Architects Guide to Glass, USGlass

The News Today, Oh Boy

The future is a totally oxymoronic concept. It’s anticipated happily, yet at the same time, it’s dreaded. Parts of it are so certain they seem pre-ordained; other parts are completely unknown. The future is for sure, though exactly what it contains never is. It is feared and beloved at the same time. Well, the July issue of USGlass gives us quite a glimpse into the future. Whether you find what it says exciting or unsettling is up to you.

I think it’s a bit of both. You’ll want to read the story by Ellen Rogers called “The X Factor.” The “X” in the headline comes from BECx, the designation letting you know that the practice of “building envelop commissioning” (BECx) will be employed on the project.

Dynamic water testing often is included as part of the BECx process to ensure the building does not leak. (Photo: Intertek-ATI)
Dynamic water testing often is included as part of the BECx process to ensure the building does not leak. (Photo: Intertek-ATI)

What you think of the BECx depends on your point of view. If you’re the general contractor, BECx is a necessary technical extension of your staff, whose role is to make sure that the building is built and performs the way it was spec-ed. If you’re the engineer, BECx is an institutionalized extension of practices your firm is already undertaking for some clients. If you’re the glazing contractor, you’re probably confused.

For better or worse, the contract glazing industry has gotten used to having curtainwall consultants on the job and now even factors their involvement in the cost of any bid they submit (more time, more meetings, more reports, etc.). But BECx adds another layer beyond the curtainwall consultant. They are concerned with making sure the owner gets what he paid for across the entire building envelop, including roofing and non-glass cladding. Indeed, general contractors continue to get smarter. They want to slip-slide away from any liability in the case of failure just like other segments of the design-build world can do. The glazing contractor has always had to defend against any failure of glazing system, and they are used to that.

But a failure of a façade in an area where different trades overlap or have to interface could lead to a fight and actually stick to the general contractor or building owner.

Now there will be another layer to get through before anything sticks on either of those groups.

Talk about passing the buck—in fact “Passing the Buck” is exactly the title of another feature in the July issue. In it, special projects editor Megan Headley explores a growing practice among some contract glazing firms that has been the subject of much debate. Headley says that architects are increasingly demanding that replacement labor costs be included as part of the warranty the contract glazier provides. What if the general wants a warranty that extends beyond the terms of the warranty provided by the material’s manufacturer? It’s a tough choice, she says, swallow the risk or lose the job.

“This is a conundrum, and one that is not easily resolved. What is clear is that the building owner will pay a higher price for his product if he is also going to insist on turnkey warranties,” says John Campbell, president of St. Louis-based Winco Window Co., in the article.

Maybe. But only if the practice does not gain traction.

The effects of both of these practices remain to be seen, as they are still in the future. Depending on how you view the future, they are demands or opportunities. And that’s the thing about the future—they could be both at the same time.