Viewpoint: James Bogdan

PPG exec discusses LEED recycling and life cycle assessment criteria
As told to Max Perilstein
May 19, 2010

Our industry has many incredible and fascinating talents, and a lot of times they fly under the radar. With this new interview series, my goal is to spotlight some of these amazing people and their viewpoints. First up is James Bogdan, manager, Sustainability Marketing Initiatives, for PPG Industries, Pittsburgh. I look to him as the premier “go-to” guy when it comes to green glazing. In this interview, he shares his insight as it pertains to green building and the glass industry, and what could be coming down the pike.

James Bogdan

MP: There is some confusion surrounding the recycling definitions within the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. Why is glass not worth more under the current edition? It seems to be the most easily recycled product around.

JB: The short answer is that the U.S. Green Building Council didn’t find a reason to revise the citation, ISO 14021, within the recycled content credit of LEED 2009 Version 3.

To help minimize confusion regarding the recycled content of float glass, I would also offer the following long answer: You’re correct that glass is a recyclable material, but that doesn’t mean it goes back to a float glass manufacturer. The subsequent use of recycled float glass typically doesn’t include primary float glass, and the pinnacle of recycling is to reuse material [to recreate] the product from which it came.

Recycled content, in FTC, ISO and LEED terms, considers two types: post-consumer content and pre-consumer content. Post-consumer content comes from a waste product that has had a functional use prior to being an ingredient in another product.

[While] it is possible to recycle architectural/window glass from replacement or renovation projects, it doesn’t go back to float glass manufacturers. It is usually “down-cycled,” or converted into new materials or products of lesser quality and reduced functionality, such as abrasion products, glas-phalt, concrete items and flooring, among others.

The float glass industry hasn’t developed an infrastructure [similar to the steel and aluminum industry] to take back glass into their manufacturing process. Glass manufacturing is sensitive regarding the ingredients… tiny amounts of foreign particles, metals or unknown chemical constituents can potentially cause furnace downtime and product quality issues.

However, there are market efforts to return cullet from the IG fabrication process and utilize that as recycled content. This would fall into the pre-consumer category. The concern with this is the mix of scrap waste [which could include a variety of glass with coatings, tinted or clear properties, etc.] not being sorted properly or screened for foreign materials prior to being returned to the float glass manufacturer. Not knowing the chemical makeup of returned waste could lead to problems [like those previously described]. Additionally, a typical float glass furnace that manufactures 600 tons per day would require a steady stream of cullet from the fabrication process that can contribute to recycled content in sufficient percentages to contribute to LEED. This would require many tons per day. If such material is available, then there should be concern regarding the efficiencies of fabrication and product yield per IG fabricated. Waste is a cost, and yielding product for sale is more important to fabricators than generating waste to send back to a float glass manufacturer.

MP: You have been heavily involved in LEED for awhile now. How do you think the glass and glazing industry as a whole has done with the process?

JB: I think it has been a mixed bag, but there have been more recent successes. I believe reporting cullet as recycled content was a fault of the industry since proper guidance wasn’t provided to the float glass manufacturers, who, in turn, reported such claims to their fabricator customers.

Also, I see many industry claims where companies promote product “points” to achieve LEED. From the architect or mechanical engineer perspective, glass/glazing is one in hundreds of decisions needed to determine energy performance, daylight and views, and thermal comfort—albeit an important one. LEED is a holistic building design and construction process, and not driven by particular products.

Furthermore, I haven’t seen industry activity to address the USGBC’s pilot Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) credit, or interest to populate the LCI database. This should be considered because the industry doesn’t want its LCI and LCA metrics to be misrepresented.

However, with the advent of advanced technologies in solar energy control, dynamic glazing, thermal break and BIPV, the glass/glazing industry is poised to further enhance efficiencies and renewable generation, and support market interest for zero energy buildings.

MP: How much did the introduction of your Solarban 70 change the landscape for PPG as it regarded green building and LEED?

JB: Way before Solarban 70XL, PPG had been a leader in energy efficiency, [introducing] the first heat-absorbing glass in 1934 and developing low-E technologies in the 1980s. When commercialized in 2006, Solarban 70XL glass was the newest low-E coating technology to offer A/E and building owners the opportunity to realize cost savings, reduce energy consumption and operating costs, and contribute towards environmental improvement.

Two simultaneous innovations—the Solarban 70XL technology launch and the growth of green building in the market—have provided PPG great market awareness and installation on some pretty cool projects. PPG has benefited from the expertise that developed the technology by receiving several environmental awards, the opportunity to discuss enhanced energy savings at trade conferences, and A/E consideration as another design tool to improve building energy performance. Even in a down economy, Solarban 70XL continues to do well.

MP: What part of LEED would you change?

JB: I would change the pilot and initiative for the Life Cycle Assessment credit. I have serious reservations regarding what the USGBC is doing in LCA. I think it is an initiative that’s too soon and moving too fast. I can appreciate the USGBC’s mission to transform the market, which I believe it is doing. I can also appreciate its [desire] to continuously improve the LEED rating system. However, when energy consumption is arguably the greatest concern for the built environment, and the energy performance of LEED buildings is barely market-leading, I feel the USGBC needs to redirect its resources. Being in an energy intensive industry, I have concerns when I receive inquiries from architects requesting the embodied energy of glass in manufacturing (a factor in LCA), when their building’s energy performance is barely satisfactory or hardly meets perceived market expectations.

MP: What advice do you have for glazing companies that want to be known as ‘green’ businesses?

JB: Just do the things that benefit the bottom line: focus on efficient fabrication, optimize yield, produce less waste, and improve worker safety, etc. These things always have a social and environmental benefit that can be measured and marketed.

MP: What’s the best job you and PPG were involved in as it pertained to LEED, and what made it stand out?

JB: I have logged hundreds of LEED projects that installed/applied PPG glass, paints and coatings. These projects are of various sizes and have a wide range of product quantity and volume, from iconic skyscrapers in city centers to small-town education projects. However, I don’t focus on particular projects, even though it might lead to marketing opportunities or case studies.

For me, the projects that stand out are the ones that need the greatest customer/influencer education, consulting or support. I receive satisfaction when providing good information and advancing product and green building knowledge to PPG customers, glaziers, GCs and architects. If I’m able to be a resource that provides timely and accurate information, and make it easier for PPG customers to deliver, then those will always be the best jobs.

However, I will say that for the past several years, it’s been nice to see PPG products being installed or applied in the AIA-COTE Top 10 list. Being utilized in the greenest buildings is definitely a cool thing.

MP: What’s next for green building and the glass industry?

JB: For green building: questions of embodied energy and LCA. The industry needs to get its hands around understanding and reporting the environmental footprint of manufacturing, as well as the offsets gained from product energy efficiencies and recyclability.

Finally, we need to lobby for greater tax deductions to incentivize upgrading the envelope on existing buildings. Presently, there are commercial building tax deductions—$1.80 per square foot of $0.60 per square foot, equal distribution in lighting, HVAC and building envelope. Not only does the market need greater tax deductions or credits, like $3 per square foot, but the distribution needs to be weighed more toward envelope upgrades. Lighting has a quick return on investment, so do HVAC tweaks. However, the envelope has great labor costs that need further support with a higher incentive.

MP: I consider you the Czar of Green. Growing up, did you ever imagine that you’d be in this sort of position? What did you want to be when you were a kid?

JB: What kind of title is that? Such a title indicates either having great or misguided knowledge, or even a dictatorship. I think I would be embarrassed by either. As a kid, I had interests in the environment, but nothing that directed my life or career choices. Anyway, growing up in Pittsburgh kind of forces you to think about being a professional athlete. I guess I wanted to be a center-field, left-wing, power-forward, linebacker …. in no particular order. My dreams came to a halt when I found out that the Pittsburgh Pisces basketball team was not real, but rather a fictitious team in a movie.

Perilstein is vice president of marketing for Arch Aluminum & Glass Co., Tamarac, Fla. Write him at


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