The Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance’s (FGIA) Summer Conference began Tuesday in Vancouver, B.C., where speakers urged attendees to take note of several pressing issues, including the ramifications of artificial intelligence (AI), ongoing sustainability efforts and a need for young talent.

“This organization is comprised of people,” Dan Parrish, chairperson of the alliance’s board and engineering manager for Pella Corp., said in the event’s general opening session. “We’re all here today to make this happen and to drive changes for the industry,” Parrish said, reminding members that FGIA is a voluntary organization. At the same time, “This morning I woke up and I thought I found a gray hair. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I do see a couple of other gray hairs here in the room,” he pointed out, alluding to the industry’s demographic trend.

Parrish said studies have shown that, in addition to pay and rank, younger workers are interested in jobs and fields that provide them with a sense of vested purpose. “They want opportunities to contribute to something larger than themselves,” he said. “And they want to feel that what they’re part of is making progress.”

Organizations present an opportunity for employees to experience purpose that goes beyond their day-to-day work, Parrish said. He then suggested that companies identify employees who show a natural desire for involvement, encouraging them to participate.

“I think there’s an opportunity for us to excite younger generations to get involved in this industry,” he said.

In the event’s opening general session, Paula Cozzi Goedert, FGIA’s legal counsel, discussed copyright issues for content generated by artificial intelligence.

But not all of the industry’s latest talent comes from human resources, said Paula Cozzi Goedert, FGIA’s legal counsel. And as companies and employees explore the use of AI, there are ramifications to consider, she said.

“I’d like to talk about a big topic that the entire legal world is fussing about,” Goedert said. “And that is: Who owns the work product of artificial intelligence?”

While attendees might see AI as peripheral to the industry, a time is quickly approaching when virtually everyone will utilize platforms such as ChatGPT and Google Bard for generating ideas and content, Goedert suggested. In the meantime, it’s crucial that companies establish an understanding for ownership and copyrights for AI-generated content, she said.

When it comes to who—or what—owns AI-generated material, “How about the companies who own the AI?” she asked. “How about the guys who coded the AI? How about the folks who wrote the stuff that got [picked up and used] by AI? How about the person who put in the prompt, or the computer, which spits out the answer?”

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, “It’s the computer that owns the copyright,” Goedert said.

She then reminded attendees of a story she shared at one of FGIA’s prior events—one in which an orangutang picked up a photographer’s stray camera and snapped photos. A court ruled that the orangutang owned the copyrights to the resulting images. In its analysis of AI-generated content, the U.S. Copyright Office cited the case with the orangutang as precedence, except in the case of AI-generated content, “It’s a computer that did the creative work,” she said. “The computer owns the copyright.”

But like the orangutang, the computer doesn’t have protectable rights, Goedert said, which enables anyone to use the same AI-generated content prompted by another company or individual.

“That means your competitor can pick up that work product and use it,” she explained. “If you call them and say, ‘What the heck? You just took our installation guide.’ They can say, ‘Yep. It was generated by AI. You’ve got no protectable rights.’”

To protect against those situations, companies can require employees and content providers to sign documents declaring that no part of their work was AI-generated. In cases where AI is used, they’re required to denote that through citations. Goedert also suggested that companies adopt policies pertaining to AI-generated content and add them to employee handbooks and manuals, while requiring workers to obtain signed permission from supervisors to use AI for work purposes. Ultimately, those measures are designed to keep competitors from “making a monkey out of you,” she joked.

Among other topics critical to the industry’s longevity, numerous sessions also zeroed in on sustainability.

“This is a very relevant topic in today’s manufacturing and built environments,” said Aaron Blom, FGIA technical training specialist. Blom shared the results of an FGIA survey showing that sustainability and environmental efforts ranked “overwhelmingly important” to member companies. “The importance of this topic is only increasing and it will continue to increase and become more prevalent as we try to navigate a healthier environment,” he said.

The vast majority of participants in FGIA’s survey said that, over the past year, the amount of resources and focus their companies place on sustainability has increased. So far as what’s driving those changes, “Meeting customers’ and prospective customers’ needs” was overwhelmingly the top response, along with regulatory codes and other mandates.

“Our members have spoken and these are their priorities,” Blom said.

At the same time, members showed decreased interest in one component: industry wide environmental product declarations (EPDs).

“We had more people from FGIA come back to say an industry wide EPD is not needed for their products than said yes,” Blom said.

Among the respondents suggesting that industry wide EPDs were unnecessary, many revealed they are working on declarations for their own products. Each company is different, some respondents suggested, and for this reason industry wide EPDs hurt some while helping others, they said. While collective efforts often make sense, acceptance of an industry wide EPD reduces the incentive for some companies to do better in their individual efforts, some respondents pointed out.

FGIA’s conference runs through Thursday. Look for additional coverage in tomorrow’s newsletter.

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