Glass, key to building green

March 6, 2007

See next week's e-glass weekly for more in our
e-glass green series

Today, green building represents about 10 percent of commercial construction. However, the energy-efficient trend is quickly growing as owners and architects respond to rising energy costs with sustainable design, James Bogdan, manager of sustainable design and green building initiatives for PPG Industries of Pittsburgh said March 5 at the Building Envelope Contractors Conference in Las Vegas.

“U.S. buildings consume 70 percent of the electricity used from power plants,” Bogdan said. The increase in energy prices alongside “more buildings that are being constructed, with more energy consumed, has created great momentum for green building.”

To lessen energy costs, designers specifically want to reduce solar heat gain and allow more daylight. The glass industry will have to respond to these demands, Henry Taylor, architectural team manager, Kawneer Co. of Norcross, Ga., said at the conference.

“Green construction is the future, and it holds tremendous opportunity for us in the glass industry,” Taylor said.

Daniel Kaplan, senior principal for FxFowle Architects in New York agrees. “Glass touches so many aspects of sustainability: energy performance, solar control, daylighting, connection to the exterior environment,” he said. “I would say glass and sustainability are inseparable.”

To achieve energy efficiency in glass, architects can specify low-emissivity glass that improves a system’s solar heat gain coefficient. Thermal performance is also critical to retaining heat in cooler climates and to maintaining cool interiors in hot climates. Insulating glass units in thermally broken frames help improve thermal performance, with polymide thermal breaks providing strong thermal performance. Triple-glazed IG units achieve maximum thermal performance, Taylor said.

Despite the increased costs associated with higher-performing glazing systems, Kaplan says owners have become more willing to pay the difference.

“There has been a sea-change in the attitude of owners and key stakeholders. Ten years ago, we spent most of our time answering the question ‘Why be green?’ Today the question is, ‘Why isn't it green?’,” Kaplan says. “As a result, the vast majority of our major projects from New York to Mumbai are going through [Leadership in Energy and Environment Design certification from the U.S. Green Building Council].”

Read next week’s e-glass weekly to learn how the glass and glazing factor into the LEED program.

- By Katy Devlin, e-Newsletter Editor, e-glass weekly