Sourcing glazing in short supply

by FM Media
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How to minimise the impact cost changes in the glazing industry will have on buildings is explained by ADRIAN GROCOTT, managing director of Express Glass.

The coated glass sector of the glazing industry is currently going through enormous changes that will have an impact upon a wide variety of businesses. Local production of coated glass is highly limited and most coated glass is now sourced internationally. To avoid being negatively impacted, building and strata scheme managers should be aware that the process of identifying, sourcing and ordering replacement glass from international manufacturers can cause delays, especially when compared to what was previously a fairly straightforward task.
The primary factors when considering building façade design are energy efficiency, shading and appearance. Glass with metallic coating permanently bonded to it through a post-manufacture process managed to achieve these factors on Australian buildings for over 25 years. Until recently, the vast majority of building façades erected across the country used coated glass products manufactured locally.
Global advancements in glass coating provide better performance, predominantly through a wider choice of external appearance and degrees of reflectance, ensuring specific building requirements can be met.

Due to Australia’s general decline in manufacturing, there is a severe underinvestment in these new technologies at a local level. As an example, an Australian producer’s recent termination of the manufacture of reflective glass used on buildings can be attributed to the low demand for old technology.
Australian glaziers and their customers have enjoyed a continuity of supply until now and these industry changes have put pressure on local glass providers to source quality coated glass products. This situation presents a problem for existing buildings that need to replace or update sections of their façades – there are no locally produced solutions to repair these façades on a ‘like for like’ basis. New coated glass alternatives, which perform far better than previous options, must now be considered – but with such high demand from new building construction, and importation delays, delivery times are long. Obviously, this is not the best situation to be in if your building has a broken window or section and you do not want an inconsistent, patchwork look.
Keep in mind that, depending on the glass type, new, coated glass products are similar, but are unlikely to exactly match existing building façades. Akin to putting a fresh coat of paint on a wall to cover graffiti and not painting the other walls, new glass panelling will look new, and finding the closest possible match in both appearance and performance can be a complex exercise.

There is a range of strategies building and strata scheme managers should be aware of to minimise the impact and cost these changes will have on their buildings.

1. Accurate records
Maintaining accurate building records ensures that when a panel or section needs replacing, you will know exactly what type of coated glass is required and, in the case of obsolete products, will assist in sourcing the closest possible match.

2. Investigation
If accurate records are not available, an alternative that building and strata scheme managers can explore is to contact the building’s architect or builder. The architect or builder should have kept records of the site and be able to name the type of coated glass used, thus making a glazier’s job of identification and sourcing easier and reducing associated cost and lead times. Labelling and stickers on a section of a building’s façade may also provide this information.

3. Keeping inventory
Given international imports’ long lead times and substantial shipping costs, a manager with foresight will order extra panels to suit their building once a breakage has occurred. Building façades age and become damaged and will eventually need to be replaced, so keeping an inventory of stock either on- or off-site will make the building manager’s role that little bit easier when a panel or section needs attention in future.

4. Expertise
A glazing contractor with specialist expertise in product matching and international sourcing is an important resource when implementing strategies that are appropriate for a building. Making an assessment and having a plan to implement ahead of time without waiting for what can be an ad hoc approach to urgent breakages is an important consideration in ensuring the long-term integrity of a building’s façade.

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