Sunday, June 26, 2016

Brexit and Us

When any time I give analysis on the economy, I always leave a healthy “but” in there with regards to the political climate.  So when #Brexit – the vote of Britain to leave the European Union- happened this week, that surely became an example of something that “could” be an issue.   We live in such a reactionary world, that some times you really can’t get a true feel for any sort of impact because of the immediate bluster in the aftermath of the event in question.  “Uncertainty” is the key word.  Obviously there’s a lot at play here, and a long way still to go,  so it surely bears our attention going forward.  Could this be something that derails the positive trend that many of us are on?  I ask because the emotional reactions right now are outnumbering any rational ones.  Curious of the thoughts of the amazing minds out there in the industry on this one.... so feel free to share.

Elsewhere

--  Speaking of positive trends… the Architectural Billings Index had an excellent May.  With a score of 53.1 the index posted it’s best score of the year and the analysis is pointing to a fresh surge on the institutional side of the business.  Personally I always liked institutional work because they were less likely to “value engineer” products out.  In any case, this currently stands as a good sign.  Now whether or not the geo-political strife is going to hamper this- we’ll see.

--  Fantastic book out that industry geeks would love.  “One World Trade Center-Biography of the Building” by Judith Depré takes an extremely deep look at the building of the new World Trade Center buildings and the amount of mention on glass and aluminum has been surprisingly heavy.  There’s also insight in there on suppliers for the building I was unaware of, so that was interesting to me.  The best part is it shows our industry as more than just folks who throw some random glass into any old hole.  There’s precision, planning, and care.  That was cool.  I will note the first ½ of the book is where the action is, 2nd half starts in on the other landmarks of MYC and some other items, so it makes for a quicker read.

--  Saw the news this week on Asahi and Solaria.  That is excellent stuff and major kudos to my old friend Scott Hoover who’s obviously doing great things in his role at Solaria.

--  I was able to finally see the movie “13 Hours” and I have to say I am impressed that they kept pretty close to the book.  That’s rare in Hollywood.  But then again this story was so deep and intense it was almost impossible for Hollywood to screw up.  (Then again so was the book based on “Munich” and that was ruined, so who knows)

--  I had one of the moments recently where I know I am getting old.  I had to change the settings on my iPhone to the largest print.  My kids can read my phone from across the room now, as well as some astronauts in space…. 

--  Last this week- a programming note.  No posts coming from me until the week of July 18th.  Unless of course news happens… Which on that note, the rumor mill is churning at record speed, but yet no news, so maybe over these next two weeks things break?  If they do, I’ll tweet about them more than potentially blog.  Anyway, I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable Canada Day later this week and Independence Day in the US the week after.  Please try and celebrate the good in the world, honor those who served, and stay positive for the future.  See you back in this space in mid July!

LINKS of the WEEK

--  I love butter… but 2000 year old butter?  Nope.  I’ll pass.  Fun story though.

--  This is such a great story, but you always have to have your guard up somehow since we do live in a world where people love to prey on the good.  Still glad  this worked out.

--  Funny circumstance here… getting stuck in a Barney the Dino head.

VIDEO of the WEEK

So this holiday weekend, instead of watching what looks to be an awful sequel, maybe check out the fun original instead.  Movie I am talking about is Independence Day…  the first one was super.  Not sure the 2nd one will be.  So here’s a flashback to 1996….


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Schools, Glass and the Future

One item I have hit on here in the past is improved/innovative design in schools.  It is something I believe in greatly, not only that we can provide necessary security but with the right usage of glass and glazing we also improve the learning atmosphere.  This week I got some company on my soapbox thanks to an excellent article that not only talked about what schools need to advance but also the demographic and economic market around building them.  It’s a worthwhile read.  Let’s be real here, a lot of our industry thrives thanks to school and institutional building, so a solid sector there is very good for all of us.  I personally though would like to see our products grow in emphasis there.  We can supply the security, energy, decorative and functional products that the educational facilities in North America deserve. 

Elsewhere…

--  Speaking of great reads… once again the latest issue of Glass Magazine did not disappoint.  And props to the creative team there- just a wonderful and slick layout. I love how pictures of great glass jobs can fill a page and there’s several in this issue.  The big story was the annual Top 50 Glazier list (mentioned last week) but the series on exits planning continues to be a must read.  Kudos to the class act that is the DeGorter family as they were profiled in the issue- good people, nice to see them covered!

--  PPG gets thumbs up here too- as they were my ad of the month in the aforementioned Glass Magazine.  They nailed the text bringing out the image piece with their spot.  Creative and well done!

--  I talk about where social media can be a good tool for learning/resource and this week was no different with the coverage of the AAMA conference on their twitter feed at @AAMAInfo.  Even if you can’t follow in real time (I couldn’t) the beauty is going back to their feed after the fact and just going through it all.  Tons of info there.  Well done folks and great use of the medium!

--  The news of LinkedIn being bought by Microsoft was big this past week.  But the bizarre part for me came in an article from the New York Times that said one of the key drivers for Microsoft was the ability to be able to incorporate LinkedIn into the Microsoft Office products.  Now I can see Skype and Outlook being integrated somehow, but the article specifically mentioned Word.  Now that would be flat out bizarre.  I can see it now, writing a piece in word and a pop up comes up that says “Your LinkedIn Connection Joe Blow Is Also Working In Word”   or something like that.  That has potential to not be fun at all.

--  Last… many people noted that I did not mention the Penguins winning the Stanley Cup in last weeks post.  Normally I post on Sunday mornings, but many do not see this until Tuesday.  So the clinching game was not done when I posted.  I have to say I am amazed they won… and special kudos to my pal Joe Carlos of TriView who noted that I somehow planned it out by picking San Jose at the start of the playoffs, where my jinx would be timed perfectly when the two teams met in the finals…  believe me if I planned it, San Jose would’ve been out in round 1!  Anyway, I’m pretty thrilled still about the Pens….thanks everyone for the notes! 

LINKS of the WEEK

Can this be a real story? Closing schools after 8th grade?

Is there a hotter ticket than “Hamilton” on Broadway?  Will the departure of one of its stars make a difference?
  
Since we mentioned the Stanley Cup- it’s been 5 years since the Vancouver riots and the famous “kissing couple” caught in a photo.  This article catches up with them.
  
VIDEO of the WEEK

Dogs.  I love them.  Wish any of our 3 were as smart as Buddy is here.  Cool setup!







Sunday, June 12, 2016

Growth and Labor

So more mixed results on various monthly indexes I follow.   On the good side, the Dodge Momentum Index moved higher and the analysts are predicting that this trend will be stable, which is good news to some markets that had inconsistent and mostly soft 1st quarters.  Also good?  Construction spending for Non Residential buildings is now up 9.8% year to date, and its 3 month average best since early 2009.  On the worrisome side is the labor issue.  Construction employment dropped from April to May and even though the year over year numbers are good, the overall metrics here are miserable.  There are 200,000 job openings and there’s no good remedy in sight for this one.  I think everyone in the industry shares this pain of needing qualified labor and I believe it is going to get tougher.  This surely bears watching.  If work keeps coming in, how do you get it processed, delivered, and installed if you are constantly fighting the need for qualified folks?

Elsewhere…

--  Congrats to everyone on the Glass Magazine Top 50 Glazier list.  The annual rundown is in the latest edition of the Magazine.  Some excellent companies populating that list and I am proud to say I know many and even do work for one! I’ll have my monthly review of the magazine on next week’s blog.

--  Also in the kudos mode… to the Mobius family at Garibaldi Glass.  This past Friday Garibaldi celebrated their 50th anniversary with from what I was told was a great gathering.  I was honored to be invited and wish I could’ve attended but not meant to be.  But more importantly, to Carey, Chris and Craig a hearty congratulations for this awesome milestone!

 --  Hey don’t look now but gas prices are creeping up.  Almost to $3 a gallon in Michigan now and I think just a matter of time before pricing is back to the very high marks from 2 years ago.  And while that’s probably good for the overall economy, it’s back to sucking as a consumer.

--  For my fellow Road Warriors- interesting gallery on the top 14 Airport Hotels that have a cool design scenario.  Unfortunately I have stayed at none of them because I’m usually at a Holiday Inn Express and design is like 19th on their list after making sure the pillow cases are mismarked “firm” and “soft”- (I say mismarked because they are never right) Anyway check out the article and if you stayed at any let me know!

--  And last this week… as I have noted here many times, I am a big fan of the show “The Americans” and I know several of you watch it as well.  While this season was good, it surely to me wasn’t great or as good as past seasons.  So a bit of a letdown for me, but maybe it was just me… who knows.  Hopefully the writers there can get back on track for their final 23 episodes before the show ends it run in 2018.

LINKS of the WEEK

--  Love this Text conversation between freaked out Mom and cool, calm daughter.

--  More fall out from the Stanford rape case and the Judge’s sentence.  Now jurors refusing to work in his courtroom.

--  A real cowboy saves the day.  This almost doesn’t seem real.

VIDEO of the WEEK

So given what happened at the Cincinnati zoo with Harambe the gorilla, seeing a video like this shows, animals do have instincts and thankfully some areas protect those who watch.  Now that said I am not a fan of these set up for the animal sake, but glad no one got hurt here.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Troubling Trends

I happened upon a pretty interesting column on brand standards for construction in the hotel industry that also made me think about another trend that is troubling.  First the article on the hotel brand standards brought into play the fact that construction is not one size fits all.  A hotel in Phoenix vs. a hotel in Pittsburgh may have the same name and use the same interior looks, but it’s construction overall has to be different.  Unfortunately more and more the hotel industry is dictating everything on the project- from the things that can be duplicated at every site, to the ones that can’t.  It is scary because as we all know, the glass industry usually finds itself in the cross hairs of the blame game.  But even beyond that, it’s an illogical business model that needs to be changed.  Meanwhile it made me think of the other trend that is a worry.  It’s the one of selling glass/aluminum direct to the owner of a building.  Cutting the knees of the architect and cutting out basically the professionals down the pipeline that will be installing the glazing.  In the past it was a foreign entity doing this, but it’s now becoming a domestic play within the traditional industry.   The angle here is to get your products locked in by the owner and avoid any questions from anyone else in the chain.  I get it- cutting out levels makes the playing field a little easier to traverse but the value of the insight from those levels are crucial to the success and efficiency of the job.  There are other factors in the selling direct angle that I won’t get into here but those in the industry surely know.  Needless to say I’m not a fan.  The structure of the North American industry makes sense on many levels, seeing it circumvented is not something positive to me.  Whether or not it’s a short trend or long term one, that’s up for debate, but it will surely be interesting to see how this goes forward. 

Elsewhere…

--  While catching up on reading this week, also saw the study done by St. Gobain and Sage on workplace design and productivity.  No question that the growth of glass on the interior and upgrades to what products are used on the exterior are coming on the heels of occupant comfort needs.  Natural light does matter.  Workplace efficiency does grow when it’s a better atmosphere.  Bottom line for me is if a trend means more glass, sign me up.

--  I was out and about this week and saw PPG sample boxes at one office.  Not sure these are new or old but I loved the look and design.  As someone who from time to time has to lug sample about, this design really makes it nicer.  Props to the team at PPG on it.

--  Congrats to old friend Dan Plotnick on his new job at PGT Industries.  Dan is a very talented guy and after a couple of past stints on the other side of the world he returns to America in a Sales Director role for PGT.  Glad to have him back in the USA!

--  Last this week… thank you to the throngs of folks who signed up for the Glazing Executives Forum (GEF) already.  The event is going to be excellent and very important for educational and networking growth.  I am also jealous of all that can attend because of my functions working at GlassBuild America I can only pop my head in and out of the GEF sessions.  To learn more and sign up- please click HERE!

LINKS of the WEEK

--  I’ve seen a few stories on these guys- they have the dominating of Amazon down to a science.

--  19 homes in the Carolina’s end up in a different state than they think.  Love the border drawing game.

--  A little different discussion on hotels from what I started this blog with… a scary time in a pool… thankfully I believe everyone is OK

VIDEO of WEEK

Wild piece here from the French Open tennis.  One guy was grunting on every shot so his opponent decided to do the same and the official penalized the 2nd guy! Crazy.  I played tennis and never grunted.  Then again I was lucky.  I played doubles with a very tall athletic guy and he basically carried me everywhere….


Sunday, May 29, 2016

An Incredible Project

Last week I took my daughter on a college campus tour at Michigan State University.  In the middle of campus a building absolutely stuck out and took all of my attention.  The structure was the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum and while I had read about it over the years and seen a picture or two, it did not shake me until I saw it up close.  The late, great Zaha Hadid designed the building and calling it iconic may be an understatement.  The first thing that stuck me of course was the glass.  The curtain wall was unique and breathtaking and then inside the oversized all glass doors with what looked like ¾” glass stopped me in my tracks.  Just the way this project utilized glass and how perfect it all looked had me completely blown away. 
So when I got back home after the tour I made sure to try and find out more and I had thought that Guardian was involved in some form or fashion.  Sure enough after a note to Chris Dolan, he not only confirmed that Guardian was involved but also shared a great video that showed exactly how deep that went.  All I can say is the glass makeup alone- a quad pane IG- featuring low e, argon, and silkscreen made me glad I was seeing this after the fact and not worrying about producing it!  Anyway the video is only about 3 minutes long and if you are glass geek, it is absolutely well worth the watch.

Side note- My conduct during this part of the tour had our guide a bit worried. I was studying every piece of glass up close, going to my knees trying to look at logos etc.  My daughter just shook her head, it’s not the first time she’s seen me go gaga on a glass and glazing project.   Oh and side note #2… despite this amazing building, Michigan State did NOT crack my daughters top 3 for colleges much to the chagrin of her mother and I who would love to have her only 2 hours from home instead of the current long trip choices she’s considering.  Obviously she hasn’t learned yet that great glass is always a big part of every decision!

Elsewhere…

--  Last week I noted that I would have more on the latest Architectural Billings Index report.  At the end of the report the AIA included some comments from firms and I wanted to share a few of them here because I think what the architects are going through absolutely mirrors our industry:

• We are in a position to turn away work that does not fit our schedule/staffing. The downside is that we having a hard time hiring competent new employees.
—80-person firm in the Midwest, institutional specialization


• First quarter was a roller coaster ride of work and no work. Hopefully moving forward the hills and valleys will lessen.
—6-person firm in the South, commercial/industrial specialization


• Labor shortage is killing us. Firms are cannibalizing each other’s staff. The way you combat this is by making the firm a great place to work.
—125-person firm in the West, institutional specialization



So workforce is an issue along with crazy and inconsistent performance in the 1Q.  While the economic side is seemingly leveling out, the labor shortage is a massive worry.  I am surprised because with all of the downsizing architectural firms did during the downturn I would’ve thought a labor shortage would not be one of their issues.  I also wonder if it’s not so much of a labor need but rather the desire to do more with less and not grow like they did previously.  Anyway I found it interesting that there’s certainly similarities between our world and the design one.

--  Previously I had written about the closing of Spectrum Glass.  Now the government is pushing down on another player in the colored glass world and they’re trying to fight back.  Click this link from Bullseye Glass for more info.  This continues to be a story to watch on many fronts.  It obviously is affecting business, and that will have a trickle down for sure.  But what about the environment?  That is surely a concern too.  When I shared this with a friend this week, she replied that does the need for something outweigh what is safe?  It’s a surely something that is not an easy call for anyone.  My heart goes out to the folks in business caught in the middle of this and hopefully something can work out for all in the end!

--  Last this week, please note that I did pick the San Jose Sharks to win the Stanley Cup here on the blog back in April.  OK, now it’s time for my normal jinx to arrive….Please.

LINKS of the WEEK

Great story of the week.. the creator of the Heimlich Manuever, Dr. Heimlich himself, used his technique on a person for the very first time….  Wow.  He’s 96 by the way.

I trust the Robot waiter at Pizza Hut more than driverless cars.

If you know me, you know I love Pop Tarts- but these new flavors are non starter for me. 

VIDEO of the WEEK

If you did not check out the Guardian video in my post above- please do so.  But for here we’ll go lighter.  I love these videos of college kids getting surprised with a scholarship.  This is a good one from Duke.