BEC in the Books

The 24th edition of the Building Envelope Contractors (BEC) Conference is in the books. In addition to having a feel of normalcy about it, the event serves as a miner’s canary for the industry in forecasting coming trends. Here are my top five takeaways:

  1. The Energy Noose Tightens—well, it’s not a noose really, but it is a group of regulations designed to increase energy efficiency in buildings. New York City’s new Energy Codes are beginning to reverberate to other states. We can expect to see more, not less, regulation around energy in more states in the future. Luckily, our industry has products that offer the energy-saving performance these codes will mandate. But they are not easy solutions; architects must understand and embrace them, and their education is a crucial tool in the “battle for the wall.”
  2. First the birds and turtles, now plants—Brandon Andow’s discussion of how glass can affect photosynthesis was something most of us know instinctively but didn’t realize was the subject of scientific studies. With plants known to contribute to the health and well-being of office workers, we may see glass performance specifications designed to advance plant growth. These regulations will most likely advance first in states with liberal Cannabis laws (okay, just kidding about that part, he didn’t say that but quite an interesting coincidence that NOW we are worrying about indoor plants growing well.)
  3. Hard work ahead for hardware—A new subspecialty seems to be making its way across the country, centered with more popularity in the Mid-Atlantic and deep South: the “hardware consultant.” The hardware consultant is not a traditional consultant but a company that does all the hardware work for the building. This seems a regrettable trend to me. I hate when any of a project’s value—especially parts that had traditionally been in the glass industry’s domain—move elsewhere. And since the field of hardware is growing in size, complexity, and value, it’s not an area to acquiesce. Glazing contractors would be well served to have access to electricians and techies to offer these services themselves.
  4. Paranoia strikes deep, into your conference it creeps—well, not paranoia really, more like realism. Absent this year were the hordes of project managers some companies usually send. “I didn’t dare send my guys this year,” one company president told me. “I’m sure somebody would be trying to pick them off or offer them a job in the restroom. Nobody can afford to lose anyone right now.” An informal poll I made during the event bears this out: there are material and supply issues, but the labor shortage remains the single biggest problem contract glaziers face.
  5. Just say no, really—The presentations by attorneys are always sobering. They elicit a dead hush you just don’t hear in other sessions. That was true yet again when Vic McConnell, counsel with Smith Cashion & Orr, PLC, spoke during the “Managing Risks with Mock-Ups” session Monday afternoon. McConnell talked about some of the differences in risk in design-build and design-assist projects and how important mock-ups are. I was struck by the line on one of his slides, the gist of which was “Don’t do condos.” This is something that just about everyone in the crowd knows (some from sad experience), but it was a surprising simple statement to see. He explained that with condos, there are literally “hundreds of people who want to sue you—contractors, developers, and all those unit owners.” So they do.

All in all, it was a great few days in Nashville to feel a sense of normalcy and a hint of what the world was like before COVID.