Energy Awareness Takes Center Stage During Annual BEC Conference
March 30, 2010

Energy efficiency and sustainable design were key themes of the Glass Association of North America’s annual Building Envelope Contractors (BEC) Conference, which concluded yesterday in Las Vegas. The event, which opened on Sunday, March 29, offered two days of educational and informative presentations designed specifically for the contract glazing industry (CLICK HERE to view a video from the event). The BEC conference was held at the Paris Las Vegas.

Dr. Helen Sanders of SAGE Electrochromics Inc. made a presentation on electronically tintable glass in building envelopes.
“There are a lot of drivers in the marketplace pushing us to more complex and active building facades,” said Sanders. “These can be threats, but they can also be opportunities.” For example, changes in some building codes and legislation are actually looking to reduce the amount of glass that is used in buildings. So she then posed the question to her audience: how can we turn those threats into opportunities?

Electronically tintable glass, she explained, offers a high-performance, dynamic façade solution that “will help you have a competitive advantage and beat some of the code issues coming down the pipe.”

She continued, “It allows you to vary the solar heat gain coefficient and visible light transmittance by touching a button.”

Sanders also discussed some of the benefits of electronically tintable glass, including reduced operating costs of the building.
“[The glass] can reduce peak demand by up to 26 percent,” she said. It can also provide up to 12 LEED points.

As far as installation, she said the product does not require much additional work for the glazier, as a subcontractor typically handles the electronics aspect.

“It’s easy to install and change out,” Sanders said.

Before reviewing several case studies that feature electronically tintable glass, she noted another benefit: “You can tint the glass and control the glare, but you never lose your connection to the outdoors.”

Also focusing on energy-saving aspects of the building envelope, Mark Silverberg and Albert Stankus with Thechnoform Glass Insulation NA Inc. discussed “The Future of High Thermal Performance Fenestration.”

“Why is it important to reduce energy usage?” asked Silverberg. “We want to reduce our dependence on imported energy and secure our economic independence,” he said. Some of the market trends and drivers behind this include an increase in demand for LEED certified buildings and the fact that the energy-efficient return on investment has been documented to be several times better than installing new power generation equipment.

As an example, he pointed to a McKinsey Study, which was conducted last year (CLICK HERE for related article).

“The conclusion was that energy efficiency offers vast, low-cost, no carbon energy resources,” explained Silverberg.

And just how much of these savings can come from commercial buildings? About 35 percent.

“And the biggest cluster comes from improvements to the building envelope and the HVAC system,” said Silverberg. He explained that in commercial buildings 28 percent of energy is for lighting and 35 percent is the HVAC.

Looking at global energy codes, Silverberg said these are getting tighter and tighter. For example, the 2010 ASHRAE code is about 25-30 percent tighter than the 2004 version and will likely be about 50 percent tighter in 2016.

Much of this is being driven by a push to create a net zero building.

“[The Department of Energy’s] target is to have a commercial net zero building by 2025,” said Silverberg. “Window performance will have to improve by 60-80 percent over current efficient windows.”

“A lot has to change,” added Stankus, who spoke second during the presentation. “Improving the thermal performance of frames’ overall conductivity is critical.” Other aspects that he says will see improvement include the glass package as well as the edge of glass, which impacts both U-factor and condensation. And one consideration for the commercial market, he pointed out, was overall compression resistance to ensure structural performance.

Fred Millett with Pleotint also focused on energy efficiency with his presentation, “Adaptive Glazing – Sunlight Responsive Thermochromic (SRT) Window Systems: Lower Energy Use, Enhanced Daylghting and Solar Heat Gain Reduction.”

“The sun is the greatest influence on the building envelope,” said Millett. “Sunlight is overestimated and underutilized.”

In terms of the building envelope and controlling energy, view and glare, common practices have included blinds and shades, as well as different glass options. Thermochromics, he explained, is another option.

“Thermochromics absorb the sun based on its position in the sky and as the glass is heated it controls the tint,” he said. “This saves energy by reducing the HVAC, the need for lights and lowers peak electrical costs.”

Millett said the product his company produces is made with a PVB laminate incorporating thermochromic properties and has all of the benefits of laminated glass.

Stay tuned to™ for more Glass Week and BEC updates, including a video report on tomorrow’s news.

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