Volume 49, Issue 5 - May 2014

Energy&Environment

With an Eye Toward EPDs, LEED and Green Globes Focus More on Products

As work on Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) for various glazing products continues, and the broader certification landscape evolves, programs such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and the newer Green Globes are increasingly reflecting the trend toward putting greater attention on individual products, say some experts.

Several industry groups including the Glass Association of North America (GANA), American Architectural Manufacturers Association, Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance and the Window and Door Manufacturers Association, have been involved with the development of a Product Category Rule (PCR) for windows, which must be put in place before an EPD can be created. The work on this is nearly finished, according to Rita Schenck, executive director at the Institute for Environmental Research and Education, which serves as the program operator for the initiative. “We’re very near the end of the process,” says Schenck.

Following the PCR, next on the agenda would be the EPD. That also requires development, but once a PCR is in place, it could come as early as just weeks of the PCR becoming final.

On a related note, NSF International, in collaboration with GANA’s Flat Glass Manufacturing Division, has developed a PCR for flat and float glass. Flat glass, for purposes of the PCR, includes sheet glass, plate glass, rolled glass and float glass and is used in a wide range of architectural, auto and decorative applications including windshields, curtainwall, doors, windows and glass panels in furniture. The PCR provides both a science-based and internationally recognized method for reporting the environmental impact of glass products and materials throughout their life cycle from cradle to gate, according to NSF International.

“Developing the flat glass PCR with NSF International is an important next step toward a more sustainable future for the glass industry,” says GANA technical director Urmilla Jokhu-Sowell. “This PCR will give glass manufacturers an opportunity to identify and focus on reducing the environmental impacts of their products and operations and to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.”

Certifications such as LEED generally have focused on building systems as a whole rather than individual products. “It’s hard to pull an element out of a system,” says Kerry Haglund, acting executive director for the Efficient Windows Collaborative. “So it’s hard to quantify an element that’s just a piece of a system. It’s always hard to do that.”

Meanwhile, there’s been an otherwise increased focus on products and life cycles, she notes. Green Globes, a certification program of the Green Building Initiative (GBI) and a rival to LEED, is newer on the scene, with 5 percent market share, according to Jerry Yudelson, president of GBI. While Green Globes, too, focuses on the entire building system, it has embraced the gravitation toward product assessment, he says. EPDs have been part of Green Globes for some time. Underscoring the trend, EPDs are now part of LEED—at least, as of its version four.

Why the push to products? Schenck points out that various studies have questioned whether LEED buildings are actually more energy efficient than non-LEED buildings. At least with EPDs, “I can be pretty confident of that component [at least].” Such tweaks, she says, represent “a giant step forward toward having real outcomes.”

Yudelson confirms that the window EPD is the kind of thing that Green Globes would look to incorporate once it is available. He also notes that this year GBI is reworking the Green Globes standard for new construction.

The glass industry is in a good position to take advantage of the new product focus, particularly given the emerging technology that is changing the product landscape. “To me, if I were in the glass business, I’d be excited about the new technology opportunities for developing glass and window systems to do a variety of things,” says Yudelson.

Meanwhile, it’s a big year for Green Globes, which not only has a new standard in the works but has launched a marketing campaign as it works to grow its modest 5 percent market share. Among Green Globes’s claims to fame are that it’s more user friendly (web-based) and promises to be faster and less expensive than LEED.

With recognition coming last fall from the General Services Administration with respect to federal-building use, the brand is primed to make market inroads—or so hopes Yudelson, who happens to be a LEED fellow himself and has been at the helm of GBI for just a few months. GBI’s plans for Green Globes: 25 percent market share within five years. —Carl Levesque

New Legislation Offers Opportunity to Increase Usage of Energy-Efficient Glazing

Recently introduced legislation could be a positive step forward for the commercial glazing industry. In April Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) introduced the Energy Efficiency Tax Incentives Act (S. 2189), restoring energy efficiency tax incentives, specifically the 179D tax deduction for commercial buildings, which expired in 2013.

The 179D provision currently allows building owners to claim a tax deduction of $1.80 per square foot of building area to install systems that reduce the total energy and power costs by 50 percent or more when compared with a reference building. The deduction applies to nearly all commercial, high-rise multifamily residential, health care, institutional, public, and educational facilities. It also allows public building owners to allocate the deduction to the designer of energy efficient property. Senator Cardin’s bill raises the tax deduction to $3 per square foot, among other improvements.

Bill Yanek, executive vice president of the Glass Association of North America (GANA), says the organization is in support of such tax credits that favor the construction industry.

“Over the course of the past few years, especially as commercial construction continued to struggle, GANA supported tax policies that would spur commercial construction,” says Yanek. “With regard to energy efficient construction, tax incentives are especially important to help offset initial commercial construction/improvement investment that may only prove financially viable over a long period of time.”

Noting that buildings are responsible for roughly 40 percent of all energy consumed in the U.S., Yanek adds that GANA urges Congress to renew and strengthen the 179D tax deduction.

“More widespread use of energy-efficient glazing in commercial buildings represents one of the most readily available methods to improve building energy performance,” says Yanek. “Glazing systems have made dramatic advances in energy efficiency during the past decade. By replacing the existing glazing with modern materials and systems, commercial buildings can realize significant energy savings. 179D helps ensure that the right incentives exist for people to invest in energy efficient building materials to realize these savings.”

Likewise, the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) agrees that bill is important. “This legislation will allow commercial, multi-family and residential property owners to invest in properly retrofitting the building envelope to ensure that sourced energy is not wasted. Through S2189, building owners can make energy-efficiency improvements using a systematic and methodological approach, which begins with incorporating the technologically-advanced fenestration products available today,” says Maureen Knight, AAMA’s government affairs/ product stewardship manager. “The increase of the 179D allowance to a $3/square-foot maximum for achieving a 50 percent or higher source energy savings offers the type of incentive that prompts building owners to invest in energy efficiency. And, homeowners will benefit greatly through the substantive credits offered for investing in energy-efficient products that decrease their energy consumption.”

 


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