AIA Convention Takes on the Mile-High City

AIA2013Welcome to Denver! The 2013 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Convention is ready to go.  Each year exhibitors look for ways to entice attendees to their booth.  This year, the Saint-Gobain family of businesses – led by CertainTeed — is taking a new approach by bringing technical and building knowledge, and solution-based insights such as indoor environmental quality, acoustics and moisture management to our booth that can have a positive impact on the design of buildings in general.

Over the past year, we have offered accredited building science courses via webinar and our online continuing education platform to builders, designers and architects.  This practice is helping to shape sustainable building.  This year we are bringing some of these courses to the AIA Convention through our Learning Lounge.  To complement this effort, the Saint-Gobain booth (2108) is staffed with technical experts across our companies who can offer building knowledge and systems expertise unequaled in the industry.

You can still talk about products, but our Building Knowledge Bar with our experts can take the conversations to a new level. You can also tweet us questions @certainteed and we can hook you up with the right expert to answer your question.

Although our courses are sold-out, we will be blogging and tweeting questions and observations that are raised in the sessions that could apply to a problem or issue you are facing. Just follow #AIA2013.

We hope to see you over the next few days at booth 2108 to share what new innovations are taking place within the Saint-Gobain family of businesses and to be your premier resource for building knowledge.

The Razor’s Edge – Casual Greening versus Authentic Sustainability

It’s remarkable when you think about it: there are literally hundreds of courses, webinars, certifications, and trainings all geared towards the re-education of built environment professionals for the purposes of moving towards a sustainable future.

But the colleges who teach future designers, architects, engineers and construction managers continue to lag behind the curve when it comes to the development and promotion of sustainable curricula. Sure, you’ll find a plethora of courses that feature “green” additions to an otherwise traditional course or new “Sustainability” programs that are cobbled together from existing courses under the mantle of collaboration and interdisciplinary work. Part of the disconnect lies in the fine line that can be drawn between “casual greening” and “authentic sustainability.”

The Razor’s edge, shown below, demarcates a chasm between “Greening”, which can be categorized as the mitigation of damage that results from the construction habitation and demolition of built structures; and “regenerative”, which seeks to reverse the long centuries of damage caused by the design and construction industries. In this model, “greening” is an important step towards more ambitious and more effective sustainable design. 

 

Razor's Edge

As we move further into the 21st century, the signals of pronounced climate change become more apparent; rising temperatures, wild weather, finite fossil fuels, and catastrophic oil spills form the context of a new era in the history of humanity. The question then remains, can the universities ramp up their offerings to authentically address the challenges that lie ahead? The answer is yes, but. Yes, educators are generally open to new ideas and are interested in change, albeit at a slow pace. But university structures as they are currently configured do not encourage teaching and learning pedagogies that are increasingly inclusive, collaborative, and interdisciplinary.

Collaboration is inhibited by antiquated credit structures. More ambitious holistic sustainability courses are blocked by outdated divisions between disciplines and the connection between what is taught in school and what happens in the real world continues to remain as wide as ever. So, what to do?

A major change can come from industry itself by building deeper and more meaningful relationships with university programs. By offering expertise, small amounts of funding, and some face time, industries can entice collaboration across disciplines at levels not seen before, engage with students and faculty in thoughtful discussions on the future of sustainability and ultimately help to build the kind of work-force that will play a pivotal role in leading companies to increased profit while building a more resilient and sustainable future.

This is a guest blog post and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of CertainTeed Corporation

The 2012 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Convention and Design Expo Takes on the Nation’s Capital

 
 

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

The 2012 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Convention and Design Exposition was held in Washington, D.C this year.  The show was jam packed with exhibitors and educational programs for architects and design professionals and, according to early estimates, attracted 30 percent more attendees than last year’s event which was held in New Orleans.  Could it be the location?  Could it be an improved building environment?  It is hard to say but the show appeared to be busy.

The Saint-Gobain booth this year had a listening room component and we had experts from several of our businesses CertainTeed, ADFORS, Grenite, Norton, SAGE, Saint-Gobain Glass, Saint-Gobain Solar, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and SolarGard who stood ready to help architects solve their unsolvable problems.  This was a new concept which created some interesting conversations in our ‘listening rooms’ – pod-like areas to sit and hold private conversations.

I was speaking with an architect in our booth about a variety of products and systems when he spied my name tag and exclaimed, “you’re the guy who does the webinars. It’s great to actually meet you.”  Since our webinars only provide a photo of me on the title page and frankly I’ve got a face made for radio, I was surprised that he would recognize me. He provided some valuable feedback about why he thought our CertainTeed webinar series, which is part of our Continuing Education program, provided him not only with valuable credits for his continuing education credentialing, but also information that he can put into practice as an architect.  I really appreciated the feedback and it’s rewarding to know that what we are sharing with people is helping them every day.

I would say that we are beginning to see an improvement in the design community especially from markets such as education, healthcare and multi-family housing.  At least Washington, D.C looked like building projects were in abundance.

If you have thoughts about the industry or comments about our CertainTeed webinar series, I would love to hear from you.

Saint-Gobain’s Expert “Throw Down” at the AIA 2012 Convention and Design Expo

 
 
The excitement for this year’s American Institute of Architects (AIA) Convention and Design Expo is growing for Saint-Gobain and its family of businesses! We will be heading down to the nation’s capital from May 17 – 19 to help architects and designers solve problems they are having on specific projects and introduce them to the expertise within Saint-Gobain.

You might ask yourself—who is Saint-Gobain and what do they have to do with CertainTeed?  Well, Saint-Gobain is CertainTeed’s parent company and also the largest building materials company in the world.

You already know Saint-Gobain, it may not be that obvious though—our roots start in France where 350 years ago, we made the glass that adorns the Hall of Mirrors in Versalles.  Today, we make beer bottles for Budweiser, manufactured the new roof on the Dallas Cowboys stadium and through CertainTeed, manufactured the ceiling tiles in the Denver airport and made the roof that adorns Henry Ford’s home.  This is a mere, and I mean mere glimpse into this massive company, but, also a glimpse into the possibilities.

That’s why Saint-Gobain is bringing all of its businesses to the AIA show this week, and not just to show off products.  Saint-Gobain features the largest and smartest collection of building scientists and technical experts in North America from its trusted North American companies:  CertainTeed, ADFORS, Grenite, Norton, SAGE, Saint-Gobain Glass, Saint-Gobain Solar, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and SolarGard to help architects “solve the unsolvable problem.” We urge design professionals to bring your unsolvable problems to our booth and try to stump out experts!

This year, we’re talking moisture, indoor environmental quality, aesthetics, thermal efficiency and solar and our experts are ready to talk.  If you can’t make the show, check us out virtually Trade Show page that will share show updates through Twitter so that non-attendees can feel part of the action.  Through this page you can also ask questions or present unsolvable problems that our experts can tackle. If you submit an unsolvable problem you will be entered into a prize drawing.

During AIA 2012, we will be blogging here about show events and observations from guest bloggers.  Should be fun and entertaining!

Please join the conversation at AIA from your desk by bookmarking the Trade Show page. We want to help you feel part of the AIA Convention and to help solve your design challenges.

Working Smarter with Digital Tools

We are all looking to work smarter. In my role, I frequently survey our customers to gain ideas for products, processes or solutions that would make their life easier in the field.

Last year, I surveyed architects and designers to identify the changes they are undergoing and what methods of information delivery best suited their current process of specifying products for their projects. One of the items that piqued my interest was that 80 percent of architects start their search for product information on the web. 

The need for printed resources such as the “3-ring architect binder” has changed significantly from what it once was; hard-copy binders used to be the primary source for architects seeking product information, installation instructions, technical data, code approvals, and occasionally a bit of inspiration.  More recently, changes in technology combined with the more rapid pace with which products are developed and brought to market have made the internet a natural place to house these types of information.

With the shrinking market in the build community, there is also the reality that many architects have abandoned larger offices for small spaces or home offices.  Some may also have limited access to junior architects or interns to research products and need tools that save them time and resources.  Design professionals in these situations do not have room for large, binder driven libraries.

As a response to these changes, the siding section of the CertainTeed website now has a digital architect binder with product information and specification documents for siding, house wrap, fence, rail, deck and trim products laid out just as they would be found in the traditional 3-ring binder.  The information is easy to find, always current, available 24/7, and does not take up valuable office workspace.

Now that is what I call working smarter.

Engage! – The Challenge for Building Science Webinars

Lucas Hamilton

CertainTeed recently launched a series of free Building Science webinars geared to architects and building professionals.  The series qualifies for Continuing Education Units with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and kicks off with a series on A Systems Approach for Residential Buildings

We received very positive feedback about the content but what the audience did not like was the platform for the webinar.  Participants were required to call in on the phone for the audio which tied up their phone lines. They preferred a voiceover internet protocol.  As a result, we researched and moved to a new platform to correct this situation and it has had a positive effect for all.

Since many of you may have experience with holding and/or participating in webinars I am asking for your input on some best practices with regard to platforms and content. Such as:

  • Are there types of webinars or subjects of webinars that have been more impactful or of greater value for you?
  • Are there platforms that are more impactful?

CertainTeed wants to improve the connection we are making with the audience and ensure that the content is being shared as fully as possible and that requires engagement. The challenge with a webinar over an in person presentation is in the ability to engage the audience.

The engagement is a critical aspect of the webinar because it is often in the engagement that the real ‘chestnuts’ fall from that engagement – not what is on the slides – and provides the most valuable application of the content.

Does anyone have any experiences to share on engaging audience during webinars? I would love to hear from you.

I invite you to join me for the webinar series and look forward to your feedback.

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

Shoving Green Circles in Brown Squares

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton

At an event I recently attended for manufacturers and design professionals, I had the pleasure of hearing a keynote speech by Marvin J. Malecha, FAIA, outgoing President of the American Institute of Architects and Dean of the College of Design at North Carolina State University.

One of the points that really struck me in his presentation was the idea that we are trying to shove green pegs in brown squares.  We are developing band-aids for problems in existing structures based on our current technologies.  How can we take product “A” and massage it a little bit to solve problem “B?” The fact is, you should start from scratch to get rid of problem “B.”  Don’t solve problem B, get rid of problem B.

In other words, what we are doing is slapping bigger fins on the Cadillac. What we need to do is get away from that Cadillac model. Maybe it’s not about improving the performance of our existing designs; it’s about completely rethinking our designs.  Do we really need to have green high-rises? Maybe we don’t need high-rises. Don’t get me wrong, Malecha isn’t suggesting we get rid of high-rises.  He is suggesting that we are stuck in a rut of thinking and trying to solve our existing problems when maybe the long-term solution is to start from scratch on basic issues such as:

  • How we build buildings
  • What we think of our buildings
  • What we think we need in our buildings

Consider, for example, the internal combustion engine.  No one in their right mind would set out today to design the internal combustion engine we have in our cars.  It is ridiculously complicated. We have gotten to this complexity by continuing to solve or improve a bad design and pushing it down the road as opposed to getting rid of the internal combustion engine and going back to the electric motor. Similarly, this is how we are approaching sustainability.

According to Malecha, the present Green strategy is to fit new products and systems into present design. Design must change completely to truly move forward. Even in the most corporate environments, the free agents will win and rule because they can re-invent.  Keep learning, keep being creative and keep moving.

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications at CertainTeed Corporation.