Pulp It

Thoughts from Bernard Lax

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.


I just came back from the AIA show in Washington DC and during the trip was able to sneak out and go over to see the Martin Luther King memorial. Pulp Studio was fortunate enough to be selected as a supplier for this project, and honored to participate in the construction  through the 176 pieces of glass supplied as the light coverings that were in front of the memorial wall. What was interesting was that this was the only outdoor memorial that I visited that actually has glass in it while the rest of them were mostly built with granite. Maybe it was a subliminal “vision” thing that we share.


Sandblasting, Frosting, Etching; what is the difference? In the business of specialty glass the process of obscuring a glass uses different processes and has many different names.

First of all, there is no sand in the process of Sandblasting, unless of course you are taking paint off your building. When it comes to glass we use aluminum oxide as the medium for abrading the glass. Aluminum Oxide comes in various grits from very coarse to very fine, and depending on how aggressive you want to be with the surface of glass will depend on what grit has to be used. When blasting glass with an aggregate it is imperative to first understand that every time a particle of aluminum oxide hits the surface of the glass, it removes particles of the glass itself. The more times you run over the area being blasted the more material comes out. In this process the operator has very little control over the depth of the material being removed and ultimately creates a very porous surface that oil and dirt can collect in.

The process of frosting, or our brand name of MICROFROSTING®, is the process of using a specific grit of aluminum oxide with a completely computer controlled process of blasting where all variables of the blasting itself are controlled and maintained, thus allowing us to create a smooth, even, and minimal abrasion to the surface of the glass. This creates a softer look and makes the glass easy to clean when dirt or fingerprints collect on the surface. The even quality of the finish makes this the most desirable finish for custom and gradient applications. This process is also the most environmentally friendly process because the entire blasting medium is recycled. Pulp Studio has utilized multiple processing lines of MICROFROSTING® for more than a decade. It is humorous to us that some of our competitors have tried to sell this process as some type of new ECO glass, implying that this is a new green form of processing. We just did it because the finish is better and it is good business to be environmentally responsible.

Acid etching is exactly what it sounds like. The float glass goes through the process of having a coating put onto the surface of the glass, usually utilizing a screen and a compound consisting caustic ingredients designed to abrade the surface in a very subtle way. The material is applied to the glass and then flushed off with water and neutralizers to leave a very clean and even surface. If done correctly the resulting glass is the easiest to clean of them all.

Next time you want to get blasted, first think about what you really need for the application. Personally, I prefer a good Scotch.