Glaziers Speak Out: Architects Knowledge on Glass Products

Does an architect's knowledge of glass and glazing products really make a difference in the overall project? Yes, say a sampling of industry professionals. Architects play a vital role in almost every commercial glazing project. Their knowledge and understanding of glass and glazing products are crucial in terms of helping to keep drawings and expectations realistic, projects on time, within budget and warranties valid. There is a direct relationship between an architect's knowledge of a product and their specifications. The more accurate an architect is with his or her drawings, the better it is for the glazing contractor, the overall project and the end user.

"It depends on the firm," says Steve Emmenecker, vice president for American Glass and Metals, a mid-to-large size glazing contractor serving southeast Michigan. "Some firms are very well-educated while others continue to make very common mistakes in specifying types and surfaces for opaque coatings and code compliance. We see a lot of very simple mistakes with specifications occurring over and over again. I think the primary reason for this is because architects rely too much on 'boilerplate' specifications and this can get them into trouble."

Matt Echeverria, a project manager with Embassy Glass, a mid-size glazing contractor in Las Vegas, says architects will have to take notice of problems with their specifications and learn more about how systems come together as more third-party consultants come into the mix. "Owner's representatives and/or general contractors are increasingly hiring a third-party to double check the glazing specficiations and engineering components. This helps keep the architect in check on what is being drawn and what can actually be used and installed."

"As long as the third-party is brought in early enough we have time to address workmanship, warranty and field installation issues that arise from poor details from the architect's drawings based on the 'intent,'" continues Echeverria. "While there can be additional costs, we find this movement [a third-party review] is helping to ensure a better product for the customer at the end of the day."

"Clearly, the more knowledgeable an architect is regarding the glass or aluminum products they specify the better it is for all of us," says Jerry Larson, the third generation of Larson's at the family-owned and operated business in Puyallup, Wash. "The better understanding of a product's function and performance, the more accurate they [the architect] can be in specifying the type of products that will meet lead times and budget for a particular project."

"A good deal of our work is in the public market and therefore we are able to get drawings ahead of time," he continued. "This allows us the opportunity to make changes by addendum or a substitute request if we see a problem with a particular product. We work closely with architects and are upfront if we see a particular product that will not work within the budget, aren't able to obtain within the specified timeframe or is not a good fit for the job."

"We also are involved with the Washington Glass Association and participate along with architects on various educational seminars designed to give this specific group more knowledge and information about our products," adds Larson, a long-term and active member of the association. "We encourage the local architects to take the time to attend these types of seminars. Anything an architect can do to educate himself on our products helps save time and money in the long run."

"With the ongoing advances in technology in our field, there are so many changes in our products and their performance, it's hard for us to keep up sometimes," Larson notes.

"We don't expect architects to be experts on our products but a little knowledge does go a long way," says Randy Glaze, an estimator for Cyrex Glass & Mirror, a small glazing contractor serving the greater Houston metro area. "It can be frustrating to look at a set of drawings and see products that the architect has in mind but simply won't work for the design, application or budget. If they knew more about our products they would have a better idea of what would work best the for the job and what they are getting."

"It is very important that we have a good relationship with our architects and work as a team," Glaze points out. "How it works right now is if the architect can just give us an idea of what he or she wants, we can direct them on what is the best product for the design and budget. In the end, it's up to us to catch and resolve any products with products before the project begins."

"We're seeing architects increasingly following recommendations from the manufacturers," says Brian Beck, metals sales manager for W.A. Wilson Glass from his office in Wheeling, W. Va. "Manufacturers are becoming more invovled directly with the architect and keeping them up to date with their products and this in turn is helping the architect be more accurate with his specifications."

"This is making a big difference in terms of specificing the right product for the right job at the beginning of the project and reducing errors early on," he notes.

by Peggy Georgi

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