Glass Industry Helps Define Green at Greenbuild Exhibition
November 17, 2010

Green takes on a wide variety of definitions at Greenbuild, the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) annual exhibition taking place this week in Chicago. A number of companies here on the trade show floor are exemplifying just how green glass can be in a wide variety of ways.

Tim Cole, chair of the USGBC board of directors, opened the exhibit yesterday evening by commenting on the wide range of companies here at the show, “An experience,” he said, “we haven’t seen under one roof before.” As he pointed out, companies here at the show range from start-ups to “giants” of technology, but “we’re all in the same business - the business of saving our planet.”

For the glass industry, Lindernink Technologies took an aesthetic approach to green. The company is looking to introduce its micro-thin wood veneers into more glass products. Tom Lindernink said the veneers - which include cork and bamboo among other wood types - have been used in decorative applications within several glass products. “Our goal is to move more into this glass business,” he said. In holding the sample veneers up to the convention center light, Lindernink demonstrated how the veneer can provide a classic wood look, while allowing light to pass through applications such as office partitions.

NanaWall meanwhile interpreted green differently - the company is promoting its new Ornilux “bird-friendly” product. The glass features a coating designed to reflect ultraviolet light that will warn birds of glass-clad high rises. Company representatives say they’re the first in the U.S. to offer such a product.

Mike Turner was excited to demonstrate YKK AP’s new iPad app (http://www.usgnn.com/newsiPad20101109.htm) at a show where half the attendees seemed to have that particular device under their arm. The dynamic myThermalAssistant utility allows users to enter in a glass and frame type to get a thermal performance number, or enter then needed performance to get recommendations of products to use. Upon glancing at what the app turned up, attendees got a look at the products themselves, particularly the enerGfacade® 750 XT curtainwall sample, which Turner said had been the subject of a lot of interest at the show.

“It gives you excellent thermal performance using standard industry glass,” Turner explained, adding that an advanced glass package can get the product below a U-factor of 0.20.

Also on display was the MegaTherm XT Entrance, which can reach a 0.44 U-factor, far exceeding code levels. But the company doesn’t seem to be settling there. “That’s what we have our eyes on now: what’s the next level of performance?” Turner said.

Turner described these solutions as a first-step for achieving more efficient buildings.

“The first step for achieving net-zero is really tightening the building envelope,” Turner said. Following that, designers and manufacturers can move onto things such as advanced HVAC systems and energy-generating systems like photovoltaics.

Southwall Technologies introduced what it’s calling a next-generation launch of its 30-year-old Heat Mirror product. The Heat Mirror 88S may not look different from the original product used on such projects as the recent Empire State Building retrofit (http://www.usgnn.com/newsawards20101116.htm) but it offers new technical properties that John Meade says will open up new opportunities for the company and commercial product fabricators. The company has partnered with Dow Corning to develop a new 2-part structural silicone sealant to work with an updated version of the film; previously the Heat Mirror film had worked only with a 1-part sealant. Meade explains that this will drastically reduce lead times on getting the product out.

“We’re looking for the next-generation technology,” says Jennifer Kempf at Dow Corning.

In addition, Meade says, the company is able to offer improve efficiency of insulating glass units by providing two suspended films within the unit - as opposed to adding extra weight with extra lites of glass. Meade says that the audience here at Greenbuild has quickly grasped the impact of that reduced weight as LEED promotes the use of operable windows for natural ventilation.

What’s next was a question being asked at the Kawneer booth as well. While several recent introductions have focused on highly customize products, the latest introductions are trying to make custom standard. For example, the Versoleil sunshade, which the company’s Robert Holcombe noted is but “the start of a sun control line,” allows the installer to adjust the angle by 5 degree increments, in horizontal or vertical applications. This allows the new sunshade to be specified across the country.

“What’s exciting is there’s a lot of versatility - but it’s a standard product,” pointed out Diana Perreiah, general manager for Kawneer. Donnie Hunter noted that the 501UT framing system introduced earlier this year offers more options as part of a complete stock package system - it provides thermal performance and now hurricane-resistance.

As Glen Morrison, president of Kawneer parent company Alcoa Building and Construction, pointed out, “The more we can talk about facades to our customers, the better.”

Alcoa is able to talk about more façade options now courtesy of its acquisition of Traco (http://www.usgnn.com/newsAlcoa20100628.htm) earlier this year. Traco revealed its recent rebranding initiative here at the show. Morrison said the focus has been on having the two companies leverage one another’s strengths. “We want [Traco] to work alongside Kawneer,” he said.

Perreiha pointed out that both companies both have key synergies on the sales and product development sides and are able to help customers purchase products in a one-stop fashion.

“You really do need a certain critical mass to play the game,” Morrison said.

The combined synergies also allows Traco and Kawneer to pull from Alcoa’s “innovation center” in Europe and pull in worldwide technology developments.

In looking at future growth, one can’t help but wonder what’s next on the horizon for the company.

According to Morrison, “More and more understanding of how all the pieces fit together.” He said that the company, and industry at large, will continue to focus on making systems more “intelligent” and pulling all of the pieces of the building together. “The whole drive to net-zero applications drives innovations,” Morrison added.

For Holcombe, it’s about the technology. He pointed out that recent product introductions focus on “built-ons” to existing polyamide technology, for example.

“What is the next thermal break technology, that’s what I’m hungry for,” Holcombe said.

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