New Energy Rule to Encourage More Use of Advanced Glazing Systems
August 10, 2011

By Sahely Mukerji

Beginning this year, U.S. states and cities are required to measure and disclose their energy use in commercial buildings. Though the new rules exempt small businesses, they are expected to spur energy-efficient upgrades. They won't specify utility costs but will show a building's relative efficiency, measured in energy use per square foot for apartments, according to a USA Today article.

"These new reporting requirements, apparently, will force commercial building owners in certain cities to begin to calculate and then publicize their overall energy usage," says Urmilla Jokhu-Sowell, technical director of the Glass Association of North America in Topeka, Kan. "This energy consciousness may serve as a metric for those wanting to occupy the space. Right now energy usage is a major cost of doing business that gets passed on to the building occupant. A building showing less energy usage per square foot may look more attractive."

Says Robert Joyce, director of Global Governmental Affairs for Guardian Industries in Auburn Hills, Mich.: "There is tremendous untapped potential to improve the energy performance of commercial buildings throughout the United States, which will require more widespread use of advanced glazing systems, including high-performance low-E coatings. These new rules will create incentives to promote this objective. But other measures - including stricter code enforcement - are also needed. Guardian is working with policymakers at all levels of government to support adoption of these sound energy-efficiency policies."

Jokhu-Sowell agrees. Along with safety and security, energy is a main driver for the building codes and standards, she says. "GANA has not been asked to get involved in or even assess the impact of this new energy-reporting initiative emanating from a few cities. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to expect this metric of energy usage could serve as one more impetus for making buildings become more energy-efficient."

The first state to enforce the rules was Washington, in January. Last week was the deadline for 16,000 large buildings in New York City - representing half of its interior space - to report how much energy they used in the past year, or face $500 quarterly fines, according to the article. The city will post the data on a public website next year. Similar rules will take effect in Seattle, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., in October, in Austin next June, and throughout California as early as next year.

"[This] commercial building energy benchmarking will highlight the relative energy intensities of buildings and drive owners and tenants to consider the major energy consuming components in their buildings such as windows," says Ray McGowan, senior program manager for the National Fenestration Rating Council in Greenbelt, Md. "Windows account for up to a third of the total commercial building energy consumption, so, careful consideration of energy-efficient windows during the design of the building is essential. For existing buildings, energy-efficient window retrofits might alleviate inadequate HVAC capacity, increase occupant comfort, and increase the value of the commercial building for resale."

Jokhu-Sowell adds: "For new commercial buildings, these reporting regulations may change the way a typical building is built. This may force the building owners to incorporate more and better high-performance window products into their buildings and promote daylighting as energy savers in comparison with a typical commercial space. They also may prompt greater use of fenestration-related retrofit techniques that are designed to conserve energy. Only time will tell how the market reacts in the current economy."

Kathleen Hogan of the Department of Energy (DOE) says that next spring the DOE plans to begin testing a voluntary program to rate the energy efficiency of commercial buildings, similar to a pilot program it finished in June for rating homes, according to the article.

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