Volume 46, Issue 2 - March 2011


Glass Industry Responds to Proposed Better Buildings Initiative

President Obama has unveiled a five-point “Better Buildings Initiative” intended to make commercial buildings 20-percent more energy-efficient by 2020 by catalyzing private sector investment through a series of incentives to upgrade offices, stores, schools and other municipal buildings, universities, hospitals and other commercial buildings.

This new commercial component initiative builds on investments through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and the proposed HOME STAR legislation that encourages energy upgrades in homes.

During a speech at Penn State University on February 3, the President proposed to make American businesses more energy-efficient through a series of five new initiatives:

1. New tax incentives for building efficiency: The President is calling on Congress to change the current tax deduction for commercial building upgrades to a credit and increase the program by $1 billion;

2. More financing opportunities for commercial retrofits: To address gaps in access to financing, the Small Business Administration is working to encourage existing lenders to take advantage of recently increased loan size limits to promote new energy-efficiency retrofit loans for small businesses. The President’s budget also proposes a new pilot program through the Department of Energy to guarantee loans for energy-efficiency upgrades at commercial buildings.

3. “Race to Green” for state and municipal governments that streamline regulations and attract private investment for retrofit projects: The President’s budget proposes a $100 million “Race to Green” competition for State and municipal governments to implement innovative approaches to building codes, standards and performance measurements.

4. The Better Buildings Challenge: The President is challenging CEOs and university presidents to make their organizations leaders in saving energy, which will save them money and improve productivity. Partners will commit to a series of actions to make their facilities more efficient. They will in turn become eligible for benefits including public recognition and technical assistance.

5. Training the next generation of commercial building technology workers: Using existing authorities, the administration is working to implement a number of reforms, including improving transparency around energy efficiency performance, launching a Building Construction Technology Extension Partnership modeled on the Manufacturing Extension Partnership at Commerce and providing more workforce training.

With Windows in Mind
During his speech at Penn State, the President offered “one extreme example” of a building making energy-efficient envelope upgrades: the Empire State Building. Many glass industry professionals have followed the much-publicized window replacement that is expected to reduce energy use by 38 percent and save $4.4 million per year in energy costs (see November 2010
USGlass, page 22).

Obama also pointed out during his speech that, over the last two years, similar incentives have been offered for cities and residential manufacturers. One example he alluded to was Landover, Md.-based Thompson Creek Windows, an energy-saving window manufacturer “that was able to boost business by 55 percent” through such programs.

Glass industry professionals were understandably optimistic following the President’s remarks at Penn State.

“This is very encouraging news,” said Chris Dolan, director of commercial glass marketing for Guardian Industries. “Recent advances in commercial fenestration products and technology can make a significant improvement in the performance of the building envelope. With the slowdown in construction of new buildings, energy savings can be achieved by retrofitting existing buildings …”

“This is a very encouraging step,” added Dr. Thomas Culp of Birch Point Consulting LLC, energy consultant to the Aluminum Extruders Council and the Glass Association of North America. “A lot of focus and work is aimed at the energy-efficiency of new construction and, while that is important, it ignores the 72 billion square feet of existing commercial building space where huge amounts of energy are wasted.”

During his speech President Obama touched on initiatives already promoting research in this direction, such as Penn State University’s Energy Innovation Hub, a five-year initiative designed to improve the energy-efficiency of buildings in the United States. He commented on Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries involvement in the Hub, noting that through high-performance glass products “PPG Industries is providing walls that reflect sunlight and windows that reflect infrared.”

“We are pleased to see President Obama and his administration re-emphasize their commitment to energy-efficient buildings, and PPG is proud to be one of five industry partners in the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Hub,” said Mark Seeton, director of sales and marketing for PPG Industries. Seeton added, “We contend that the construction industry and the country as a whole would benefit from even bolder incentives.”

The initiative also builds on last year’s Building STAR bill (see April 2010 USGlass, page 18) that never got off the ground.

Seeton added, “We believe the Building STAR Energy Efficiency Act of 2010 didn’t provide financial incentives large enough to entice building owners into retrofitting or improving the energy efficiency of their buildings. For windows, the rebate was $150 to $300 per unit, while the curtainwall rebates were $3 per square foot. A more generous credit or rebate would have induced more building owners to move forward with energy-efficiency improvements.”

“The initiative is not only favorable for our industry but for overall sustainability and the reduction of carbon emissions on a broad level,” agreed Don McCann, architectural design manager for Viracon. “A recent government report states adding low-E to every window in the U.S. would reduce oil consumption by 500,000 barrels of oil a day. This equals 1/3 of the oil we import from the Persian Gulf daily.”


New Smart Features Debut in USGlass
As of this issue, you’ll see something new popping out in USGlass magazine—2D bar codes. These two-dimensional codes offer readers and viewers immediate access to additional information about a product or service.

In order to utilize the MS tags, visit http://gettag.mobi on your smartphone to download the appropriate tag reader (free of charge). (You can also search for “Tag Reader” in the app store and download it there). Then, simply open the app, point at any MS tag (try the one below) and you’ll immediately be taken to the enhanced online content.

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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.