Viracon launches new glazing selection tool

November 11, 2009

Viracon, Owatonna, Minn., has launched a free online tool to help architects and building owners determine energy performance and cost savings achieved with different glazing configurations, according to a Nov. 10 release.

The new Viracon Product Selection Tool offers an easy and affordable way to calculate energy costs, peak demand, carbon emissions, daylight, glare and thermal comfort for various geographic regions, building orientations and glass configurations. It is one of the only tools available that calculates cost savings and carbon emissions per square foot of glass.

Until now, building designers only had access to simple product parameters such as U-factors and solar heat gain coefficients when considering glazing options. “While these numbers are useful, they don’t relate energy performance to the building’s orientation and climate zone,” said Don McCann, architectural design manager, Viracon, in the release. “There was a disconnect between the numbers and the actual building site. Our new tool puts all these factors into context, and gives building owners realistic square foot dollar comparisons to help them evaluate which type of glazing will have the highest energy payback.”

“The inspiration for the new tool came from the U.S. Department of Energy ,” said Paul LaBerge, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design accredited professional and green building strategy manager, Apogee Enterprises Inc., Minneapolis. He was instrumental in developing the tool for Viracon, a subsidiary of Apogee. “Their research showed that up to 50 percent of commercial buildings in the United States have no glass coatings at all, making those structures extremely inefficient and a major contributor to greenhouse gases. “

Existing energy calculation tools are more complicated and, if used, are run later in the design process. “At that point, the design process has gone along so far it isn’t cost-effective to make major design changes to improve performance,” said Kerry Haglund, researcher in sustainable design in Minneapolis, in the release. "This tool is unique in that it is designed to be used early in the process for early decision making. It is the only tool available that allows users to compare and rank different glazing products.”

Haglund worked with fellow researcher John Carmody to develop the Viracon software program. All simulations were done using COMFEN by the staff at the Windows and Daylighting Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

“We found that a lot of decisions that can have a significant impact on a building’s overall energy performance are made early in the design process by architects, consultants and building owners without the aid of sophisticated engineering tools,” said Stephen Selkowitz, head of the Building Technologies Department at LBNL, in the release. “The Viracon Product Selection Tool is easy to understand and operate. It allows users to very quickly compare alternatives and focus in on solutions that may be appropriate to their project.”

Large firms and projects can use the tool as a starting point before bringing in their mechanical engineering team for full building calculations. However, the tool also will help small- and medium-sized buildings achieve optimal energy performance and cost-savings without any additional expense.

In the coming year, Viracon will add new building types, additional glass types and a return on investment calculation to the tool.