Pulp It

Thoughts from Bernard Lax

Your Safety is Right Around the Corner

If you remember it was reported back at the end of 2012 that there was a significant code change passed to be implemented in the 2015 issuance of the IBC. That must have seemed like years away back then, but here we are! Three years later and we are on the precipice of the implementation of this change. I can’t tell you how many architects are still unaware of this impending change and the shock of higher costs associated with handrails will be something bound to be a surprise for both architects, developers and general contractors who haven’t paid attention.

The code change calls for the laminated glass to be constructed of either single-fully tempered glass, laminated fully tempered glass or laminated heat-strengthened glass and to comply with Category II of CPSC 16 CFR Part 1201 or Class A of ANSI Z97.1. The proposal noted that the glazing used in railing in-fill panels must be of an approved safety glazing material that conforms to the provisions of Section 2406.1.1. For all glazing types, the minimum nominal thickness must be 1/4 inch (6.4 mm). Fully tempered glass and laminated glass must comply with Category II of CPSC 16 CFR Part 1201 or Class A of ANSI Z97.1. An exception is provided for single fully tempered glass complying with Category II of CPSC 16 CFR Part 1201 or Class A of ANSI Z97.1 used in handrails and guardrails if there is no walking surface below or the walking surface is permanently protected from the risk of falling glass.

This is a critical time to educate the industry, so let’s get to it.


Once again we see another project where glass has been supplied for handrails and is failing. Nobody has rendered a definitive cause but if it smells like a fish, and tastes like a fish, then it must be nickel sulfide inclusions. I have started to realize that you really can’t blame these Chinese suppliers. This is the quality of glass that some of them make and if it is inferior so be it. The blame lies with the specifier and the General Contractor who fail to vet these items, and more importantly who ignore the news. It isn’t like this potential issue hasn’t been an issue in the past two years. Instead ignorance is bliss and they many of these folks play the risk game. If they can get it cheaper then throw caution to the wind. Maybe this costly lesson will be driven home by the insurance companies. This could be the start of something big!

Make Money at Work….for Doing Nothing

When was the last time that an estimator included the costs associated with employees doing nothing? It is odd that nobody has thought to add this as a line item when budgeting a job, but clearly it should be included in the cost analysis of a construction project. By now you must be wondering, what am I talking about?

Think about it. A subcontractor takes a job building a tenant space in a high rise. You would think the landlord of that building would be thrilled to accommodate the tenant in their improvements. In fact they are so thrilled they allocate just ONE elevator in the building for all the trades to use to get both manpower and materials up and down to the jobsite.

Have you ever been on one of these sites? If not, what you will see are tradesman standing around at an average rate of $100 an hour waiting and waiting for sometimes up to a half hour at a time for an elevator to get them and their materials where they need to go. You can almost say they are just standing around for a living. Multiply this occurrence by a few times a day times for every guy on the job and you will start to see the dollars add up day after day for workers doing nothing.

This became even more apparent as I have visited a couple construction sites recently that have imposed such high security and restrictive access to their sites that their construction costs have risen as a result. Imagine a 10% to 20% to their overall labor costs on a project while employees of subs wasting time complying with over bearing site regulations. The result is that the client is paying these additional costs and getting nothing in return for it.

The lesson to the sub contractor is that bidding a project without putting in the “doing nothing” factor is a sure result in diminishing your profits.