frame Bite
The UFC requirements point to ASTM F2248. The glazing pane must be adhered on the inside face of insulating units to the framing either with structural silicone or glazing tape. The only way to have a bite without tape or silicone is under the alternative of blast testing.

• Alternative of Blast Testing
All of the above requirements can usually be neglected with submittal of appropriate blast testing in accordance with ASTM F 1642. Many times this has already been performed by the manufacturer. However, if the proposed size of the glass and span of the mullions exceed that which was tested, you may be required to go back and fulfill all of the other requirements. Usually anchors from the framing to the structure are still required to be designed and submitted even with the blast testing results.

I hope this helps with your decision to go after some of these types of projects. The government recovery money is finally making it down the glazing industry. Just make sure that you have the right help to get the job done. Really these projects aren’t that bad, they just sound much worse than their “bite."

--By Stewart Jeske, P.E., president, JEI Structural Engineering

Monday, June 14, 2010

It’s time to get on the BIM train

My first introduction to Building Information Modeling was way back in 2006 at the first annual Glazing Executives Forum during GlassBuild America: The Glass, Window & Door Expo. Patrick MacLeamy from HOK gave a luncheon presentation to a group of contract glaziers saying that BIM was coming, fast—and boy was he right.

The number of firms that have obtained BIM software has doubled between 2006 and 2009, according to the 2009 Business of Architecture, a survey from the American Institute of Architects. That’s 34 percent of all firms, and about 50 percent of AIA architects, according to the survey, as reported in a June 11 release from the AIA.

There are a lot of industry companies that have already jumped on the BIM train—companies such as Kawneer, YKK, Trainor Glass, Wausau Window and Wall Systems, and Vitro America, to name a few. However, I’ve spoken to other folks in the industry who are employing the wait-and-see approach. My observations at industry events last week alone make it clear to me that the time for waiting and seeing has come and gone.

I was jet-setting my way across the country to attend the American Architectural Manufacturers Association Summer Conference 2010, June 6-9 in Oak Brook, Ill., and the AIA 2010 National Convention and Design Exposition, June 10-12 in Miami. And BIM was a major topic of conversation at both events.

AAMA is in the process of developing the first BIM standard for commercial fenestration.

"The purpose in developing a standard for commercial fenestration products is to better assist users of BIM files in understanding the level of information contained within the manufacturer's model, said Rich Walker, AAMA president and CEO, in a Jan. 22 release. "This will benefit the overall industry by standardizing the data contained within the model so that BIM can be implemented across a broad range of products efficiently and effectively."

“I believe it will be a highly used standard, once it’s created,” Mike Turner, vice president of marketing, YKK-AP, and task group chair, said of the standard during the AAMA meeting last week.

At AIA, I saw many companies on the exhibit floor touting their new BIM models, and the seminar sessions were filled with talk about BIM. One of the major topics, similar to AAMA’s move for modeling standards, was the AIA’s call for open BIM software standards.

For more information about BIM and the glass industry, I recommend looking at the following articles we’ve run in Glass Magazine. Let me know your thoughts about BIM, and how your company is getting on the BIM train.

--By Katy Devlin, associate editor

Monday, June 7, 2010

Weighing opportunities

I was struck last week by a member of the industry, with whom I chatted on a conference call. He remarked he'd just heard for the first time about an important piece of legislation that I thought "everyone" knew about. The bill offers potential rewards to those prepared to capitalize on it, and could be a short-term "game-changer" once it passes.

The experience got me to thinking about the word opportunity.

Merriam Webster's dictionary defines opportunity as a "Favorable set of circumstances. An opening. A chance to break new ground."

As this implies, opportunities are meaningless unless followed up with action. In addition, before one can seize the opportunity presented, one must first understand what they're looking at.

I believe our industry is about to encounter a few obvious, and some less-than-obvious, opportunities that are just now peeking over the horizon.

First, the move to use U-factor in lieu of R-factor when touting energy efficiencies to consumers is now being debated, and it appears to be gaining momentum. This could be a marketer's dream in terms of building demand for newly positioned energy efficient windows. Click here for more information.

Next, the push to increase the use of three panes vs. two in various zones for commercial glazing will further push the envelope of technology, which always drives additional breakthroughs and results in incremental growth. More here.

Another opportunity revolves around the rebates offered on Energy Home Star products (aka, Cash for Caulkers). This program is still being debated, but we believe it is likely to pass in some form this year. Sales of energy-efficient products are bound to spike once this program goes into effect.

In addition, we're seeing the push for "green" buildings gain further strength, with Building Star legislation just introduced a few weeks ago to provide tax credits to commercial builders and suppliers. Click here.

These, and more, opportunities are now available -- or will soon be -- for companies that recognize them, research them and determine whether they fit with their business strategy. (Of course, having the resources necessary to take advantage of the opportunities is equally important.)

Opportunity has also been defined as an auspicious state of affairs or a suitable time. A quote by Eleanor Roosevelt captures it this way: "If you prepare yourself ... you will be able to grasp opportunity for broader experience when it appears."

Are you prepared for your next great opportunity?

— By David Walker, vice president of Association Services, National Glass Association

Friday, May 28, 2010

Why NFRC uses U-factors for windows

Recently, I’ve seen a number of articles, blogs and online discussions regarding U-factor and R-value, especially with regard to fenestration products. It’s time for NFRC to set the record straight on this important issue.

NFRC recognizes only U-factors for energy ratings for important technical reasons, consumer reasons and legal reasons.

This is not a simple issue. From a technical perspective, U-factor is not a material property value. It is the result of a calculation that combines the conductance values of the numerous materials in a fenestration product. This includes glazing materials, gas fills, spacer materials, framing materials, weather strips, sealants, etc. In addition, it includes the convection and radiation elements that occur within and adjacent to the fenestration product surfaces that dramatically influence its energy rating. In thermal chambers, NFRC tests products at specific environmental conditions with tightly calibrated equipment, and also applies a standardized air film coefficient to assure repetitive results from lab to lab.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers has long recognized U-factor as the correct measurement for both fenestration products, and wall and roof assemblies. Only specific materials have a recognized R-value. In addition, the International Energy Conservation Code only recognizes U-factor for fenestration products. ASHRAE 90.1, for commercial buildings, and the IECC, for residential buildings, both reference NFRC’s procedure for determining the U-factor of fenestration products (NFRC 100).

As a 501(c)(3) public service organization, NFRC has an inherent responsibility to communicate to consumers, government bodies and others the most appropriate and credible information about fenestration product performance. Because U-factor provides more technically sound information for fenestration products, NFRC provides U-factors rather than R-values. U-factor is directly related to energy savings because it directly predicts reduced heat transfer. In contrast, the relationship of R-value to energy savings is more complicated and highly variable.

With the energy performance of products assuming increasing importance in today’s marketplace, fenestration product manufacturers face expanded legal risks if they advertise the energy performance of their products in an inaccurate or misleading manner. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has adopted regulations intended to protect consumers from misleading and deceptive advertising practices regarding R-values and home insulation products (70 Fed Reg. at 31,259). However, those regulations give no direct guidance regarding the use of R-values for fenestration products.

It is critically important that product performance is communicated consistently to all interested parties. U-factor is the recognized term for relating the thermal transmittance of windows, doors, skylights, curtain walls and fenestration attachment products. NFRC will continue to recognize U-factor – and U-factor only – for fenestration products.

--Jim Benney is the National Fenestration Rating Council’s chief executive officer. He has been involved in developing product and performance standards for the window and glass industry for more than 20 years. He can be reached at jbenney@nfrc.org.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The mental game

You’ve probably heard that “a 1000-mile journey begins with a single step.” This is true. Just as true is the fact that “the journey continues with a single step.” In previous blogs I stated that I am training to run 56 miles on my 56th birthday. Also stated were potential conflicts/obstacles that could interrupt my training.

During my training every time an obstacle has appeared, I have been faced with a choice to stop or find a way to circumvent the obstacle. What I have realized is that the challenge is not physical but mental. In fact, it really comes down to taking another single step.

At the end of March, I was scheduled to run 28 miles. I can run 1.2 miles from my house to get on the Country Music Marathon course. I pick up the course at the 6-mile point of the CMM. The course finishes at LP Field, home of the TN Titans. Counting some deviation the stadium would be 22 miles into the run. The stadium is 6 miles from my house so that would give me 28 total miles. The CMM course runs through Music Row and The Gulch areas, which are attractive interesting parts of the city. After these areas it is a very boring unattractive course. It runs by government subsidized housing and through an industrial area that borders the housing. We go briefly through a park and return to the industrialized area. When I reached LP Field (22 miles) I called my wife to come pick me up. I just quit! I was pissed but did not know why I quit. I replayed the decision to quit in my mind for several days until I determined an answer.

I discovered that I was mentally bored. My mental exhaustion led to a perceived physical exhaustion. I was at the foot of a pedestrian bridge that goes from LP Field over the Cumberland River into downtown Nashville. Downtown Nashville is an alive place with construction, the Country Music Hall of Fame, tourists and other distractions. All I had to do was take a single step to begin to cross the bridge and get into the downtown area. My brain would have been awakened and any perceived physical exhaustion would have been diminished. I would have kept running and completed the 28-mile run. But I didn’t take that step.

It wasn’t a physical reason I quit, but a mental one. The decision to quit is rarely physical; it is almost always mental. All I had to do was cross the bridge. It didn’t matter if I ran, walked or crawled over that bridge. It only mattered that I continued on my journey, took the next step and crossed the bridge. This has become my mantra. All anyone has to do to overcome an obstacle is just “cross the bridge.” In my case it was literal. In others it may be figurative.

“Just cross the bridge!”

—Bill Evans, president, Evans Glass Co., Nashville

Monday, May 17, 2010

You get what you pay for

2009 was a tough year for contract glaziers. Of the companies that made this year’s Top 50 Glaziers and provided exact sales figures for 2008 and 2009, 55 percent reported a decrease in sales volume. Glaziers cited decreased backlogs and increased competition among the reasons for the slide. Some described a bidding environment in which general contractors were “shopping numbers,” looking for the best deal. One company reported its competitor was bidding projects at cost, just to land the job.

Whether the fault lies with the clients for rewarding low bidders or with the glazing companies for submitting these bids in the first place, this type of environment is detrimental and frustrating for everyone involved.

I’m a firm believer, however, in the motto: “You get what you pay for.” And I think in the long run, our industry will actually benefit from this situation. If you’ve ever been burned by a service provider that you chose based solely on price, you know what I’m talking about. Oftentimes, it only takes one bad experience with a contractor to make you re-evaluate your selection criteria.

Companies that take jobs at unrealistic prices have to cut corners somewhere. As one glassblog reader pointed out: “If a contractor is 40 percent less than the rest, there is a reason. Material does not have that much of a swing from one guy to another, so … where are the shortcuts going to be applied?” Unfortunately, for some clients, those shortcuts are applied to the building itself, costing them more to fix than it would have to hire a higher quality company initially. Fortunately, for us, these clients will be better educated when they spec their next project, recognizing the value higher-priced companies bring to the table in the form of quality products, trained personnel and customer service.

While I don’t wish this experience on anyone, clients that look only at the bid number and not at the glazier are setting themselves up for failure. My bet is they won’t make the same mistake twice. What’s yours?

Jenni Chase, Editor, Glass Magazine