Volume 9, Issue 5 - May 2008

from the publisher

Embodied Energy
The Next Phase or Ages Away?
by Tara Taffera

If you only have time right now to read one item, I would suggest Ric Jackson’s column on embodied energy (see page 8). In it he says consumers will be asking increasingly more questions about factors related to window production including how much energy was used, etc. He discusses how companies can reduce their carbon footprints, a term increasingly bantered about in all industries. Here is a quick definition of this concept from Wikipedia. 

A carbon footprint is: a “measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide. It is meant to be useful for individuals and organizations to conceptualize their personal (or organizational) impact in contributing to global warming.”

I’m sure you’ve heard stories in all industries of forward-thinking companies that make sustainability a priority and make it a clear goal in their company. 

Companies in the building industry are making carbon footprint reduction a priority as well. See page 20 for what Windsor Windows and Doors has done at its plant to reduce its energy consumption. On page 22 you’ll also learn that PPG Industries has joined the Climate Registry and has set aggressive greenhouse (GHG) emissions reduction goals. I applaud PPG for committing itself to this program. When it joined in January, it was the first Pennsylvania-based company to join the program. 

While actions such as this undoubtedly will raise PPG’s profile, a continued emphasis on reducing energy consumption also will save them money. A representative from PPG says it reduced its energy use by just more than 1 percent annually each of the last five years, saving about $40 million overall. Meeting its new energy savings goal would realize a savings of $15 to $20 million a year at today’s energy prices.

Companies would be remiss if they didn’t start considering some of the issues Jackson addresses in his column. He says embodied energy is the next phase and soon consumers will be asking about this when it comes to their windows. He doesn’t define soon (and I’m not going to nail him down on that) but I’m not so sure consumers will be asking about how much energy it took to produce a given window—at least not in the near future. But consumers will ask questions about what makes a window energy-efficient even though they are not as savvy as to other issues yet. (As you deal with consumer comments, please correct me if I’m wrong.)

Jackson is correct—this trend definitely is coming, but it takes time to implement many of these sustainability concepts. Some companies are still struggling with small issues such as where to recycle their waste. But it all starts with small steps. So I encourage everyone to start small, and once consumers become more savvy and ask you how much energy it took to produce a particular window, you’ll be ready with the answer. 


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