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USGNN Original StoryPGC Meeting Ends with Candid Opinions, Advice

The Protective Glazing Council (PGC) International concluded its Annual Symposium today with presentations about green building, case studies and a look at the Department of Energy's (DOE) research and development activities around impact-resistant glazing. Approximately 70 construction professionals involved with protective (safety and security) glazing gathered at the Crystal City Hyatt hotel in suburban Washington D.C.

"If you are not doing green building, you will be out of business in five years."

So was the dire prediction from Harvey Bernstein of McGraw-Hill who began the day with a program about green construction trends in protective glazing. Bernstein began with a global view, stating that the construction industry equals 10 percent of a worldwide GDP. The U.S. market is the largest construction market in the world, followed by the rapidly growing markets in China, Brazil, Korea and India. He pointed out that the Asian market in particular has doubled its rates of green building "Every major growth area of the world sees green building as a growth area over the next five years," he said.

Source: McGraw-Hill Construction

Bernstein then provided an overview of his company's economic forecast. Single-family housing is dismal and commercial work has dropped off significantly and now is not expected to grow until 2010. The only area showing positive growth is in educational and institutional project work.

With the decline of the construction market, contraction also has occurred in the number of places around the country that generate design work and in the design firms doing the work. "New York, Washington and LA are the three places where most of the office construction work comes from," said Bernstein, who showed a graph that indicated that the top 50 design firms are doing more work than ever before. "For example, 60 percent of all hospital designs are being done by the top 50 design firms," he said.

Bernstein also looked at the use of impact-resistant glass in the projects that his company tracks. "We have seen an increase in usage of 50 percent in just one year," he said. "Further, impact-resistant glazing is being specified at a much higher rate-double-in public building than it is in other buildings. The government is using more of it than anybody else."

Harvey Bernstein of McGraw-Hill advised attendees of today's PGC International symposium that adopting green construction practices is critical to members of the protective glazing industry.

Among the other interesting trends in sustainable design Bernstein noted:

  • The percent of projects requiring the usage of the LEED rating system has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent from last year to this year;
  • The use of the LEED rating system is growing faster on bigger projects;
  • If you're glazing a college dorm, chances are it will be a LEED-rated building as college dormitories have the highest percentage of LEED-specified projects of any project type;
  • Consumers have begun to associate particular companies with green branding. While there is not yet any recognition of green branding for commercial products, the following percentages of consumers say they recognize named residential window manufacturers as a "green brand" without any prompting:
    • Andersen 17%
    • Pella 12%
    • Marvin 8%

"Al Gore and others have really raised the profile on sustainability," said Bernstein, "but it goes beyond that. It's a generational shift. A majority of those 13-25 years of age are very interested in company's social commitments. A company's commitment to sustainability will matter more and more as time goes by. If you are not doing green building, you will be out of business in five years. Eventually, you won't see non-green buildings being built at all."

He went on to add that green projects are being constructed worldwide, as far away as Dubai and China. "By 2013 $60-100 billion worth of projects will be green … "

Bernstein also discussed an emerging trend: green renovation. "We are seeing about $24 million worth of green renovation in the near future and that will only continue to grow. Remember, being green is a market differentiator. We know that green homes hold their value better and are easier to sell in a down market."

Varner: Protective Glazing Brings Extra Benefits

David Varner of the SmithGroup Architects in Washington D.C. followed Bernstein. He led the group on a picture tour of projects that were designed with both security and safety as priorities. In addition to the obvious, he touched on the additional benefits of sustainable projects. Citing a remodeling project done for a large firm, he said that the use of glass for daylighting brought added, unanticipated benefits. "We knew people would have a better work environment but we didn't expect what the firm found. They found a reduction of 39 percent in employee sick days and a 44-percent decline in employee health care costs. "These were great added benefits," he said.

Varner also emphasized the need for third-party certification of green products. "You can see how critical this will be in the future."

Paradis: Windows Do the Hardest Work

Every building is in conflict, according Richard Paradis of Steven Winter Associates, also of Washington D.C. Paradis made the point during a presentation entitled "Balancing Security and Sustainability."

"There needs to be a balance among safety, security and sustainability," Paradis said, adding, "there's always trade-offs when choosing a site or developing a project."

He then listed the four major types of threats that had to be taken into account in the balance: natural, terrorist, catastrophic and accidental. Paradis spent a good deal of the presentation explaining the web-based Whole Building Design Guide (CLICK HERE for more information) and how it can be used to help balance sustainability with protective goals. He stopped toward the end to focus on fenestration.

"Windows do the hardest work; they have the hardest job," he said. "Look what we ask of them. Help us with daylighting, reject heat and glare, keep the noise out and, while you're at it, protect us against hurricanes and other threats. It's quite a tall order."

LaFrance: NFRC Board Was Wrong

You can tell by his title that P. Marc LaFrance works for the government. LaFrance, who followed Paradis to the podium today, is the technology program manager for the building technology program of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in the DOE. He spoke near the close of the meeting about DOE's research efforts toward development of zero energy buildings.

"A full 72 percent of the electricity and 55 percent of the natural gas used in this country are used in buildings," said LaFrance, "That's $370 billion in energy costs attributed to buildings. Of that, $133 billion is spent on energy for building envelope. This means that 3.5 percent of the world's energy consumption is spent on energy for the building envelope here."

LaFrance then provided a preview of DOE funding for 2009. "Neither the building envelope nor window industries are included in the fiscal year 2009 appropriations. They are just not on the table at all," he said.

"Our goal," he continued, "is for net-zero energy buildings by 2025. We are trying to reduce our end usage by 30 percent. We can do it today but it's not yet economical. Right now, it's too expensive to build, even though you wouldn't have a utility bill for 20-30 years."

"We see green buildings that don't save energy-that needs to be fixed," he said.

He also predicted that the price of triple-glazed and dynamic windows will drop in the future. "If someone wants to buy a triple-pane window today, it's hard to recommend it. They are so expensive. There are ways to bring those prices down in the future," he said.

LaFrance cited the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) for its role in development of energy-efficient windows. "The NFRC is not an easy meeting to go to. It's boring, it's painful, but at the end of the day, it does its job pretty well," he said. "A lot of glass companies have made more money because of NFRC. They don't want to give the credit to it, but they should."

He also explained the usage of the International Glazing Database and how it would be expanded for commercial buildings use through the Component Modeling Approach (CMA). "You have buckets-a bucket for glass, one for spacers and one for frames. You would pull your materials out of each of the three buckets and come up with a rating."

La France was asked a question about the framing ratings. "I personally think there should be a frame default," he said referring to a measure that was defeated at the NFRC meeting last week (CLICK HERE for related story), "and I told the NFRC board so. If you were at the [NFRC] meeting last week, you know that proposal was defeated. I told the board that it should relook at that, because I think what they did was wrong. If someone wants to take a tougher rating, a punitive rating, in exchange for not having to do the testing, then they should be able to do so," he said emphatically.

He also talked about the updated ENERGY STAR program for residential windows. "If you have any questions, call Rich Karney," LaFrance said of his DOE colleague. "It's been a controversy."

LaFrance addressed the future of energy-efficient glass usage throughout the world. "My new motto is 'low-E glass for the world.' If we can have low-E glass in India and China, maybe we can have it in Florida," he said to laughter. "We want to ban clear single pane glass in the world."

In order to do this internationally, you have to have an accurate rating system. So DOE has been working with NFRC to adapt its program internationally. LaFrance added that low-E still has some durability issues but "we are working with NFRC on that too."

The PGC meeting ended with a presentation about protective glazing from the building owner's perspective.

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