PGC Fall Symposium Underway Today in Washington D.C.
The Protective Glazing Council (PGC) Fall Symposium got underway
today at the Ronald Regan Building and International World Trade
Center in Washington D.C., with an impressive list of speakers beginning
with Major General Charles Williams of the Department of State Overseas
Building Operations (OBO).
Williams took to the podium at 8:30 a.m., discussing the new construction
program with the OBO and recapping the design and construction of
new embassies and consulates around the world. With 36 new embassies
and consulates open since 2001 and 40 more being built, Williams
explained how the job is getting done. Part of the efficiency of
the building comes from the principals of performance, accountability,
discipline and credibility as stressed by the current Secretary
of State Condoleezaa Rice.
"This is what gives the organization the legs it has today,"
Williams said. "The world is in a very unsettled situation
at the moment and because of that it makes our job tougher."
Embassies, Williams explained, are established anywhere the U.S.
has citizens working.
"Pick anywhere in the world and we have something for you.
We're not in pretty locations now because our people are where the
action is and we have to go there and set things in place,"
he said, before showing a series of photos from different embassies
around the world.
"When you hear 'embassy' you hear a lot of things and you know
we have to secure the building. You may hear words like 'fortress'
or 'bunkers,' but when I give these presentations, I try to clarify
what we're doing," Williams said.
He explained that generally the OBO purchases ten acres of land
at one time and prefers to build horizontally. They try to keep
the buildings to three stories, so as not to overshadow the tallest
buildings in the city or draw attention to the facility. The designs
don't shy away from glass either; several new embassies, including
the one in Armenia, have atriums in the entrance. When asked his
opinion of the buildings reflecting the philosophy of the United
States, Williams indicated that he felt they already did-the buildings
expressed openness without compromising the local flavor.
"There are a lot of misconceptions about what presents a building.
What presents a building is what you first see when you open your
eyes and when you walk into the building. When you enter an embassy
today, you don't see America. You see the host country décor.
When people in Kenya [visit] the embassy in Nairobi, they see the
American flag, but they walk in and see bamboo floors, not oak.
They can relate to that," he said. He added that local laborers
are hired to do the building, which also adds to the economy-and
the organization always replants indigenous trees.
The tone of the conference changed a bit when Buck Revell of the Revell Group
made his presentation immediately following Williams' speech. Revell spoke about
terrorism, its causes and the changes of which companies offering protective services
should be aware. Specifically, he pointed out that terrorist plots against the
United States are not new and should not have been a surprise.
The United States has been a target of Islamic terrorists since
1979 when the Ayatollah Khomeini came out of exile, he explained.
Since that time-the same time the group Hezbellah was created-terrorist
groups have blatantly expressed the desire to take down the United
"It should not have been a surprise to us when on 9/11 the
U.S. was attacked so successfully by a group that had been telling
us, loudly and clearly for a long time, that they were out to get
Complicating the problem is the nature of terrorism.
"It's not a war. Terrorism is a tactic. It's a tactic used
to disrupt a society for political or other purposes," Revell
said. At this point he reassured his audience as much, as it could
be reassuring at the point, that Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have been
The bigger threat now, he explained is "more the lone wolf
operations that are energized by propaganda and
fervor. That is the most difficult type of terrorism to stop. If
you don't have a target, it's hard to penetrate."
He stressed that terrorism can come in many forms.
"It's equally a concern with homegrown terrorists who may be
second or third generation people born here who have gotten caught
up with the religious fervor. McVeigh was not an Islamic terrorist
but he had a target of the U.S. government and [blew up]
a building that had nothing to do with his cause but that he saw
as a representative of it. Homegrown terrorists, whatever their
reasons, will continue to be the threat," Revell said. "This
is not a two or three-year episode we're dealing with. We'll be
dealing with it for the next two, three, maybe four generations."
He stressed that jihadists are not mainstream Muslims.
"Mainstream Islam in many parts of the world is intimidated
because they've become targets if they speak out against or criticize
the extremists. It's not unusual for those who speak out to be targeted
even before the U.S. Those who do speak out should be afforded as
much support and face time by our media. We should support those
who are jeopardizing themselves by speaking out against the extremists,"
After a short break, attendees returned to listen to a presentation
by Dean C. Alexander, in which he discussed new potential targets
for blast events and what businesses can and are doing to mitigate
the potential for danger in these areas. Alexander, professor of
Homeland Security at Western Illinois University and author of Terrorism
and Business: The Impact of September 11, 2001, expanded upon Revell's
presentation stressing the involvement and cooperation needed between
the private and public sector in working to prevent terrorist attacks.
He also spoke to the changes in modus operandi of terrorist attacks-the
use of people considered outside the "traditional" terrorist
profile, such as women and children, or staging attacks geared toward
greater casualties or using drastically different weapons or methods.
He gave a general overview of targets that aren't on the forefront
of people's minds such as retail areas and medical facilities.
The seminar continues this afternoon with presentations by:
- Jamie Gascon of the Miami-Dade County Building Code Compliance
Department, on hot topics in Florida;
- John Talkington of the Smithsonian Institution, with a presentation
titled "A Real World Implementation of A Protective Glazing
- Bill Koffel of Koffel and Associates discussing the common ground
between protective glazing and fire-rated glazing technology.
Look for a recap of the afternoon seminars as well as tomorrow's
synopsis in tomorrow's addition of usgnn and the December issue
of USGlass magazine.