Sunday, May 26, 2013

Read and Consider

Undoubtedly you have seen a lot about the ongoing ASHRAE code situation.  It is serious without question.  But I have decided to take a different approach because my experience has taught me what works and what doesn’t in our industry.  As much as I love wanting to mobilize people and plead/beg for action, it just doesn’t work in our world.  Been done too much, and it now falls on deaf ears.  People read these calls and they now just scan down to the next item.

So instead of the same old rhetoric, I have an interview below that truly spells out the facts in a calm and measured way.  If you care about the industry and your business, you’ll take the proper action that is noted.  If not, you’ll enjoy the interview nonetheless and life goes on. Thank you for the consideration.

For this I reached out to who I believe is one of the most dynamic and interesting guys in our industry.  I approached Mark Silverberg, President of Technoform North America to get his take on this and a few other issues (other issues coming next week) and I believe he hit it out of the ballpark.  Mark has an incredible grasp of our world, our needs, and our future.  To me, Mark, along with Dr. Tom Culp are the two guys you want at the table explaining this stuff to you and representing your industry.  Below is a sharp and professional explanation of the facts and what actions could be taken. So if you didn’t understand what is going on before, I believe you surely will now.

Max:  Probably the most important issue that has hit our industry recently is the ASHRAE proposal to reduce the glazing area allowed in the prescriptive path from 40% window to wall ratio (WWR) to 30% WWR for buildings under 25,000 square feet.  This seems pretty detrimental to our industry as less glass and glazing means less work, etc.  What is your take on why this is happening and what can we do as an industry to combat it?

Mark Silverberg: This proposal has broad economic and policy implications. Building energy efficiency is widely supported as the right thing to do but how to get there and balance the related issues is often debated. Ironically, this proposal flies in the face of the ASHRAE 189.1 green building standard that is specifically intended to address both occupant well-being and energy efficiency. The driver of this change is recent computer modeling that got the attention of some ASHRAE individuals. Many people in our industry find these analytical tools outmoded and based on flawed assumptions.

Keep in mind the following factors must be addressed in this order to optimize a building’s energy efficiency performance, and the design process must flow in this exact order.

   (1)   Optimize mass and orientation
   (2)   Optimize the building envelope
   (3)   Design and optimize the building systems and infrastructure,

I offer below a few examples of my serious concerns with the analytical method on which the proposed WWR reduction is based. The information is from Rahul Athalye of PNNL’s presentation at the GANA Annual Conference Energy Day in January, 2013 (see attached presentation) and questions I asked him during the session. He is one of the lead simulators whose work is being used by ASHRAE.

   (1)   Responding to my direct question, Mr. Athalye responded that the same building footprint and orientation was used for all 12 locations analyzed. This decision negates optimization of building mass and orientation, the principal determinant of a building’s energy efficiency and doesn’t make common sense.

   (2)   Only 40% of the typical 53,600 sf building was in perimeter zones of only 15 feet deep. Modern design and day lighting strategies attain much higher percentage of the daylighted floor plate and have greater depth. In the analysis only 80% of this artificially reduced perimeter zone is deemed daylight-able.

   (3)   With only 40% of the building deemed within the perimeter zone, only 56% of that area was included in the daylight analysis as containing photocontrols (80% daylightable perimeter zone minus private offices under 250 ft2 which were excluded). However, this does not reflect the improvements to ASHRAE 189.1 that require photocontrols in more spaces and higher performance windows!

Since building systems are interactive, it’s easy to see that by negating the performance contribution of mass and orientation, and minimizing the gains of daylighting, you will skew the conclusions of the study. These are but a few of the issues with this analysis, there are plenty more.

One of the stated goals of the DOE funded PNNL study was, “possible changes to ASHRAE 90.1 to increase energy savings.” None of the primary goals of the study related to measuring the impact of buildings on human beings. Certainly energy efficiency is very important to nearly everyone nowadays. It’s one of the main benefits brought by Technoform’s products and technologies to commercial fenestration and insulated glass. But if energy efficiency were the sole driver of healthy buildings we would live in caves or buried in the ground.  Several studies have measured and documented that for people to thrive and be healthy; their space (for work, learning, living) should provide daylighting (with proper glare control), a view of nature, and an ability to control access to fresh air. Finding a balance between energy efficiency and human well-being is the key, though how you specifically attain this balance varies by climate zone, building use, the goals of the owner, etc. In my appraisal, the analysis on which the WWR debate is based on too narrow of a perspective – human beings are left out.

As an industry, it’s critical that we file comments prior to the June 17 deadline on why we disagree with the proposal to reduce glazing area. Stick to the flaws you find in the proposal and don’t criticize ASHRAE or any particular people or industries. And collaborate through our trade associations who are coordinating industry action.
--  Note that last line…. the various trade organizations are working on this and if you are interested in this process, you can and should contact those groups.  (NGA, GANA, AAMA, IGMA, AEC etc.)

--  Next week I catch up with Mark about his visit to Washington DC, energy efficiencies throughout the globe, and educating the industry.  Really insightful stuff you will not want to miss.


--  Get in line… couple plans to give away 4 BILLION dollars if you are a worthy candidate.

--  LinkedIn bans the world’s oldest profession.  And to think I missed all of it while getting the goofy message boards I follow.

--  Nothing like using your 9 year old kid as a prop to further your own agenda.  Argh….


Great moments in Jumbotron History.  The third one is an usher at the Palace of Auburn Hills and he is amazing.  Also an extremely nice guy too…

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Quick Hits

Every so often I do a blog that just hits on various topics quickly and since it’s been a while, I figured it’s time to catch up on some of the happenings in the world of glass, glazing and more.  So buckle up, here goes…

--  My heart goes out to everyone in Oklahoma after the brutal weather/tornado's that passed through on Monday.  Thoughts and prayers to all.  Stay strong OKC, Moore, and all the area affected.

--  Who’s going to the AIA show this year?  We’re a month away; my curiosity is centered on how attendance will be in a city like Denver vs. last year in DC.

--  The drawings for the new Viking Stadium are out, looks to be an amazing structure, loving the use of glass!

--  Between the last few weeks with Avi Bar and my published piece with Bowie Neumayer, the feedback has been off the charts awesome.  So I decided to crank out some more interviews and have 2 lined up for the next few weeks that I think you will really like.  And my next one for the magazine is going to be fun too!

--  In case you missed it, Guardian posted a very cool pre-GPD interview with Scott Thomsen.  Being an ex-TV guy (who misses the business), I thought the way the graphics were edited in, really made this piece stand out.  If you want to check it out, it’s my Video of the Week.

--  Being an independent outsider these days it’s hard to definitely tell, but it sure seems like the latest price increase is sticking.  Then again I may be completely wrong.

--  As a marketing guy I am jealous of the new ad that Kawneer put out in the latest Glass Magazine.  Creative and sharp.  Great job and well done.

--  I know I noted it a few weeks ago but I think it may have been heavily overshadowed by the Avi Bar interview… please check out the Efficient Window Collaborative’s website.  It’s a tremendous resource.

--  Hey wow gas prices are up (at all stations) because a single refinery had issues of some sort.  Love that the oil industry can collude and price fix and yet no one really cares.  Where are the ambulance chasers that harass innocent people in our industry to go take on big oil?

--  GlassBuild America registration opening soon.  Will be here before you know it.  Show will be great this year, tons of momentum for it.

--  Happy Memorial Day to all and especially those who served.  The words “Courage” and “Hero” sometimes get thrown around a little too loosely (by me included) these days but should really be dedicated to the men and women of the military (currently serving and veterans) who truly deserve those distinctions!

--  Last item, a sincere thank you.  I just like to once in while throw that out there because I am grateful for the support you show me and this blog.  I appreciate everyone who reads here, whether you like me or the blog or not!  I still can’t believe I started this in 2005.  Feels like yesterday.


Incredible guy here… 18 years old- graduating with bigtime triple major and oh he’s got MD.

I know a few people in the great northwest, maybe they can explain this “nonprofit” pub to me.

I love Amazon, but this one would scare me.  Gotta pay attention!


The previously mentioned piece from Guardian with Scott Thomsen.  Kudos to everyone at Guardian that had a hand in this one.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The "Other" Codes

In the last several weeks I have been hitting energy codes pretty heavy and below I have more of my interview with Avi Bar on that subject.  But leading off this week is another code angle, and that’s one of safety and security glass.  As we push for energy improvements it really does have to be handled in combination with ensuring that we are not taking our eye off the protective glazing side.  I think catastrophic events can spur to action but sometimes it leads to only answering that specific bell, and leaving so many items open.  So while there’s a major focus on school security (and there needs to be) there still needs to be a sustained focus on the other areas of protective glazing, including fire rated. (One take of mine?  No more wire, please.) I do believe our industry has a great feel on this product segment, but there’s still more education needed.  If we still have people in the field not “getting it” we as an entire industry fail.

That said I thought that the gang over at Glass Magazine hit the issue perfectly this month with their edition on the entire protective glazing field, including the basics of the product all the way up to the advanced.  Really a job well done and a must read issue that doesn’t go maudlin and stays focused with the sort of professionalism and journalistic credibility you come to expect from the team at Glass Magazine. 


--  I had the opportunity to listen in to the latest construction industry economic forecast this past week and for the most part the analysts were in very positive moods.  While there are surely bumps in the road, optimism did rule the day.  However one item did come up that bothered me and that was one analyst noting that if you want to build “green” you have to build new.  I disagree, at least from our side of the world, with some of the technology we have out there, we can surely make serious difference in a retrofit application.  Once again we need to educate!

--  As some of my loyal readers know I loved the TV show “24.”  Amazing stuff.  Well news this week is that 24 and Jack Bauer may be coming back.  PLEASE make that happen.  In the meantime, the show “The Americans” is now my favorite- though I am still 5 episodes behind…

--  Last week my interview with Avi Bar, Vice President at Advanced Glazings really got people talking.  This week I wrap up our talk with a look at the architectural side of things.

Max: In your dealings with Architects and Designers are you finding that they are paying attention to the codes or are they more focused on the products they want to use?

Avi: My overall experience is that the Architects and Designers are becoming more aware of energy codes, however it isn’t easy to implement. The prescriptive methods don’t easily translate into their designs, and the modeling methodologies are complex to include in the first pass of designs. Therefore it’s an ongoing iterative process. There is a disconnect in the design community/owner interrelationship as fees for services continue to be tightened whilst the technical competency for designers is increasing. The complexity of the analysis process that the architects are now bound to engage on are a problem for them and perhaps an opportunity for a proactive glass industry. The more stringent the code, the more anxiety I have seen in the designers. This is a call for help to the glass and glazing industry to innovate and support them.

Max: A lot of the economic indicators for construction and architecture are trending upwards, are you seeing the same thing?

Avi: It’s hard for us to tell, as our products are not commodities and have seen overall increase in business even during the recession where billings were down and many glass fabricators have been shutting down. With that said, our current demand is growing at a much higher rate. Is that due to better economic conditions or finally a signal that the market for high performance translucent glass is maturing, we can’t say. Perhaps a mix of both. All in all, were optimistic.


--  This piece absolutely pegs it on the dumbest things people are doing with smartphones.

--  Having worked in TV, I have seen this trick done TONS of times.  Funny to see it called out like this and also how poorly executed it was.

--  Great story and I love when people get dressed up to go to ballgames.  The seriously good ole days.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Fascinating Insight

I decided to take a little different of an approach for the blog this week.  Up top I’ll hit a couple of news items but for the 2nd half I have an extremely interesting interview with a guy who I consider to be one of the most fascinating in our industry today.


--  So is it me or did the fact that the General Service Administration noting that they have been looking at LEED for “almost a year and half” just make you sad?   Seriously it should never take that long or am I missing something? Yes they studied 160 tools and standards, (there’s really that many? My goodness) but does it really take that long to eventually decide on the biggest and most prominent one? 

--  A website for you to absolutely visit and bookmark.  The Efficient Window Collaborative has added to their already amazing site and it now is even better.  The new window selection tool is tremendous.  Kudos to Kerry Haglund and her team for once again raising the bar when it comes to educational resources.

--  While we’re in congratulatory mode, we’ll send some congrats out to Alissa Schmidt of Viracon for winning a Distinguished Alumni award from her alma mater Minnesota State- Mankato.  Alissa represents our industry well and it’s great her efforts are being recognized!

--  Ok now on to the interview portion… this week I tracked down Avi Bar, Vice President, Architectural Products, Advanced Glazing (Solera Panels) to get his take on the current code landscape and more.  I met Avi 2 years ago and was extremely impressed by his intelligence and focus.  When the code discussion started to heat up, I thought getting Avi’s opinion would be interesting.  And after getting his answers I have no doubt that this will surely get some people talking. 

Max: The building/energy code process continues to evolve.  As someone that follows it the way you do, what’s your take on where the codes are now and where they are going?

Avi: I think there are two primary shifts now in code. Energy codes getting stricter and becoming mandatory vs. voluntary. The codes are reflecting the rising energy costs and environmental challenges. The codes recognize that the building envelope plays a significant role in addressing these challenges. However most advances have been predominantly incremental as we try to tweak existing technologies and materials. This in turn results in incremental code changes. All the evidence however indicates that we need a more radical change in energy codes. This will be fed by two possible triggers. An event that forces more scarcity of fossil fuels or breakthrough technologies to compete. We hope that the former doesn’t have to occur before the latter. There are materials such as ours that are making that true. In Europe code tends to be more stringent and mandatory as energy costs are substantially higher but the net result is better buildings, and more innovation and greater value in the derived from the glass industry. Another point of interest is that energy metrics for buildings are now factoring quantifiable benefits to the use of daylighting strategically as the primary lighting source during usable hours.

Max: What’s your take on the ASHRAE issue and the on-going discussions/angst that is seemingly pretty active in our industry now?

Avi: Here is the basic premise. ASHRAE standards are driven by two primary conditions.
a) Higher energy costs
b) Environmental stewardess

Both these conditions are important and real and should not be ignored. Asking ASHRAE to relax rules and code will compromise buildings ability to be sustainable from an environmental and financial standpoint.

The codes are not going to get less stringent. The voluntary nature is not going to spread. Instead I predict (as we can see everywhere else in the world), the codes will get more stringent and mandatory. We can sit and cry about it or we can rise to the challenge.

The issue the glass industry is trying to address is that most current glass products are based on a composition that is fundamentally flawed. Glass is a highly conductive material. Air in the units (or gasses, which are highly prone to leakage) are highly convective. Low-e is reaching its maximum value in reducing U Values. Spacers are highly conductive too. Therefore the fundamental construct of glass is challenged as its only potential improvement is incremental. Even with triple glazed units which add cost due to additional material and installation costs. Over and above this, vision glass struggles to deal with the daylighting question appropriately since it introduces heat and glare unless controlled through shading devices, which adds more cost.

So given these constraints it’s obvious that the "Nemesis / Enemy " is the code. If you can't improve then the code is too strict.

But that does not have to be the case. If we look at using innovation and technology to change the construct and paradigms on the glazing, then we could retain our position on buildings. There is much work to be done in this realm but it's not far off. Therefore my recommendation is instead of blaming ASHRAE and seeking lobbying money to fight it, let's invest this money in innovating and lower material costs.

The glass industry in short needs to embrace two fundamental things
a) Innovation
b) Education throughout the value chain

Next week, part 2 with Avi including where the Architectural community weighs in on this.


The old “” address is now dead.  Wow.

Big question for business owners, replace the server or go to cloud based computing? 

This is a school that gets it, a “nice weather” day!


Take the next 6 minutes and see why the Portland Timber organization is one to be admired.  An 8-year-old boy with cancer gets his wish, and the Timbers pull out all of the stops.  Really impressive to make the effort and build the memory here.