Green takes top billing at GlassWeek and BEC
Green was the theme of the 2009 GlassWeek and Building Envelope Contractors Conference, even topping talk of the grim outlook for construction. The meetings, hosted by the Glass Association of North America, Topeka, Kan., were held back-to-back Feb. 12-17 at the Palms Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
Two industry leaders—Russell J. Ebeid, president, Glass Group, Guardian Industries Corp., Auburn Hills, Mich., and Russ Huffer, chairman and CEO, Apogee Enterprises Inc., Minneapolis—said during their respective presentations at BEC that the green movement offers numerous opportunities for glass companies, if owners and managers actively pursue them.
Despite the economic situation, “our marketplace is ripe with opportunity” because of green demand, Huffer said Feb. 17 during the closing session. “We should be thankful for the green movement. … The glass industry is more valued today than ever before.”
To capitalize on this green demand, glass and curtain-wall companies need to develop products that manage daylight by harvesting light, manage thermal properties of metal glazing systems and restrict solar heat gain. Spectrally selective glass products provide daylight transmittance to reduce reliance on artificial light, and block infrared energy to reduce heat gain and the need for as much HVAC.
Ebeid expressed a similar opinion during his Feb. 16 keynote speech. “While glass has been highly coveted for thousands of years, in a technological sense, this millennium will mark the renaissance of a new and different glass age,” he said. “We have to ask ourselves: are we in the glass business or are we in the environmental business and just happen to make glass?”
The solar industry, in particular, offers opportunities for glass companies. However, company owners need to act wisely and ensure they back the best solar products. “We face a dot-com moment in time with all the hype for solar applications," Ebeid said. "We see a gold rush mentality by many who are oblivious to the Silicon Valley woes of the 80s. There are a lot of technology veins to mine, and it will take time to determine a winning strategy. There are some very real opportunities emerging in terms of solar glass, whether it be solar power or building integrated photovoltaics. Glass will play an integral role and may just change the way you do business.”
Two concentrated solar power experts spoke Feb. 13 during GlassWeek, providing information about the opportunities for glass manufacturers in that market. Although the construction market has slowed, along with the overall economy, “the solar market is still booming,” said Cheryl Kennedy, senior scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a facility of the Department of Energy in Golden, Colo.
The solar boom has been boosted by the recent passage of the stimulus package, said “Tex” Wilkins, CSP team leader, Solar Energy Program, Department of Energy. Solar technologies had a “huge win” with the stimulus. Instead of offering tax credits for solar energy, the stimulus provides refunds, he said. “We’re anticipating the future is going to be rosy for solar,” he said.
CSP requires ample amounts of glass mirrors, and the CSP market is looking to the glass industry to develop improved products that will help push the technology into the mainstream, Kennedy said. “Whoever can come up with a self-cleaning product that doesn’t have to be re-applied will be the company that takes the market,” she said.
Despite all the available green opportunities for the industry, glass companies need to continue green product development to ensure architects continue to look at glass as a green product choice, said Henry Taylor, Architectural Services Team manager, Kawneer Co., Norcross, Ga. This challenge has become even more apparent with the release of the updated rating system for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program from the U.S. Green Building Council, Washington, D.C. The new rating system awards energy performance over daylight, he said.
“This should be a real wake-up call for our industry,” Taylor said. “The market is looking for energy solutions and we have to react. … The market is asking us for more efficient glass and glazing.”
Read full coverage of the meetings, including an exclusive interview with Ebeid, at GlassMagazine.com.