Capitalize on green
LEED GOLD certified PCL Centennial Learning Center, Edmonton, Alberta. Photo by Cohos Evamy Integrated Design, Edmonton.
The February stimulus package got everyone, including the glass and glazing industry, scrambling to take advantage of the $787 billion boost. From the new tax rebate for energy efficient windows, to the dollars for renovation of schools and government buildings, to reduce energy costs and improve sustainability, everyone wants a piece of the action.
All this comes on the heels of another year of green that brought changes to Energy Star requirements for windows and the updated rating system for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.
These changes have presented the glass and glazing industry with opportunities and a challenge to improve company bottom lines, while doing what is in the best interest of future generations. These solutions must include construction of sustainable structures that include high-quality, high-performance materials that provide energy savings now and in the future.
As Henry Taylor, architectural services team leader for Kawneer Co., Norcross, Ga., noted in his LEED update presentation at the Building Envelope Contractors Conference in Las Vegas during February, “The market is looking for energy solutions and we have to react. … The market is asking us for more efficient glass and glazing.”
Those who don’t react may be left behind.
New demands for glass and glazing
It has long been recognized that windows, despite their historic propensity for losing energy, can serve as a valuable tool for saving energy. Architects are harvesting natural light through windows, skylights, light shelves and other techniques. When implemented properly, daylighting can significantly reduce a facility's lighting costs and overall energy usage.
Modern advances in glazing technology are making daylighting possible without sacrificing energy performance.
Here are a few examples of high-performance materials used to improve energy efficiency and durability:
- Warm edge technology. Warm edge technology has played an important role in increasing glazing energy performance. Metal-based spacer technologies are durable, but they are conductive and facilitate heat transfer, which prevents them from being effective, long-term insulators for energy savings. The industry has seen numerous alternatives enter the marketplace over the years that used increasingly less metal, resulting in improvements in insulating glass energy performance and long-term durability. Flexible silicone foam spacers, for example, provide improved U-factor, increased manufacturing efficiencies, warmer sightlines and increased flexibility, leading to increased durability and sustainability without breaking the bank.
- Coatings and smart glass. New high-performance glass coatings and gas filling solutions can be a major contributor to energy savings. Advances in coating materials and application methods are opening new doors for coaters to provide ever increasing performance levels of spectrally selective glass. All the major coating manufacturers have introduced new coatings that can be tailored to the various climate zones in North America. With all these selections, it is becoming more challenging to select the right one.
In addition to the spectrally selective glass, there is a new generation of technologies called switchable glazing, or "smart" glazing that can change the light transmittance, transparency or shading of windows in response to an environmental signal, such as sunlight, temperature or an electrical control. Electrochromic glass change from transparent to tinted by applying an electrical current. Potential uses for electrochromic technology include daylighting control, glare control, solar heat control, and fading protection in windows and skylights. While these technologies come with a price, the payback on energy savings and occupant productivity make them an attractive option.
- Light shelves. These are another fenestration component that complement glass and glazing in promoting energy savings and improve daylighting. Windows equipped with special awnings called light shelves are designed to bounce the light off ceilings and further into interior spaces thus distributing as much natural light as possible to reduce overall energy demand.
Regardless of your reasons—whether it’s LEED, the economic stimulus package, Energy Star, or preserving the environment for future generations—adopting high-performance glazing materials will help you take advantage of the many available opportunities to differentiate your company in a competitive marketplace. Embrace these changes to improve your bottom line.