Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Incredible Story

No doubt the Republic Window “Sit in” after its closing has become the “Story of the year” in our industry. The coverage of this story has been amazing and as of this morning a quick Google search of the story brought up a staggering 3,380 stories.
But to me there’s one part of the story not getting the coverage it deserves and that is the whole Echo Window angle. Echo is the company that members of the family that own Republic have and they just bought TRACO’s plant in Iowa. USGNN broke the story and several news organizations have mentioned it but no one has dared to step into the deeper meaning. Workers have been quoted saying they would come in and equipment would be gone from the floor. Where did that equipment go? Workers have been quoted saying they heard that they would be “moving”- what does that mean? Hmmmm. So much attention is being paid to Bank of America and their possible responsibility on this issue that the underlying issue here- the possibility of the plant being closed and the work moved somewhere else (Echo) is not being raised or at least covered.. enough.

As for the Bank of America angle, I’d love to debate how this is their fault? Yes they got a bailout and many angles of said bail out infuriate me (more on that below). But there really seems to be a lot more to this story than what is being said. It’s a “Sexy” news story right now… an old fashioned “sit in” complete with politicians (including ones now in deep trouble like the Gov of Illinois) and the holiday angle with the mean old big bank as the bad guy. (Heck you expect Mr Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life to make an appearance) Eventually this will hash out and I believe more info will come out and that will be very interesting.


-- Speaking of the bailout… where I get mad… CitiBank gets a bailout and is in deep trouble yet somehow can still pay the New York Mets 20 million a year for the naming rights to their new stadium. To me that is freakin disgusting. Or how about our friends at AIG getting millions in bonus money? WHY? My gosh some things make no sense.

-- I got this from Jim K in Texas- a LINK to the actual bailout form. This is probably it given the looseness that this program is showing. Pretty comical.

-- Slow. That is the word I am hearing a ton right now. Whether it’s the folks in our industry or outside of it- so many people are slower than they’d like. But the real interesting comment was how it happened. I’ve heard many different versions but basically the comment has been:
“Everything was going fine and the BAM it just stopped. I have never gone from busy to slow so fast”
Just got to ride the storm out but as been noted here before the herd will be getting thinner for sure.

-- Saw a blurb from Ron McCann of Viracon online that was spot on. He basically said that he’d love to see the industry work on trying to cut out the supply of non coated glass and push people to the solar control stuff. AMEN! Ron is one of the more talented folks that work our industry and his comments hopefully will get people talking again. That issue has been one that several people including myself and Paul Bieber have been yapping about. See while the DOE and Marc LaFrance sleep soundly at the wheel, the push should’ve been on promoting solar control instead of trying to empower a money hungry group like the NFRC to create a “Titanic” of an un-needed police action. Maybe if the DOE would include people like Ron in discussions instead of listening to the know-nothings that they currently listen to we’d have a good start.

Off to the LINKS!

-- Yet another surcharge… this one is a classic and one that I would never, ever have to pay… it’s a charge for leftover food!

-- I have always wanted to put ads on the inside of IG units… but never thought there was an audience. Anyway the Link Chick found this one where a teacher is putting ads on his tests!

Yep the poor White House is really struggling- they just sent out Chanukah invitations with Christmas wreaths and pictures all over it. Yikes.

Video of the Week

I am not a big fan of CNN’s Campbell Brown… but this commentary is pretty awesome. She rips the CEO of Merrill Lynch for asking for a bonus! Maybe she should take on CitiBank next.


Arlene Z. Stewart said...

Okay, Max, ya'll put up fightin' words again so I have to respond, like I always do when this topic comes up.

I can't agree more about the push in the marketplace for solar control glass. I take umbridge by saying that 'Titanic' isn't necessary.

I still disagree VEHEMENTLY, in fact MORE THAN EVER that the contractual process in commercial building provides enough oversight. I don't think it does. [I've talked to one too many commissioning agents recently (at GreenBuild) who know that there is a disconnect going on between what being specified and what's turning up on site. And the ones I talked were thrilled to hear that 'titanic' was coming. I quote "About time!"

Maybe, just maybe the reason there isn't more solar control glass being put in is because there is a disconnect between what the architect wants, what meets code and what is actually showing up on the job site. I've looked at enough projects where those three just didn't jive - and because there wasn't any substantive proof either way other than trade names which the code officials or builders on site don't necessarily know, there wasn't any authority having jurisdiction to put a stop to it.

How can people talk about driving efficiency and making it cost effective when this kind of gaming can and does happen regularly? I keep looking for an instance where this doesn't happen and I have yet to find it.

Yeah, I know I'm not helping my popularity here....

Arlene Z. Stewart said...

And another thing while I got my dander up. Pardon me, what do you think that we've been doing for the last 10 years at EWC?? The folks at LBNL and at UMN and the Alliance to Save Energy (and oh, a little company called AZS), have been providing as much infrastructure and support for PROMOTING efficient windows and solar control as we can given the way budgets in DC have been cut over the past five years.

I seems recall a particular commercial windows website that got a Crystal Award a couple of years ago. Was that just chopped liver??? What about the pavilion about commercial windows and daylighting design strategies at Green Building this year? Was that just for giggles? Or was the toolkit for window design for schools (which is a focal point of the new administration's economic strategy) a waste of time?

Nay nay, I say! I think this supports your supposition about promoting better glazing - we don't need to tell the window industry, we need to tell the designers, which has been happening! HA!

So I think you have to give Marc Lafrance props for keeping the promotional work alive in light of the climate of the last 6 years. We wouldn't have it with out him.

Max Perilstein said...

Arlene- You know you are one of my favorites so instead of sitting down for the night I had to respond..
See you actually help make my argument because every commercial guy/gal that reads this will say "THAT A RESIDENTIAL MENTALITY!" See all the issues you bring up are residential issues- things like rampant product switching are very rare on the commercial side and if it happens there's things like the AIA boilerplate contracts that send this to a legal remedy. On the commercial side, specs are created and followed by a submittal process- something that the NFRC still has no clue on. Heck Jeff Baker to this dfay probably could not tell the difference between Solarban 60 and the piece of quiche he wille at for dinner. Yet he helps make the calls.
The other angle is we are talking "professional to professional" on the commercial side. The architect is dealing with a GC, dealing with a sub, who deals with a fabricator and so on. The residential side could be as streamed as window comapny to homeowner.
Believe me the architects WANT the design tool- they want the ability to have the ratings as they plug this in, but for as many as you saw at Greenbuild, I have seen tons more through the years that have no desire or use for this program. You and I always agree to disagree and have spirited arguments- you at least took the time to come to a real commercial plant (unlike so many of the NFRC elite who think they more than they ever will). You would see at a commercial plant that the fabricator just doesn't grab any old Low E off the shelf, but is directed by spec to provide what the architect wants. If the architect is not getting the code- its their problem. If the architect approves submittals of the wrong product- again there problem. None of this is something that a bloated program created so people like Jeff Baker can make mucho dollars off of would address.
Bottom line is if the DOE pushed to have codes that promoted the use of solar control glass then the architects would follow. Instead the DOE pushed to have some goofy rating system that will be too gangly and expensive to work and willjust waste more time and money as we go forward.
Last I have to stress, in the commercial world we just don't send stuff nilly willy- if we did, we'd get crushed- LEGALLY. And believe me from personal experience I once accidently provided the wrong product and got stuck hard by it.
So while John Q Homeowner NEEDS a watchdog and a program- I still stand by my guns that the commercial world does not.
Maybe the others that read this will jump in and maybe not- but i respect your passion and I am pretty sure you still respect mine.

Thanks for reading and taking the time to post- I do appreciate it.

Max Perilstein said...

Wow 2 posts by the time I was done with my rant- you had another! cool. I personally think some of those efforts have not been well placed. Perosnally I wonder what the 60 grand that NFRC gave Gary Curtis for education of architects went to. Seriously I don't see those groups as hitting the right people. Plus as long as people like PPG,Pilkington and Guardian are not on board big time, it lacks the oomph it needs. And please spare me Cardinal- they are as much a "commercial supplier" as I am a Supermodel.
Education is HUGE and it needs to happen and happen in the right place and context. And it needs to happen without a gun nto the head coming from a program of dubious need.
As for Marc LaFrance- sorry he is full of ot air. The guy talks and talks and everyone shakes their head like they are listening and then 2 minutes later they move on. Plus he has no thoughts of his own, only those of people like Garrett Stone- so how can I respect him?
Marc has said on occasion that he wants "low e" everywhere- and he has the pulpit- yet it does not happen- and its because the goals of more solar control product get lost in the world of testing and IA's who ONLY care about the money.
Believe me the greatest example was the whole "default" argument... if there was ever a CLEAR as day fact that the NFRC only cares about money and keeping people like Jeff Baker happy it was that whole debacle. And yes in that issue Marc was "Furious: and yet they ignored him like the fat ugly kid at a dance (which was me at one time by the way.. ha ha).
Seriously- I love this issue- I am demented becaise of it- but I really believe that the education must be ramped up, the push from the DOE must be legit and without strings and the folks that want to make money just because they know how to test or can inpect need to be minimized. Then you will see things happen.

Wow this is fun... great therapy.

Max Perilstein said...

Folks I typed so fast and furious I made a ton of grammar and spelling errors and there's no way to fix. Sorry. Hopefully you can feel the passion oozing as I basically destroyed the english language in the 2 posts above.

Anonymous said...

Two Topics to comment on ... Commerical Oversight and Republic.

Since Max is taking a politically correct stance on Republic Windows, I'll come out an say it ... UNION BUSTING is a major reason for Republic's closure and reopening as Echo in IA. While I'm not a fan of unions (for employees' sustainable long-term financial sake), it's disappointing to see Republic be so UNETHICAL in how they're handling tough business decisions. Republic's dirt bag owners & respective senior mgrs are seemingly taking the easy way out and I hope it comes back to bite them hard.

In regard to Commercial Oversight ... an oversight mechanism that works well for me is: coated/energy performance glass Sales & Mktg people, who surely don't want buildings erected without their products in them. No Way they're grinding day after day in the trenches to get their products specified to have their efforts foiled by somebody pulling an inappropriate switcharoo. Architects & Building Owners are constantly turning to these glass sales pros for assistance - e.g. performance spec data, costly samples, value engineering efforts, etc - and after all that hard work I can assure you they're working hard to follow projects all the way thru to proper installation ... which is when the rewards happen via invoices being paid and Press Releases! These sales/mktg folks are only one of the oversight market forces at play - way to go folks!

Let's start Penalizing the cheaters (big time and use this money for proactive efforts) and not cast a blanket of doubt over (and unnecessary costs onto) all the hard working professionals, manufacturers, architects, and building owners doing the right thing.

Happy Holidays,

PS. Please let me know if a charitable organization is set-up to help provide holiday relief & medical benefits to Republic Window's direct labor employees ... I'll gladly cut a check. I realize this is kinda an easy way out, but it's the best I can do for now.

Anonymous said...

OMG... I love this stuff. True communication as it should be, not behind closed doors or under the guise of the board will take a closer look.
My experience with switching in commercial is the "or equal" clause. Simple put...different manufacturer same results. NOT inferior products.
As for Republic, good reporting on all sides.... more will surface with the unions. On that issue, if you have ever been in on contract negotiations, it can be a little understandable where the animosity comes from .
I joined a union in 1975, second week of my apprenticeship in Scotland, and truly believe they can be benificial, however, going out on a limb here.....American Unions have a lot of baggage to dump - real or percieved.
Max, thanks for stirring the pot. I shudder to see your personal e-mail site.

Jim Fairley

Arlene Z. Stewart said...

Scott said Let's start Penalizing the cheaters (big time and use this money for proactive efforts) and not cast a blanket of doubt over (and unnecessary costs onto) all the hard working professionals, manufacturers, architects, and building owners doing the right thing.

Scott, thanks for chiming your two cents in. I completely agree with catching the cheaters. The question I keep coming back to is how do you catch them when the guys with the sticks have no mechanism for identifying them so they CAN do their job to catch them?! Unfortunately, I'm of the opinion, that when you don't empower enforcement, you wind up with codes that punish those that comply. In fact, the ones who don't comply can get away with anything, because there is no oversight.

Talk about cheaters - one of the architects I talked to in November had exactly the attitude we are all griping about. When I asked what he did when the code conflicted with how he wanted something to look, his response was that he told his engineer to figure out a way to make it fit. Well, what if the engineer couldn't? Well, he kept going through code officials or the like until he got the answer he wanted. Arrogantly, he said that the approach always worked for him.

No doubt it did - I'm very aware of how performance codes work, which is why I've become more of a fan of prescriptive codes first. You can simply do anything at all in a performance code. Today the building will meet code, but it sure does run the risk that upgrading the structure at a later point won't be easy.

Now, if the government, who supposedly should be doing more to get better glass in buildings, and if requirements for better windows wind up in codes, how do you expect the enforcment official to do his job without a label??? And why should the commercial window industry not meet the same oversight requirements that any other building material has to when it comes to standards?

Another point to Scott - thank you for making the point about switcheroos. While I think there is some going on, I'm not necessarily pointing to deliberate ones. I do believe that a lot of the disconnect is happening randomly.

Anonymous said...

Max Perilstein said...

So much to comment on- but I will get this one out. The link right above... its about residential windows...
Windows vs Storefront and curtainwall... different products, different suppliers... different usages. When you start talking about Kawneer, Vistawall, YKK, US Alum, Arch, Tubelite- you know real commercial aluminum manufacturers... and glass folks like Viracon, OC and Arch for a few... thats commercial work.
Survey's from Window and Door just further the issue that the NFRC does not get it... and never ever will.

Anonymous said...

It's about time we've had someone from the code side jump in and play... Welcome to the sandbox~

You're saying High Performance glass products in engineered custom curtainwalls need a label so someone can walk out and say "yup, meets code, that'll be $5,000+ dollars for my services..." Whatever....

This entire discussion about anecdotal conversations that an architect said they know they are getting screwed on what they specified should not be pin pointed to the fabricator, aluminum extruder or the glazing contractor.

Go take up your issue with the general contractor that square footed their curtainwall bid/budget. They are the culprits that press the use of less than specified products.

Our world exits in this format:

The architect sets the design around the developers/owner's budget. They both hire consultants to validate the scope and police the suppliers, then the project goes out to bid tothe G.C. who begins to unravel the specification to meet their doomed budget. Subcontractors begin to "value engineer" and take all the alternates to the G.C. who then submits them to the owner for approval, owner/developer takes these to the consultants to verify acceptance or understand the differences. All the while the suppliers are evaluating the drawings and products selected for structural, thermal, etc.., until everyone lands on an accepted 'fit for use' based upon $$, performance, $$ again, and finally appearance.

Seems like more than enough eyes to flush out what works and doesn't without adding another arm of code officials to add more $$ to the cost of the facade.

Tight budgets are the norm, if codes & labels that cost the project more $$ will drive high performance glass growth, you're dreaming.

Anonymous said...

(The architect sets the design around the developers/owner's budget.) kinda, but more importantly to the local building code including the energy conservation codes that are now a big part. Those codes don’t just cover our glazing systems they cover everything that has energy pass through them or use an energy form to function. If the owner can’t afford to build a code compliant building then he can’t afford it and should give up. Just because he can’t afford to build to the energy code like everyone else, does not mean he should be allowed to use up more of our precious energy and pollute the planet I live on even more. And remember this, most commercial buildings are not occupied by the owner or are flipped once completed. So for an owner who is going to rent space, what does he care about the tenant’s energy bill? Yes when renting space one would look at that as part of the big picture but if the codes don’t demand it, most won’t do it.
And if the code said place 4 pounds of gold per 1000 square foot in the dead center of each building, won’t the cost of construction be the same for every one? Cost of construction is a big factor but cost of compliance is the same for every one.
(Subcontractors begin to "value engineer") oooh now this is where the fun starts. How do they value engineer? Ever do work in Vegas? Ever get involved in that value engineering bid war there? And if you did have you ever gone back later to look at what happened on the project you lost and had to exclaim “how the *** did they get away with that?”

Earlier Max said that we in the commercial sector are completely clean of any misconduct and named the holiest of all companies as Kawneer, Vistawall, YKK..etc. and I do believe all of Max’s list are honorable companies. But some of their sales guys? Now really what about the smaller manufactures and glass houses? What about the Chinese importers? What happens when the importers point at kawneer's 2 x 4 ½” center set and tell the G.C. “sam ting” (same thing)? It looks the same from the outside. Maybe it is the sam ting but he should be made to prove it in some way.

What really bothers me is when I do go past old projects that I was bidding and remember them. And then I look at them and see how shoddy the workmanship is. I see how cheep the glass and metal is compared to the specification that I bid from. And now I look and know “there’s no way that’s energy efficient to meet a building code”.
What really bothers me is that other guy stole that project from my employer and in doing so he stole bonus checks from me. He took work away from the guys I know in the shop and in the field.
And what really bothers me is tough times are coming and I don’t want to loose my job to some hack that provides product that isn’t up to code. even if he gets caught down stream and sued, it doesnt help me that i lost that job. i lost that job cos he's a cheat and i lost a bonus check and potentialy my job.
Now I don’t know if the N.F.R.C. is the right party for the job, i'm not that smart. But you know what? If they separate the hacks from my employer and get us to a level field for once, ill send em some cash. Ill send cash to any one who can find some police with some b**** to protect my employer and my job this coming year

Max Perilstein said...

Great comments and thank you to everyone who wrote in. I will have to cover more in a new post for sure. As for the latest Anon-
(left at 730)- Tremendous post with great passion. Thank you.

I and many others feel the same way on the issue you state. There is nothing worse than seeing a job you were in on, or specified, going to the communist chinese or unqualified fab or glazier. It sucks like you would not believe.

Sadly the NFRC is not the answer for that. All they care about is creating an expensive process to rate systems (and make money). In fact legit people like you will suffer even more at the hands of NFRC necause you will follow them while others will not.

The VE of specs is something that NFRC will actually affect- in the wrong direction. You know why?

Because if they get their way and get the charges they want in on a job, that money will be huge and it will force the owner/architect to go with cheaper products. And if you think you are frustrated now... just wait.

I think the best approach is being vigilant and communicate- especially when its the Chinese/Colombians. The Buy American Act is getting its teeth back but it needs to be used. Architects have more and more liability when they allow submittals from companies that have no business being there- they need to be reminded of such.

Now I know no one has that much time to police things but pick your spots.

I wish the NFRC could be useful here (or anywhere actually but I am not a lab that can mucho bucks from em) but they are in a different world far far from the realities we all deal with.

Thanks again for reading and posting.

Ron M said...

Max, Thanks for the comments.

Anonymous Sandbox is right on the money. On larger commercial projects there are contractural agreements in place and numerous checks and balances to assure the owner/developer is getting what they are willing to pay for - but maybe not what was originally desired. There is no bait & switch going on here - there are GC's / consultants / owner's reps. that are all part on decision process on how to meet the BUDGET - we have all been in construction meetings where the GC says "What do you have that's close but cheaper than what they want?"

My original comment was with regards to smaller commercial projects that are not utilizing solar control products. Today every new home has Low-E windows but yet the new neighberhood stip mall has clear IG and 1/4" tempered in the door. Everyone focuses on the big projects and regulation but if you every researched the amount of uncoated glass that is installed in commercial applications on an annual basis - your jaw would drop.

This is the market segment that needs to be addressed.

Money needs to be spent on education. Education directed at the owner/developer and the local architect. The burdern for energy conservation should be placed on the owner over the life cycle of the building and not on their tenents.

Regulations set minimum standards -Education promotes conservation.

A minimal initial investment will have a quick payback and lasting long term energy savings - not to mention higher rental rates as a result of promoting GREEN to the tenents.

Ron Mc

Anonymous said...

"Money needs to be spent on education. Education directed at the owner/developer and the local architect. The burdern for energy conservation should be placed on the owner over the life cycle of the building and not on their tenents."

Could not disagree more!
For 25 years I have listened to that line and for 25 years we have yet to educate the architectural community in anything other than basics. Its not that they don’t care, but they have so many other things in there life, electrical, plumbing, basic structural, roofing, ADA. The list is endless.
After 25 years of trying to educate we have failed and will continue to fail.
I agree wholeheartedly on your points on the smaller jobs. We need policemen right NOW. Not just for energy but for water and structural.
Maybe the nfrc is not the right policeman, but then who is? How about aama stepping up and providing better policing. If we Americans don’t do something soon, the cheats and Chinese will have us serving hamburgers.

Anonymous said...

"If we Americans don't do something soon, the Cheats and the Chinese will have us serving Hamburgers"

This is exactly why the education roll is important. Yes Architects are busy with all parts of the building, but they have a vested interest in what they design/specify and what is ultimately installed. What is on the building when it's done is their legacy, if it looks bad, performs bad and the city or town hate it, they won't be invited to the next bid.

In my 15 years of calling on architects, there have been some okay calls and some awesome calls. The okay calls are when they give you the deer in the headlights look and say okay just to get you out of the office.

The best are when they call you back and explain that they feel duped because they bought into the; "Sure it's the same product, the performance is just a little off and the appearance is different, but we can get it cheaper and quicker." Then the building goes up and all parties say "holy crap! How did they get away with that?" Well they did because they missed out on the education from a supplier that knows what they are selling and it's best fit on a project. Okay, okay, sure, there will be snake-oil sales reps that are looking for the almighty commission check, but once these architects are burned once, it rarely happens on their watch again. Okay, okay, sure, the owner or the G.C. can go away from the architectural design, but that's because they are driven by another goal at that point.

Ron's point was that there are enough of us in the market to care what the architect specifies, and if the specification is wrong then step up and do the right thing. When you've done that you've created an ally in the architectural community, but don't stop there. Go see the developer/owner and tell them what's best for their project. They might not listen the first time, but if they get burned then... (Go back and read my 3rd paragraph) they’ll be reaching out to you on the next go around.

Right now the Chinese are calling on our architects. Don't believe it? Go look at all the Chinese samples/literature and business cards piling up. The cheats are just waiting in the shadows for someone else to do the heavy lifting so they can go purposely value engineer the bejesus out of the project.

If we don't step up and protect our sandbox via education, strong published standards, networking amongst our peers, buy American philosophies, and hard work then we will be serving burgers. Get out and make an architectural call, it's rewarding. Shoot, it may even help you sell the project.

Ron's not off base, knowledge is power, old saying but it's spot on. It may take you seven times and seven different ways for the uneducated to get it, but that's what sales people do, talk, teach, talk, teach, repeat 5 more times....

Happy educating the right clients in our industry! It really does lead to more sales.

Happy Holiday's Max!


Anonymous said...

My bad Max, I meant go back and read my 4th paragraph after the developer/owner gets burned with a bad experience.

Sorry for the error, I'm an amatuer blogger....

Later GH

Anonymous said...

Who was it that mentioned the broad spectrum of buildings and the difference between the larger custom stuff that are really an architect's legacy and the smaller, cookie cutter, I don't care because I'm not paying the rent stuff?

How do you reconcile the two in the same code? How do they manage to fit together in the non-energy parts of the code? Or don't they?

Anonymous said...

I still disagree on the educate the architect thread.
I do believe it has positive results with individual architects and my company.
but, Googling tells me there are 200,000 registered architects in the USA. Most firms have a few registered architects and a bunch of drafters of varying levels of competence and seniority. There are probably the same number of construction specify'ers.
So if we guess at 2 drafters per architect and one specify’ers that makes 800,000 people we need to educate in the USA alone. (I think that equates to about 6 in china).
So how do we educate 800,000 people?
Who will pay for that education?
How do you keep em up with continued changes? Every month I see one of our specification authorities changing something that reflects on our industry. AAMA, nfrc, astm, ashrea, nvlap, ………and on.
And each document references other documents. AAMA always seems to reference astm.
So some one please explain how we educate these people?
And how do you keep them up to date? On a monthly basis? Call every day?
For more than 20 years I hear my industry say “we need to educate architects” and nothing has changed.
This just in …… the plumbers say they need to educate the architects too!
2009 is going to be a scary year and I don’t want to be out of work for one day.
The time is now to set up a police force within our industry. Our commercial industry. Drive the cheep inferior Chinese imports out and along with them there American cousins who we know are not playing by the rules.
Or we can do nothing but bitch like we always do and draw unemployment.

Anonymous said...

(I think that equates to about 6 in china).

*points to phrase* BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! That was rich. Too true, but rich.