One casualty of the now-resolved contract dispute at the West Coast port has been delayed glass deliveries that have held up San Francisco's many construction projects. As interior work on buildings can't begin without a completed exterior, developers are bleeding millions and their market-rate and affordable housing units are months off schedule while their buildings await glass curtain-wall systems.
“We are still trying to find all the glass — the containers have been sitting out there on ships for months,” Jeffrey Hoopes, CEO of the contractor on a project at 399 Fremont, Swinerton Builders, told the Chronicle. If, as he guesses, 399 Fremont is delayed by eight weeks, that could amount to a loss of $3.1 million (considering that rents in the building could average $3,500 a month). “Everybody is getting hurt here — the subcontractor, the contractor, the laborers, the developer,” said Hoopes. "We probably have 25 percent of the containers. We should have it all on by now.”
The situation is partly the result of a recent reliance on new glass manufacturers in China. While developers previously relied on domestic glass, Chinese manufacturers — with longer ship times and untested products — are the new normal, and the transition hasn't been easy.
Fremont Street is one area particularly hurting for glass. There, a 556-unit apartment building (299 Fremont) has none of its glass and another 447-unit rental high-rise (399 Fremont) is just starting to install glass on its lower floors. Commercial projects have been hit, too. Kilroy Realty Corp., who are building a tower for Salesforce at 350 Mission, waited an extra month for glass, and glass for a building at 33 Brannan, also from Kilroy and leased to Dropbox, had to route its glass through the East Coast and then by road and rail to San Francisco.
Even when its fully behind us, the glass shortage is likely to continue thanks to a global boom in high-rise construction. That's according to Bruce Berardi, senior vice president of Lend Lease who are currently at work on 28 towers in just this country. “The number of towers being put up versus the infrastructure available to deliver pre-glazed curtain-wall systems is out of whack,” Berardi said.