Skip to main content

NGA Glass Conference Day 2 Tackles New Normal of Design, Fabrication Troubleshooting, Digitizing the Workplace

NGA Glass Conference’s second day was as busy as the first, offering a full docket of educational offerings covering topics from troubleshooting glass fabricating equipment, to digitizing the factory and jobsite. Register here for Day 3 of the conference. 

Here were some of the major takeaways from the day:

The New Normal - Design & Construction


Domenic Cristofar, HED Design, said the coronavirus "irreversibly changed how building occupants will enter, navigate and occupy building interiors" and that preventing disease transmission will be foremost in the mindset of design professionals, building owners and regulatory agencies. He envisions glass will be used more frequently as barriers not only at points of service, but within office spaces themselves. Gone are the days of the over-densification of commercial office buildings, he says. 

General contractor

Joe Conover, Clark Construction, discussed how the business has had to shift from in-person communication and relationship building to doing the same over digital methods such as Zoom. On the jobsite, the Clark Construction now monitors for symptoms, does contact tracing, has additional PPE, practices social distancing and accommodates occupancy restrictions and modified workflows. Although those do impact productivity, he says they are learning they can work safely in this new normal and that it gets better each day.

Product solutions

Liz Haggerty, Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope, first focused on safety and understanding the CDC guidelines and how to apply them. They changed work areas to allow for proper distancing and ensured employees came to work in a healthy way. On the customer support side, one of the marked changes is to meet delivery requirements in a touchless way. She also discussed doing more unitized products and various digital tools to allow customers to select architectural glazing and glass.

Entrances and hardware

Connor Leahy, Assa Abloy, said touchless and antimicrobial hardware will see a boom since entrances are among the most-touched parts of a building. The company had to prioritize the launch of certain products to meet demand. He said safeguarding manufacturing staff was relatively easy because of already existing robotic machinery and touchless operations.


Randal Froebelius, Equity ICI Real Estate Services, said traditional retail is significantly impacted and some landlord will survive while others won't. Main challenges building operations face include main entrances, security/concierges and loading docks and deliveries, which are seeing much more traffic because of increased e-commerce but are areas that aren't designed for social distancing and extensive traffic. All of this, he says, is against the backdrop of government regulation, which can vary at the state and local level.

A Digital Industry: from Factory to Jobsite 

One of the major impacts of COVID-19 has been an increased use of software and digital tools, as a large part of the workforce shifted to working remotely. In this presentation, industry experts AJ Piscatelli, business development, FENml; Brad Thurman, vice president of sales - fabricated products, at GGI; and Jeff Sample, director of strategic accounts, eSub software, discussed the current possibilities of digitizing glass fabrication and installation.

Invest now

Though the pandemic has certainly had major economic impacts, for those that have the option, Piscatelli says that now is actually a prime time to purchase software. Vendors are currently competing for clients, he says, resulting in better pricing for consumers. If it does end up being a large investment, many suppliers are able to work with payment plans as well.

Digitize delivery

Thurman touched on the important of digitizing every part of the production process, including delivery. He emphasized the utility of truck driving optimization software, which helps companies find and navigate literal road blocks to ensure a quicker route and provide real-time updates for customers. Software can also track drivers’ hours, which is crucial due to the Department of Transportation Guidelines restrictions on the number of hours drivers can be on the road.

Make productivity visible

Sample emphasized the importance of digital tools for installers, even for processes such as timecards, as digitization allows employers to analyze and streamline processes. “It’s the visibility that these tools provide that we need in the field,” he said. He underscored that with the widespread usage of technology, such as smartphones, almost all employees will be able to adapt to using the types of tools available for the jobsite.

Solutions to Fabrication Challenges

The NGA welcomed a group of the glass industry’s foremost technical experts to respond to questions about top fabrication challenges. Panelists included leading glass consultants Chris Barry, Stan Joehlin, Bill Lingnell and Mike Burk.

Origin of breakages

Barry offered insights on how to identify the cause of glass breakages. By investigating breakages in the factory or field, he is able to trace the origin of the break and find clues to identify the cause. In one situation, “We had about a quarter of the glass breaking, and it was all breaking at the same dimension. That gave us a clue as to what was going on,” he said. Barry discovered the cause of the breakage was overlapping cutting scores. The small overlap created weakness in the glass, leading to thermal stress breakage once the glass was installed. “Stop that score before you hit the score you’ve previously put there,” Barry said.  

Barry noted other causes of breakages, such as scratches on the edge of fresh cut glass, scrapes caused by sharp blades used during paint trimming and steel cap scratches on an insulating glass unit.

Optical distortions

Glass fabricators who produce heat strengthened or tempered glass must understand the scope and cause of optical distortions, said Joehlin. “Typically, the building owners will complain about it. Architects will try to find fabricators to produce with no distortion. Fabricators will try and achieve it. The only problem is there are laws of physics that stand in the way of that.”

To produce stress required for temp or heat strengthen glass, fabricators must raise the temperature of the glass, which creates a softness of the glass in processing. The softness of glass leads can open the door to distortions, such as edge kink, roller way and iridescence, he said. Once fabricators understand the causes of varying types of distortion, they can make adjustments to their processes to limit the effects.

Post-fabrication finishing

Architects continue to seek glass systems that maximize sightlines and minimize metal and hardware. The trend often leads to the use of laminated glass with exposed edges, such as on a glass railing system. Architects, however, also want that exposed edge to meet aesthetic expectations, with smooth edges and precise alignment. Post-fabrication polishing and finishing can create those conditions, but, does it increase the chance of breakage?   

Post-fabrication finishing processes do not comply with the current industry standards, Lingnell said. Since the glass is required to be tempered, post polishing “can weaken the glass,” he said. (Read more about post-fabrication finishing.)

“What can we do? One thing we can do is some physical testing,” Lingnell said. He recommends companies evaluate the strength of the glass resulting from the “worst level” of edge grinding. “Find out how much you’re going to take off and do some testing,” he said. “See what the outcome will be. It will be a go/no go situation.”

The NGA has also established a committee to evaluate the issue, Lingnell said.

IGU gas measurements

Burk presented on gas fill in insulating glass units. New measurement tools allow for easier measurement of gas fill in the plant and on the jobsite, even on IGUs with multiple low-emissivity coatings. “It allows us to measure units from inside, and for multi-cavity units,” he said.

Burk notes that problems that present in the field can avoided by making changes in the plant. “All of the panelists pointed to issues that are fabrication issues that show up in the field. This points to making sure fabricators do things properly,” he said.

Want to join? Register here