Pulp It

Thoughts from Bernard Lax

Is it Furniture or are They Walls?

Recently I have been hearing from glazing contractors how they are losing work to companies selling demountable glass partition systems. There are a number of these companies and generally they provide a good product. I want to add to this that I do not have a dog in this fight as we sell glass to these companies as well as glaziers, except that it concerns me how easy it is for a product to spread misinformation and leave a client at risk. Companies that make these systems prey on the idea that because the demountables are “furniture” they are depreciated on a faster schedule than a construction related capital improvement. That part of the tax code is correct, but can someone please explain why these new systems could by any stretch of the imagination be considered furniture.

Demountables were once systems that were compression based and basically fit between the floor and a ceiling with minimum pressure. Yeah I can buy that that can be considered furniture, but these days are anything but that. Today’s systems are designed with a variety of extrusion patterns that are assembled and mechanically connected to the ceiling and the floor, in almost exactly the same way that a glazier might install the system left to his own design. In essence they are the same thing. It seems that it is only a matter of time before the IRS catches up with this scheme leaving client’s left to battle the confusion. Granted they may not be any worse off if caught, but in my mind it doesn’t make the designer look good when they offer up this info because some salesperson told them that this was legal. My advice, check with your accountant and make sure your accountant checks with the IRS.

Click on the link and see an article written about just this subject.


Painted Glass is as Different as the Colors Applied

As specialty glass becomes more popular there always becomes a danger that specifiers can make assumptions that all products that have a similar visual aesthetic are all the same. They then write a generic specification based on a designers description with no vetting of the performance or testing criteria of the product being used.

This has proven to be the case with a product referred to as “back painted glass”. How many times have you heard this term without ever considering what it actually means. The final result and aesthetic of the glass is completely understandable. It is a piece of glass that has color, generally opaque, with a paint applied to the back. This much is accurate, but consider these questions.

  • How was the paint applied?
  • What type of paint was used?
  • Is the paint being used harmful to the environment?
  • Is the disposal of unused paint harmful to the environment?
  • Is the coating of the paint durable and permanently bonded to the surface?
  • Will the paint scratch?
  • Can the painted glass be cut and fabricated with the paint on it?
  • Will adhesives show through the paint when installed?
  • Has the product been tested to any performance criteria?
  • What is the manufacturer’s warranty on the glass?

The industry has so quickly to jumped into the process and manufacture of this glass that producers are using a variety of paints and additives, that have turned the back painted glass business into the wild wild west with little accountability. These same producers have done little to define their process and depend on the ignorance of the designer and specifier to insure that their products will never be questioned.

It is our intention to raise the bar on glass coatings and their performance. Look in the near future for Pulp Studio’s new specification for our Pintura™ back coated glass. Once the answers to the questions above are clear, and comparisons are made, I think the design community will begin to understand why vetting all specialty glass products is an important consideration before a specification is written.

When Will the Next Shoe Drop?

A recent article by US Glass is the beginning of a very painful lesson that many developers and Insurance companies are going to learn the hard way. If you buy sub-standard glass product then you will yield the liability that comes with putting the concern of cost over the concern of quality and public safety.

Exterior glass facades and handrails are subject to the exposure of both hot and cold exterior environments. When glass explodes or falls and public safety is at risk it means generally one thing…..tort liability litigation. This type of litigation will render judgments and settlements in the millions per claimant and be just another cog in the wheel of an already messed up court system. Generally I am a believer that most litigation is unwarranted, but in this case I disagree, if someone is harmed because a developer chose an off-shore product for its savings only to find out the material did not provide the warranted standards, well then maybe he should pay, and pay and pay.

One problem, it won’t be the developer who pays, it will be his insurance company. After all the claims are paid, well then you know how this works, they raise everyone’s premium to pay for the losses, so it is us who will pay. It will take one really explosive construction defect case to get the insurance companies to notice and then maybe the playing field will be leveled if the insurance companies do their job and learn to  differentiate between imported and domestic glass qualities and the projects they are willing to insure, but they won’t.

Let us for a minute assume that all the glass exploding and falling in Toronto is glass supplied from off-shore. The insurance company covers these losses and claims for not only the liability, but the replacement of work and changing out the glass to something safer. How eager will these insurers be in the future to insure projects with glass handrails on balconies. One can make the argument that all the glass on these projects came from someplace else, other than North America, who standards are not to the same quality and that insurers should make that distinction when evaluating new projects. I just don’t see any insurance company making that distinction and creating a divisive rating system for glass coming from different places, but I can assure you that whatever they do will end up being a negative in the world of development and ultimately hurt the glass industry.

In the end the best thing we can do is wait for a significant piece of litigation to be resolved, hopefully in our best interest, and then publicize it like there is no tomorrow. The health of the façade and handrail industries depends on it and by educating developers as to what they may face by selecting price over quality may be the only answer on how to get them to support the domestic industry.