Is it Really Back?

I thought I was dreaming when I saw a headline recently that asbestos could now legally be used again in manufacturing.  Amazingly it was not a fantasy, it is true and I am pretty thrown by it.  Obviously for years the push to remove it and deal with it has been a major task and one that has caused significant issues beyond the serious health risks that kicked the whole ban into motion.  So to see it back was jarring.  I was however relieved to see at least a solid initial push back by the architectural community.  It has begun on social media and I look for it to keep growing.   This is going to be one to watch on the building side, because I just can’t see it having legs no matter what the argument for bringing it back is.  I guess we will see…


We are now 1 month away from GlassBuild America and the anticipation for this years event is growing nicely.  I am expecting very strong attendance and I am loving the diverse range of exhibitors.  So much to see there for sure.   In addition the action demos are all “must see” types of events along with the Express Learning.  I seriously recommend you looking at the GlassBuild America website and familiarize yourself with everything that is happening because it’s a lot different than it was in the past.  Next week I’ll start breaking down specific items to see to help you in your planning process…

The latest updated website on the market features one of the best upgrades yet.  Diamon–Fusion (DFI) launched a new site that is heavy on video right out of the gate (bold and daring in our usually conservative industry) and it truly blew me away.  Congrats to the entire team at DFI for a job well done! 

This week’s interview: Alissa Schmidt, Technical Resources Manager, Viracon.

I was very excited that Alissa accepted my request for an interview in this series as I wanted to get a feel for not only her career journey but also to get her insight on the technical and project side.  She certainly did not disappoint with her answers.  Alissa has easily one of the most talented technical minds and approaches in our industry.   Overall I continue to be amazed at the incredible amount of personal talent that is amassed at Viracon, obviously Alissa fits in there perfectly.

Your career started in Marketing (I had a boss tell me no one needs marketing- so good for you for getting out- LOL) and then you seemed to settle into the design and technical side.  What was it like to go from promotion of product to having such a crucial hand in the way the product is placed and performs?

I guess I’ve never really thought of my transition as anything more than natural growth with the company growth in knowledge and experience that lead to the role I’m currently in. I love promoting Viracon regardless of whether I’m helping our marketing department with content development, having a conversation directly with an architect or writing a letter to a customer to explain something they need more details about. At the same time, my move to the technical side has allowed me to gain a better understanding of our product development process and how product characteristics tie to performance in the field.

In case more detail is better, here’s a little background about my path at Viracon:
Although I came to Viracon with an interior design degree and experience as a kitchen designer, I also spent four years after college as a marketing coordinator. When I read Viracon’s job posting for an architectural design specialist, I saw they were looking for someone who had design OR marketing experience. Since I had both, I was intrigued and wanted to learn more about the company and position. I recall arriving for the architectural design interview only to be notified that I was going to be interviewing for the position I applied for as well as a marketing position. This was due to my prior experience in marketing and potential reorganization that was going to happen in the department. In the end, I was offered the design position and started with Viracon in that role. The architectural design department was, however, very integrated into the marketing department so my first several years at Viracon included quite a bit of marketing support.

As Viracon grew, the design team grew and we restructured it as a separate entity from our marketing department. Changes in leadership around this same time lead to a design management opportunity. I had been with Viracon 7 years, had learned a lot about helping architects design with glass and was ready to take on the challenge of managing the architectural design team. A short time after I moved into the management role, a retirement on the technical side provided an opportunity for me to manage both the design and technical teams. This is the role I’m currently enjoying today.

I also enjoy the challenge of finding ways to improve, both personally and within the departments I manage. I discovered a communications program specifically targeted at communicating technical information to a non-technical audience. This is a great fit with my current position so I am currently working on my master’s degree through this program and anticipate graduating in 2019. 

With your position, and the awesome company you work for, I’d say you are positioned perfectly to be on the cutting edge of the industry.  What are you seeing out there that excites you and conversely keeps you up at night?

The electronic design tools architects have at their hands today are incredible. These tools have facilitated increased complexity of building shapes and forms. I wouldn’t say the complexity was previously impossible but the speed and accuracy of today’s software have expanded its use to a much broader audience.

While this explosion of complexity is super exciting for me as a designer, it keeps our manufacturing and technical experts on their toes. Complex building forms create glass shapes and sizes that were once reserved for high-profile, high-budget projects. Today, it is common for mainstream projects to include glass that poses a variety of fabrication challenges. The twists and turns of the unique building forms also change the way a building interacts with its surroundings. There might be 5 or 10 wind loads on a building rather than one corner and one typical load of a basic, rectangular building. This can require extensive glass strength analysis, deflection and sightline calculations. In some cases, the complexity request finite element analysis because the traditional strength analysis programs do not suffice.

What’s the most fun you’ve had on a project in your career- was it something that you had a hand in from the start or maybe a massive signature project that you helped make sure everything clicked… or maybe something else that you can point to as memorable to you…

I hate picking favorites so choosing a single project over all others is nearly impossible. I’ve definitely had many fantastic experiences while I’ve been with Viracon. When I first started, Seven World Trade Center had been recently completed. I remember receiving a lot of calls from architects who wanted to talk about the glass. Even though I hadn’t personally worked on the project, these conversations were a quick introduction into how much fun it can be to talk about glass that comes from a small town in Minnesota and makes its way to a distinctive New York City building.

I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in the design process for everything from our local arts center addition to the Dallas Cowboys Stadium to One World Trade Center. My career here at Viracon has also offered a lot of fantastic opportunities to see our glass in-person. One of the most memorable is a trip where I was able to visit One World Trade Center under construction, near the holidays. From the ground the glass looked great, from the 56th floor, the view was beautiful but the best vantage point of the building during that trip was from across the street where the construction lights were turned into multi-colored lights for the holidays. This little touch made me think about how a building really does interact with, and influence, people. 


Escape the nursing home and first place you go?  Heavy metal concert!

Whenever I think we as an industry communicate badly, I remember there’s certain companies in the airline industry.


Skipping the video of the week… nothing great caught my fancy.  We’ll see what we can find for next week!