Volume 13, Issue 7 - September 2012


Energy Road Map
Researchers Discuss How Close Industry is to
Reaching Goals of Reduced Energy Usage

For years now, the Department of Energy (DOE) has plotted an energy road map that charts its way toward reduced energy use and advanced technologies. In many cases the technologies are there—companies have poured thousands of dollars into developing products such as electrochromic windows, vacuum insulating glass, R-5, and even R-10 windows. The cost of bringing these technologies to market, at a reasonable price, however, continues to make the road to reduced energy a long one fraught with roadblocks. However, it is still a major goal of the DOE, and research organizations and the door and window industry are engaged in these efforts as well.

A recent Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) meeting featured experts from the DOE and associated research organizations.

“The purpose of the meeting was to present the latest information on the program’s goals, research agenda and current R&D activities, while receiving feedback from stakeholders on program needs and priorities,” said Walt Zalis, market transformation lead for Energetics Inc., a consulting firm that works with the DOE.

Player One: DOE Building Technologies Program
Alexis Abramson, emerging technologies supervisor for the DOE’s Building Technologies Program, was first to speak during the session, providing an update on the program, which focuses, in part, on developing window technologies in order to bring them to the market.

The program prioritizes research, development and marketing investments in new and existing technologies by estimating “potential energy savings and costs of conserved energy,” she said.

According to Abramson, the program’s method of prioritizing requires technologies to be reviewed on four criteria:
• “Performance improvement or technical energy savings;
• Cost or the incremental cost of the technology over common baseline;
• Market or stock [the technology] can impact;
• Supporting information or lifetime, adoption rate, code or standard date, etc.”

This process allows program researchers to determine what products excel in energy savings and are viable for markets.

The program also deals with the building envelope and its energy consumption. According to Marc LaFrance, DOE technology development manager for the program, building envelopes have an impact on a variety of building consumption sectors such as ventilation, water heating and lighting. He said about $133 billion is spent per year on buildings’ energy consumption, which is 13.9 percent of energy consumption in the U.S.

LaFrance also pointed out that the program intends to “develop a cost-effective R-10 window and bring dynamic insulation with more than 20 percent peak load reduction” to markets.

He said for current technologies in both residential and commercial windows, roofs, walls, infiltration and foundations have ready-now technologies available to save energy. He added, however, that “enabling research can help” consumers access more efficient products in the future—such as shifting from simple daylighting and window-to-wall ratio strategies in commercial buildings to utilizing dynamic windows and light redirection technologies.

“The U.S. had initiated unprecedented investment in envelope and window research, this will decline sharply,” LaFrance said. “New technology will be essential to achieve low carbon, low energy buildings and to develop more affordable solutions for the existing building stock.”

Player Two: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL)
Dan Gaspar, technical group manager for the Materials Chemistry and Surface Research Group in the Energy and Efficiency Division at PNNL, discussed the organization’s efforts in windows technology development and deployment.

According to Gaspar, PNNL has recently been researching the development of technologies for daylighting and vacuum insulating glass (VIG) products. With new advancements in window coatings for daylighting, he said light can be redirected to different points of a room, which increases the naturally lit area and eases reliance on electric lighting.

“The objective is to develop window coatings that allow double daylight penetration into buildings to save energy,” Gaspar said. “The next steps are to demonstrate the proof of the concept and to optimize performance.”

Gaspar said VIG glazing research has consisted of “developing materials and techniques to produce low-cost, durable and highly insulating evacuated glazing.”

He said there have been challenges in regards to transparency, standoffs, edge seals, assembly, evacuation and longevity of the glazing products. Thus far, PNNL researchers have produced VIG prototypes.

Another area of focus for PNNL is its high-performance windows Volume Purchase Program (VPP), which has established that a “high-price premium between double- and triple-pane windows creates a cost barrier for consumers.” He said while “80 percent of windows sold in the U.S. are Energy Star compliant no higher tier program exists.” The VPP has been working to educate consumers about high-performance windows to increase the demand as well as stir competition among manufacturers via a public website that lists their prices.

Gaspar said that as of May 2011, there have been sales reports showing more than 17,000 high-performance windows sold since 2010 and more than 60 manufacturers have entered into the VPP. The next phase of the program will extend to December of 2012.

Player Three: National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
NREL research scientist Robert Tenent provided an update on the organization’s windows program, which he says consists of experts specializing in building technologies, chemical and materials science, technology transfer and strategic energy analysis.

According to Tenent, NREL conducts “research and support to mitigate the risk associated with the development of improved fenestration solutions.”

He said there are four sectors supporting window product development, which include “[energy efficient building] modeling, development of improved materials, low-cost manufacturing process development and advanced fenestration testing.”

Additionally, Tenent said NREL is focusing on electrochromic dynamic windows that act similarly to lithium ion batteries and can change color if charged and discharged. The improved materials for this product include faster switching speeds; enhancements in color; and advances in film durability and thickness.

Currently, Sage has a patent pending for this improved technology, which Tenent said will not only “improve visual appearance and reduce switching speed but stands to increase device efficiency and durability to simultaneously improve energy and cost savings as well as improve the basic understanding of the counter electrode, such that better performance is easily tailored.”

Player Four: Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL)
Stephen Selkowitz, group leader for the Windows and Envelope Materials Group of the Building Technologies Department at LBNL, discussed the organization’s current activities in regards to window technologies.

“[LBNL’s] multi-year goals are to develop energy-efficient dynamic windows of the future in collaboration with industry partners, improve performance and cost effectiveness of the most advanced concepts of dynamic windows and to provide market-viable solutions for advanced materials and coatings and device-fabrication processes,” Selkowitz said.

According to Selkowitz, in terms of factors that affect the business and policies of energy in the U.S., there is a severe downturn in new construction markets. Future energy costs trends are unclear in regards to policy on carbon; technologies are reaching an inflection point that shifts from components to a focus in integrated systems; there have been updates to mandatory codes and standards, such as new state and federal energy-savings requirements; and there are new performance disclosure requirements.

As for sentiments with facades and daylighting, Selkowitz said there should be a goal of changing glazing systems from net loss to net supply, given the successes in U.S. markets. He specifically pointed to positives. For example, in 2003 typical units were 95 percent double- glazed, 50 percent had low-E coatings and there was a 30- to 65-percent increase in energy savings compared to 1973. By 2030, he suggested future glazing systems should strive to reach net zero energy use.

"The idea behind sensible building is to reduce energy as economically as possible," Selkowitz said. "This concept is possible and the question is, can you do this on a large scale?" Yes, according to Selkowitz.

Pathways to reaching net zero, according to Selkowitz, can be broken into two parts: increasing the rate of adoption of existing or emerging technologies, such as utilizing low-E glazing everywhere, and developing new technological options.

The four big areas in terms of steps to take include highly insulating systems, dynamic glazing for solar control, daylighting and air flow. Advanced glazing systems even could become net energy producers, he said.

"If you use the right windows, you get happy people and more efficient buildings," Selkowitz said. "If you step back and look at how things move, we tend to overestimate the speed at which we move, but underestimate the impact we've made."

Player Five: Door and Window Manufacturers
Following the presentations, the door and window manufacturers in attendance were invited to attend a working session to further develop the road map. While many may agree with the DOE’s goals, getting products to meet these benchmarks at a realistic price point is still a challenge and there is much more work to be accomplished.

“We like the goals and challenges that the DOE is seeking as it should result in improved building performance, meaning higher quality products will be specified,” said Jon Sawatzky, director of marketing, Loewen. “The goal of reaching an R10 window by 2020 seems possible with improved glazing technologies, but there are some concerns about the price-point goals—particularly for the residential market. Reaching an R-5 window at $4/square foot seems like a larger stretch. We realize that these targets are for the masses and may be limited in our premium segment.”

The time devoted, however, to how to reach say a reasonably priced, highly efficient window, was sparse.

“The session was, in my opinion, too short for the agenda,” said Ray Garries, corporate manager of external affairs for JELD-WEN Inc. “We had very little time for the actual roadmapping during lunch and needed more airing of the issues.” That includes the consideration of fenestration as a complete system when researching improvements, a point which Garries believes is of concern.

“Attachments, components and installation innovations cannot be evaluated on their own, then extrapolated into large energy savings,” he said. “The entire system and the effects of the component pieces must be included in any long-term evaluation.”

Mark Mikkelson, director of corporate regulatory affairs for Andersen Corp., reported that several Andersen employees attended the session and believes it is a critical first step.

“Given the short timeframe of the session in Minneapolis, we hope that DOE continues to work with industry on future roadmapping sessions,” Mikkelson added.


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