VIG: A future game changer?
Vacuum insulated glass (VIG) has been tapped by the Department of Energy and other organizations as an emerging, highly efficient window technology to watch. And with the potential for R-values of R-10 or higher, according to several VIG manufacturers, that's no surprise.
Driven by the continual push for higher window performance, VIG seems to be gaining traction and attention in the United States. The DOE pointed to VIG as one of several highly insulating window technologies to watch during its Windows Technology Roadmap session during the Window and Door Manufacturers Association Technical Conference in June 2012. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is working to develop low-cost, durable and highly insulating VIG. And the technology has been on the agenda of the Emerging Technologies & Innovation Committee at the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance—the IGMA committee is in the process of developing a VIG educational white paper for the window industry, as well as architects and others in the building community.
Despite the recent interest, VIG is far from a new technology. In fact, the first mention of a type of vacuum glazing was found in patent literature from 1913, according to Nippon Sheet Glass. And NSG actually began commercial production of its vacuum glazing product, Spacia, in 1996.
Vacuum glazing has been used in residential and commercial applications throughout Asia for almost two decades. "It's a fact of life there," said Chris Barry, the former director of technical services, building products, Pilkington North America, during the IGMA Annual Meeting two weeks ago in New Orleans.
Despite the proliferation of VIG overseas, the technology has lagged domestically. Currently, there are no commercial VIG lines in the United States. That isn't to say U.S. companies aren't investing in VIG R&D. Guardian Industries has been developing a VIG product for a number of years—in fact, the company showed a prototype during the 2009 AIA Expo. And, EverSealed Windows is hoping to enter the market in the next several years with a flexible edge-sealed VIG design.
But, according to several representatives at the recent IGMA meeting, VIG continues to face notable challenges to entry into the U.S. market. The high cost of VIG, technical hurdles, and a potential lack of education and familiarity with the product within the building industry all hinder domestic VIG use, they say. "People around the world see potential with this product. Hopefully [manufacturers] will come up with solutions that can be cost-effective in the U.S.," said Bob Spindler, Vice President Technical Services at Cardinal Glass Industries, during the IGMA meeting.
Devlin is senior editor for Glass Magazine. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.