The Enemy: Still Us

You’ve probably heard it said before, but no one has ever shown it more graphically than Serge Martin of AGC did during his presentation at the Building Envelope Conference (BEC) two weeks ago in Las Vegas.

There before us was an updated and horrifying look at what everyone says anecdotally, that is, that glass has shown no real increase in price in nearly the past 20 years. Using the producer price index for a number of construction materials, including brick, asphalt, wood and cement, Martin showed that our industry is the only one pricing itself lower as time goes on. Take a look:

Now maybe if there were some great new and wildly more efficient process to make glass, then perhaps such a curve would make sense. But flat glass is still made by the float process, which, last time I checked, hasn’t changed all that much since its creation. In fact, every single hypothesis I could come up for why such trending exists proves false except for one: our own stupidity. What do you think? Why is the glass industry unable to propel itself upward as an industry as almost every other building product sector has? Or are we still just our own worst enemy?

In other news ….

More industry changes continue as one of the world’s foremost authority on the float glass industry, Russ Ebeid, announced his retirement from Guardian Industries last week. Today, Guardian announced that Scott Thomsen, vice president of the North American flat glass group, would be his successor.  Not sure what Mr. Ebeid will do in the future, but I do know from some e-mails I saw last week that another recent retiree, Lyle Hill, has volunteered to be his driver….

Also surfacing last week was that mystery man of the mountains, Donn Harter, who sent this note: “You might say I am in semi-retirement. I will probably never stop taking code interpretation calls. My life in Fish Camp (editor’s note: place of residence in Northern California) is full.” As chairman of the Fish Camp Advisory Council, chairman of the Fish Camp Fire Rescue Association and, for seven months a year, a road maintenance contractor for the Mariposa County roads in the area, Donn sounds extremely busy for someone who is supposed to be retired. But he will still be involved with the glass industry.

“I will continue to maintain counsel to the California Building Commission, Sate Architect’s office, Contractor’s State License Board, Energy Commission, Cal Fire, ADA and on California Accessibility issue,” he said in his note. “And, most importantly, I will have more time for my family and friends.” I have Donn’s contact info if anyone needs it.

We also had a lot of news stories erupt last week. Let’s all hope for a quieter week this week.

3 Responses to “The Enemy: Still Us”

  1. Kris Vockler says:

    Dad and I were talking about this at lunch. We couldn’t come up with anything as to why. I would guess, one big reason for why the glass price has stayed flat is as Serge put it, the barrier’s to entry to the market in North America are low. Making it a highly competitive market, which would bring prices to commodity level and keep them there. If those fabricating glass didn’t bring anything new to the market, the price of glass wouldn’t need to rise. It’s gotta be the lack of new value. Yet, how can that be, with all the new products made today.

    I’m interested in what other’s think. That chart was sobering.

  2. Rich Porayko says:

    Hear, hear!

  3. Eric Tyira says:

    Think of the materials that glass is replacing in construction alone. This would not be the case if glass prices had increased along with all the others shown in the chart. If glass prices did increase, think of all the construction that may not have happened or the advances that have been made in Solar because of glass.

    I remember being in an automotive plant some years ago and they signed three-year contracts that drop the price of the unit each year. This is similar as to what the solar manufacturers do now. Lock in low prices and force the vendor to lower them as time goes on. Smart way to do business and keep innovations coming.

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