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Bridging the Gap Abundant glazing options call for greater knowledge by Megan Headley

Adapted with permission, this article originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of USGlass. We’ll admit it, there’s a lot more to a building than just the glass. And while we as an industry are charged with knowing the ins and outs of all the countless types of glass products available— architects are being overwhelmed by the need to know so much more. “They need to know 30 or 40 trades,” points out Brian Hale, Sr., president of Hale Glass in Placentia, Calif. Alissa Schmidt, architectural design associate at Viracon in Owatonna, Minn., agrees. “Glass is only one of many thousands of products that architectural students must grasp while in school,” she says, adding, “so we often offer basic courses for new architects to help bridge this gap. Even experienced architects need more in-depth information as glass fabrication technology is becoming increasingly complex. New energy requirements, changing codes, and aesthetic preferences have given birth to many new glazing options, but such sophistication requires greater knowledge.”


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That’s why we give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, whose fault is it if these problems keep reoccurring in the drawings you see? Is it the architect’s for not knowing the intricacies of the glass he’s detailing—or the glass suppliers and installers for not teaching him?

Know Your Products Jay Meiries, who handles architectural sales for Vitro America’s location in Farmers Branch, Texas, recalls at least one recent set of specifications that listed a glass product that hadn’t been manufactured in about a decade.  “These architects are … basically clicking and pasting specifications from companies that aren’t even in business anymore,” he says.  Hale adds that he sees specifications that don’t coincide with the plans. “Often they’ll go and list four or five different glass colors that don’t even match the drawings in the specification. So they’re buying a spec and they’re not cleaning it up to make it job-specific, they’re just sending it out there and that confuses everybody. The specs say one thing and the plans say something else,” Hale says.

“The confusion not only prolongs the specification process, but it adds to the costs,” Meiries says. He adds, “It’s not their fault, and that’s the bad thing. It’s us as fabricators, it’s us as manufacturers that aren’t getting out there and giving the architects the education they need.” Sometimes the problem isn’t so much listing outdated products, but listing a limited number of products. “I wish they knew the disservice they do to their customers when they have a proprietary specification,” says Max Perilstein, vice president of marketing of Arch Aluminum and Glass Co. in Tamarac, Fla. “By only listing one item, they limit the playing field dramatically and possibly keep out better products that could be acquired more economically. This is especially bothersome on schools where money is tight.” That’s an area where the glazing contractor may help out, says Phil Delise, vice president of Massey’s Plate Glass & Aluminum, a glazing contractor in Branford, Conn.  “We have to go by the specifications,” he says, but adds, “If there’s something in there that we feel that we have a better way of doing we can offer, we do a lot of voluntary alternates at the time of the bid.” Guiding this process is a part of the contractor’s job, after all, says Steve Burnett, a director at Seattle location of glazing contractor Walters & Wolf. “Once we see their specification of the product we help guide that process … And from a cost standpoint we’ll often look at a product they’re specifying and, if we can match that product with a similar product of a lower cost, we’ll offer those options,” Burnett says. “At times they specify a product that we know doesn’t work technically so we deal with that. We’re always the party that decides whether it’s tempered or heat-strengthened. There’s always code issues that we need to deal with.” Sometimes, too, when architects specify a product that they want—it may not be the product they think they want. The goal, of course, is to discover this before the project is complete …  Chris Dolan, director of commercial glass products for Guardian Glass Group in Auburn Hills, Mich., explains that when Guardian relaunched its SunGuard architectural glass program two years ago the company did extensive market research and learned “how difficult it is for architects to know how glass is going to look on the façade of the building.”

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Texas Architect July/Aug 2009: Residential Design  

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