GEF Opens with Surace Discussing "Disruptive Changes," Empire State Project
September 13, 2011

By Sahely Mukerji

One hundred attendees registered for the 6th Annual Glazing Executives Forum (GEF) on September 12 at GlassBuild America, September 12-14 in Atlanta. One hundred and eighteen glass executives attended the conference last year in Las Vegas, according to show organizers.

Kevin Surace, chief executive officer of SeriousEnergy in San Francisco, was the first speaker. He talked about "disruptive changes" that happen every six months in the Silicon Valley, and Serious's "Silicone Valley inspired innovations."

The U.S. annual building energy spending is $413 billion per year to heat, cool and light our buildings, he says. Worldwide that number's $2 trillion. "Commercial buildings energy spend is $174 billion per year. Forty percent of energy use is tied to buildings, and only 9 percent to cars."

The market is in retrofits, Surace says. "$80 billion square feet will be retrofitted this year," he says. "There are 5 million buildings that can use our help. We need to take a part of it."

Commercial building owners want 3-year payback on their windows, and that's not easy, Surace says. Changing single pane to dual pane gives 30-year payback. "Fifty percent of energy loss is through windows, the Department of Energy says. Higher R-value saves more energy. You can get R-20 center of glass today, but it's extremely expensive. But R-12 is not, that's a sweet spot."

Surface also discussed an example, SeriousEnergy's handling of the Empire State retrofits. The building has 102 stories, spends $11 million in annual energy cost, and has 6,514 windows. Its window-to-wall ratio's 32 percent.  "Changing the windows would make the biggest impact," Surace says. "It has operable double-hung windows all the way up to the top floor. They had dual clear glass and steel spacer. The glass was pitted, birds had flown into it and was grimy. It was virtually impossible to clean the glass. Some took 2-3 hours to clean. We took apart the IGUs to clean.

"Our windows re-used 26,000 panes of glass, and used warm-edge spacers, suspended coated film, inert gas and high-performance low-E glass," Surace says. "The retrofits took out a $17.3 million chiller plant out of the building, and reduced energy use by 40 percent, about $4.4 million per year. It was an under 3-year payback."

The retrofits also doubled the rental value of the building, Surace says. "Clients can now sit next to the windows now without turning up the air or heat."

Serious completed the project in six months, but spent two years studying the project. "There were 64 measures considered and only eight were chosen," Surace says.

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