Volume 36, Issue 10, October 2001


Somebody Goofed
        The Real Reason for Californiaís Energy Crisis
by Dez Farnady

I still donít get it. Who is the party responsible for getting the information from one side of the construction industry to the other? There are things we make that solve problems for people who donít even know they have a problem. Or, if they know they have a problem they donít know there is a solution. So, who is responsible for the problem? Is it the guy with the problem or the guy with the solution? And why is it that so often they donít find each other at all?

ďThe Getty Center also brags about its 164,648 square feet of exterior glass. What they fail to brag about is that it is all clear glass.Ē

What Went Wrong
I just came home from the largest white elephant I have ever seen. Thank goodness old John Paul (thatís Getty) is dead. He is probably turning over in his grave. He was a Californian; he would have known better. For the first time since its completion a few years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Los Angelesí own Getty Center. It sits high on a hill overlooking Westwood and the brown air of the Los Angeles basin. This white architectural marvel brags about its 1 million square feet of travertine. Sixteen-thousand tons of stone brought from overseas in 100 freighter trips make up those million feet. No question, it is impressive. But since it is in Los Angeles, it is also hotter than the heart of Hades. The Southern-California sun that bounces off the white stone and glass is so fierce that the center lends umbrellas to the visitors to keep them from frying. This very large stone structure complex is also in earthquake country, but thatís another story.

The Getty Center is a wonderful research facility and museum that also contains restaurants, libraries, special exhibits and an auditorium. And, it is all done first-class.

Itís All About the Glass
My business, however, is still glass. So let me get to my point. The Getty Center also brags about its 164,648 square feet of exterior glass. What they fail to brag about is that it is all clear glass. Now take out your calculator and multiply Southern-California sun by a million square feet of white stone by no less than 164,648, not 49, square feet of clear glass. This number should help you discover that the California energy crunch was probably caused by the air-conditioning requirements of the Getty Center. 

All of the clear glass with the white and light colored stone has a green cast to it. I wonder who forgot to tell the architect that blue-green glass would have reduced the shading coefficient from .95 to .72 and the glass would not have looked much greener. New greens could have brought it down to .59. Judicious use of second-surface green reflectives would have reduced the solar heat gain coefficient in many areas from a .82 to the mid .30ís. 

The performance low-E products may not have been available when the plans were drawn. But I know for a fact, because I was there, that Noah glazed the ark with blue-green and solex. There is no doubt that a little judicious glass research would have revealed a few energy-performance options. 

If we remember the size of John Paul Gettyís wallet we know that money was not an issue, but the heat certainly is. A great deal is made of the fact that the heat gain from the clear skylights is controlled with electronically operated louvers. That probably means they are only completely open at midnight. They were mostly closed when I was there. Huge, electrically operated interior shades roll down automatically to trap the heat (thatís already in the building) between the glass and the shades. It only looks like they keep the heat out while the air conditioners groan in their futile attempt to keep upóand this was early spring. I can promise you that I wouldnít go back in August. 

Someone should have told them ... 


Dez Farnady serves as general manager of Royalite Manufacturing Inc., a skylight manufacturer in San Carlos, Calif. His column appears monthly.


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