Volume 48, Issue 11- November 2013


Staying Energized
Experts Bring Fresh Thinking to Energy Sessions
by Helen Sanders and Mark Silverberg

Having just returned from the Glass Association of North America’s (GANA) fall conference, which included the Energy Division’s second “energy day,” we are energized by the strategic work that is going on within the glass and glazing industry. If you haven’t attended one of the division’s energy days then you are missing out on some very timely presentations on energy-related issues and a high-level dialogue with influential thought leaders on the crucial and complex issues our industry faces.

The Good Fight
The first energy day back in February focused on the current “battle for the wall” and the downward pressure on window-to-wall ratio (WWR) that is being applied from the energy codes. The historically narrow focus on energy relative to building performance has led to a concomitantly narrow focus on WWR as the knob to turn for improving building energy performance. In the Energy Division we have been discussing strategies for changing this focus by broadening the dialogue to include the human benefits of windows, to educate more broadly on the availability of high-performance façade technologies and to engage other channel participants we often think of as outside our industry, such as daylighting designers, researchers, etc. After all, we build buildings for people, not for energy performance, so we should design for people first, and then figure out how to make that design as energy efficient as possible.

Energy Efforts
To help re-frame the WWR debate, our first energy day panel of speakers reviewed the energy modeling work that is supporting the reduction in window area currently proposed in ASHRAE 189.1, new high-performance net zero façade systems, and the human factor aspects of building design. Dr. Whitney Austin Gray, now at Cannon Design, and an expert on the human benefits of daylighting and views, gave a compelling data-based presentation on the human impacts of daylight and view.

With the momentum gained from this discussion, the Energy Division, through its building standards subcommittee, has garnered significant and broad opposition for the reduction in WWR in a proposed addendum to ASHRAE 189.1. In addition to many fenestration companies that submitted individual comments, we also co-opted support from the daylighting design, research and lighting controls communities. With more than 70 negative comments, this is an unprecedented result.

Thought Leaders
Our most recent Energy Day in Charlotte, N.C., focused on high- performance buildings, broader macro trends and how they relate to the fenestration industry. Mic Patterson, from Enclos, gave a great overview of what is needed in terms of glass and glazing product development and how to overcome some of the barriers to adoption of new products and methods. Amy Aussieker of Envision Charlotte gave a stimulating presentation on what the city of Charlotte is doing to create the most sustainable urban core in the U.S. The work they are doing to monitor building energy performance and control water and waste will likely be a blue-print for other municipalities going forward. Fenestration consultant Chris Mathis gave a thought-provoking discussion on why buildings matter and the changing role of the glass and window industry.

We also had a session on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) and the development of use-phase energy modeling approach for the window product category rules (PCR). If you don’t know what this is all about, you need to. When the U.S. Green Building Council launches LEED v4 this month architects are going to start calling you and asking if you have an EPD for your product or if you know its manufacturing environmental impact.

Forward Thinking
The feedback we have received so far from both days has been uniformly positive, and many attendees have commented that the sessions were the highest level presentations on such complex matters that they had heard. We are currently planning our third energy day to be held during the GANA Annual Conference, in February, 2014. The subject will be “People friendly or energy efficient buildings: Do we have to choose?” If Germany can have a building code that says every worker needs to be within 15 feet of a window, and still have very energy-efficient buildings, then why can’t we? If we had “view” as a fundamental design constraint, what would our buildings look like? Stay tuned for more details.

There’s a lot more work we’re doing at the division level, on subjects ranging from legislative advocacy to educational material development. There’s also a group working on identifying the changes relating to fenestration in LEED v4 and a LEED study group for those wanting to become a LEED Green Associate.

As we sign off, we recall one of Chris Mathis’ comments: “we wait for disaster and then we react by changing laws and codes, but that there are consequences to waiting.” Let’s not wait.

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