Volume 50, Issue 11 - November 2015

Withstanding the Test of Time

Glass Experts Examine the Newest Requirement in Sustainability Discussions

by Megan Headley

In the last 15 years, green building has become the foremost way to build; the 2015 Green Building Economic Impact Study from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) found that green construction’s growth rate is rapidly outpacing that of conventional construction and will continue to rise. By 2018, the researchers predict, green construction will account for more than one third of the entire U.S. construction sector.

Green buildings have put the focus largely on sustainability in terms of reducing reliance on and the depletion of resources such as energy, water and raw materials. But as the focus on sustainability continues to grow, the conversation has shifted to include durability and resilience. How long will these products be capable of providing top performance? How well do these efficient buildings, and products, stand up to disasters? How well do they keep people comfortable and safe? There are many questions to be answered.

The Resilient Trend

“Resilient building design requires a balance between designing a building for everyday use while preparing for occurrences you hope will never happen,” explains Mark Silverberg, president of Technoform North America Inc. in Twinsburg, Ohio.

Despite its focus on disaster recovery, today’s movement toward resilient design is closely linked to the sustainable-design movement.

“The concept of resilience adds an important dimension to the sustainability dialogue,” says Mic Patterson, vice president of strategic development, Advanced Technology Studio, Enclos in Los Angeles. “It pulls us beyond the myopic consideration of operational energy as the end-all measure of performance. Resilience is a central consideration of and key to sustainability. ​Definitions of resilience often reference the measure of or capacity to ‘bounce back’ in the wake of some shock or disturbance, such as produced by a disaster event.”

A number of green organizations have adopted resiliency factors into their sustainability programs. USGBC offers a LEED Climate Resilience Screening Tool to help designers prioritize opportunities to promote resilience through green building practices. And the latest version of the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge increases its emphasis on the importance of resilient infrastructure as a crucial component of sustainability (for more on these programs, see sidebars on page 44).

The glass industry has touted the product’s role in sustainable projects from an efficiency standpoint successfully, but not all experts in resilient design—or in the glass industry—are convinced that today’s glazing meets all of the demands of resilient design.

The Bullitt Center in Seattle achieved Living Building Challenge certification. To be certified as a Living Building, the structure must produce as much energy as it uses in a year, among other requirements.

How Glass Helps Earn Certifications

As pros and cons of various green programs are weighed, new programs crop up.
So how can glass help earn a green certification in some of today’s most popular programs? Here’s a look.

As the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) describes it, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification asks building projects to satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of environmental certification. Version 4 allows for up to 100 points, and offers four levels of certification. Glass selection can help projects in a variety of categories.

Category LEED Credit LEED Points
Sustainable sites Bird collision deterrence 1 point
Heat island reduction Up to 2 points
Integrative process Integrative process 1 point
Energy and performance Optimize energy performance Up to 20 points
Materials and resources Building product disclosure and optimization -
Environmental product declarations
Up to 2 points
Building product disclosure and optimization -
Sourcing of raw material
Up to 2 points
Building product disclosure and optimization -
Material ingredients
Up to 2 points
Indoor environmental quality Thermal comfort 1 point
Daylight Up to 3 points
Quality views 1 point
Acoustic performance 1 point
Innovation Innovation Up to 5 points
Source: https://www.guardian.com/cs/groups/sunguard/documents/native/gi_001597.pdf
For more information, visit www.usgbc.org/leed.

Living Building

The International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge, now on version 3, is comprised of seven performance areas, which the institute describes as “Petals”: Place, Water, Energy, Health and Happiness, Materials, Equity and Beauty. Petals are further divided into 20 “Imperatives,” each of which focuses on a specific sphere of influence and must be met to earn certification. Unlike LEED, Living Building Challenge certification is based on actual—rather than modeled or predicted—performance. Projects must meet all imperatives for at least 12 straight months before evaluation to earn full certification.

Petal Imperative Description


One hundred and five percent of the project’s energy needs must be supplied by on-site renewable energy on a net annual basis, without the use of onsite combustion. This aims to prioritize reductions and optimization before technological solutions are applied to eliminate wasteful spending of energy, resources, and dollars.
Health and happiness 7 Every regularly occupied space must have operable windows that provide access to fresh air and daylight.
9 The project must be designed to include elements that nurture the innate human/nature connection.
Materials 14 The project team must strive to reduce or eliminate the production of waste during design, construction, operation, and end of life in order to conserve natural resources and to find ways to integrate waste back into either an industrial loop or natural nutrient loop. The project team must create a Material Conservation Management Plan that explains how the project optimizes materials in each of the following phases.
Equity 16 The project may not block access to, nor diminish the quality of fresh air, sunlight and natural waterways for any member of society or adjacent developments. The project must also appropriately address any noise audible to the public.
Beauty 19 The project must contain design features intended solely for human delight and the celebration of culture, spirit and place appropriate to its function and meaningfully integrate public art.
Source: http://living-future.org/sites/default/files/reports/FINAL%20LBC%203_0_WebOptimized_low.pdf
For more information, visit http://living-future.org.

Green Globes
The Green Building Initiative describes its Green Globes program as the “practical building rating system.” The current version, 2, is a questionnaire-based self-assessment that is done in-house using a project manager and design team.
New construction can earn up to 1,000 points in seven categories.

Assessment Area
Total Points Description
Related to Glass
Project management 50 Integrated design process, meetings, performance goals, environmental management, commissioning.
Energy 390 Performance, building opaque envelope, lighting.
Materials and resources 125 Building assembly, waste, resource conservation, building envelope.
Indoor environment 160 Ventilation, lighting design and systems, thermal comfort, acoustic comfort.
Source: http://www.thegbi.org/green-globes-certification/how-to-certify/new-construction/

Where Glass Fits
in Resilient Design

The Resilient Design Institute (RDI) defines this trend as the intentional design of buildings, landscapes, communities and regions in response to vulnerabilities that come from climate change, including more intense storms, greater precipitation, coastal and valley flooding, longer and more severe droughts in some areas, wildfires, melting permafrost, warmer temperatures and power outages. In its design strategy guidelines, glazing is specifically called out; the institute advises, among other things, that buildings use windows that can withstand hurricane winds. For RDI, building resilience is about keeping buildings intact and operating nearly as normal even in the face of disaster. For many designers, it’s the “operation as normal” that is where glass fails as a resilient component.

As a 2013 article on resilient design by Jill Fehrenbacher, founder of the Inhabitat.com blog on sustainable design, points out, during a common blackout “an all-glass office building can quickly become like an oven on a hot summer day, potentially risking the health and lives of occupants inside.”

Fehrenbacher’s blog continues: “Proper insulation, natural ventilation with operable windows, solar shading devices, and employing stack ventilation can help buildings remain comfortable for inhabitants even when there is no mechanical heating and cooling available.”

“Unfortunately the concept of natural ventilation has been vastly neglected in the United States in the past,” responds Attila Arian, president of Schuco USA LLLP in Newington, Conn. “But we see an increased demand for our parallel opening insert vents, which is an indication that there is more of an awareness for natural ventilation in the design community.”

Others ask whether it’s fair to expect so much of glass buildings that are already promising a lot in terms of performance.

“Modern buildings, even tall buildings, are designed with contingencies for weather emergencies and related disruptions. If the goal is to design buildings to withstand the apocalypse, architects would need to understand in what form it will come,” says Rob Struble, manager of brand and communications strategy for PPG Industries Inc. in Pittsburgh.

And there is the key: solutions to problems such as the one described here must occur at the design stage.
“Resilience, like sustainability, is a design problem​,” Patterson says. “Materials present different properties and behaviors that must be understood and factored into their application. Resilience considerations will manifest differently in a building design as a function of the materials used.”

Evolving Considerations

One reason for glass’ bad rap in this new world of resilient design is that few older buildings factored in sustainability and resilient-design issues—which makes sense. However, fewer still factored in simple ways to upgrade to today’s modern products.

Arian points to a 2012 Rockefeller Foundation report that notes that approximately 60 percent of today’s existing office building stock was built pre-1980. “Performance, energy conservation and resilience were not the criteria to which these buildings were designed. So it is fair to say that the majority of the current office building stock does not meet today’s resilient-design standards,” he says. Yet, he adds, “The big wave of retrofit projects clearly demonstrates that there is a significant effort made to upgrade the current building stock. Tight budgets, however, lead to shortcuts in the design, and these shortcuts usually have an adverse effect on performance, sustainability and resilience of these buildings.”

Patterson expands this concept beyond performance, noting that resilience itself “is often talked about in terms of shocks and stresses.” Shocks, for example, might include the flooding and severe winds produced by super storms, while stresses can follow as communities struggle to repair damage and restore infrastructure functionality. “But stresses can also result from such causes as a gradual deterioration of infrastructure that compromises resilience,” he notes. “Even accelerating change can act to stress a community. These considerations bring concepts such as adaptability and durability to the forefront as resilience factors, although they are most often neglected in the popular resilience dialogue. Contemporary facade systems and architectural glass products are problematic in both respects; their service life is inadequate, and they are not designed to be easily adapted. This presents serious challenges when the need for renovation arises—an emerging problem with the mid-century glass towers that are now 40, 50 years old and older.”

Struble says, “I think the history of glass as a building material is ample testimony to its resilience as a building material, particularly to durability.” He shares an anecdote to demonstrate his point: “Last week I was at a hotel looking through glass that has been there since 1806.”

Going Forward

The bottom line is that the glass industry should have a front seat in discussions on building resiliency, proposing new strategies for improving whole-building resilience.

As Arian points out, “Glass products play an important role as the building envelope is the first line of defense protecting the occupants from the elements while maintaining functionality of the building.”

As understanding of resilient systems evolves, Silverberg points out, product manufacturers will be quick to respond.

“System-based design is primary, which informs and affects future product development,” Silverberg adds. And, he says, “The [glass] industry has a history of innovation with a wide range of sustainable and resilient solutions currently that will continue to evolve.”

the author

Megan Headley is special projects editor for USGlass magazine.
She can be reached at mheadley@glass.com.

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