Closer look: Government sector offers business opportunity
The federal government includes nearly 500,000 buildings, said Marc Lafrance, technology development manager, Building Technologies Program, Department of Energy, and “the DOE and the Obama administration are committed to reducing energy use across the federal government.”
According to an October 2009 Executive Order issued by President Obama, federal agencies needed to set a 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target within 90 days; increase energy efficiency; and implement the 2030 net-zero-energy building requirement.
There is stimulus money in the pipeline to pay for much of this activity, opening up big opportunities for glass and window manufacturers.
For instance, GSA received $5.5 billion from the stimulus funding, out of which approximately $4.3 billion is devoted to high-performance green buildings, said Robert Peck, commissioner, Public Building Services, GSA. Of that $4.3 billion, $800 million is marked for "limited scope projects" that include photovoltaics, green roofs, etc.; $3.2 billion is for full and partial building renovations and $300 million for small projects, he said.
That is a lot of money waiting to be awarded by September, mostly in retrofits.
Opportunities in glass
“The $10 billion [a year] construction market has been traditionally all new construction, but it’ll change to mostly retrofits, and it could double,” said Brandon Tinianov, chief technology officer, Serious Materials, Sunnyvale, Calif.
“The 2030 initiative will require more energy-efficient buildings and promote alternate energy,” said Rob Struble, business communications manager, growth initiatives and performance glazing, PPG Industries Inc., Pittsburgh. “The big questions for the glass industry are: will owners demand and fund these activities, and how cost-efficient can energy-generating technologies become. There is still a lot of low-tech glass used on commercial buildings in the U.S., even today.”
PPG partnered with GED Integrated Solutions Inc., Twinsburg, Ohio, to earn a grant from the DOE to engineer, produce and commercialize the highly insulated, R5 residential window. “The ultimate goal of the program is to help window makers provide homeowners with affordable, high energy-efficient residential windows at an affordable cost,” said Mike Rupert, director of Technical Services at the PPG Glass Business and Discovery Center.
Window makers can easily achieve windows with insulating values of up to R10 by incorporating current solar control, low-E glass technologies in insulating glass units with three or four panes of glass, Rupert said.
PPG also is working with the DOE to develop and commercialize large-area mirror technology for the enhanced concentration and collection of solar power, Rupert said.
The net-zero mandate will fuel growth in three glass-related areas, Rupert said:
Spectrally selective glass, formulated with three microscopically thin layers of silver, transmits 64 percent of the sun’s available light and blocks 73 percent of its heat energy. “Because lighting and cooling typically represent the two largest energy loads in a commercial building, these advanced spectrally selective glazings can contribute substantially to the 2030 goal of net-zero energy consumption,” Rupert said.
Switchable or eletrochromic glazings save energy by changing according to sky conditions, from transparent to opaque, to control the amount of light and heat that pass through them and into a building. To achieve broad market application, these products must overcome three substantial barriers, Rupert said: price, functionality and aesthetics. Electrochromic glazings are five to 10 times more expensive than conventional glazing systems; limited by their inability to independently control light transmittance and solar control; and not attractive because of their deep blue tint in their darkened state. “In the near term, this technology will fulfill niche applications, such as skylights and other limited applications, for improving a building’s overall energy efficiency,” Rupert said.
Building integrated photovoltaics will see aggressive growth. “Over the next five years, as costs come down and efficiencies increase, photovoltaic systems will find more direct application in the design of commercial buildings, particularly those that aspire to achieve net-zero energy status,” Rupert said. “Ultimately, this will completely reshuffle the building glazing supply chain, positioning the glass industry as both the point of contact between PV suppliers and glazing contractors, and as an overall solutions provider for the integration of energy-efficient and energy-producing glazings.”
Tinianov agreed: “Technology will be multipane for the next 10-15 years,” he said. “We might look at vacuum panels, aerogels, triple pane such as PPG’s, or suspended coatings from Serious. There’s no patent protection around that, only a willingness to perform at that level.
“The government’s not forcing any technology, but only a performance standard,” Tinianov said. “The cheapest and right way to get there would be through high- performance. The core urgency is carbon reduction. And to get there, you’d need R5 windows and dynamic glazing. The DOE named those two in their road map.” R5 windows should cost the same as R2 windows, he said. “DOE said it should cost an extra $40 to $50 per window. A regular window is about $150 at Home Depot, an R5 should cost about $250.”
Glass folks should be encouraged by the current market, Tinianov said. “We’ll go from an industry that chases new construction to an industry that embraces retrofits. Ninety-nine percent of the market’s already built. Half of your market’s going to be retrofit. Quickly embrace high-performance glazing and start looking at dynamic systems.”