The major threat to the glass industry right now, according to some presenters and industry officials here at Glass Week in Las Vegas, isn’t the economy, but proposed codes and standards, and emissions regulations or legislation. The economy, and construction industry, will recover (though, perhaps not as soon as we’d like). These codes and regulations, however, could limit the use of glass in buildings and weaken manufacturers' abilities to compete.
On the codes and standards front, ASHRAE 90.1 topped the conversation during the meetings. The 2010 version of the standard limits the window to wall ratio of buildings at 30 percent, down from 40 percent. A 25 percent reduction in glass could severely hurt an already suffering industry.
Fire-rated glass manufacturers are also facing code movement toward less glass. The sprinkler industry is issuing proposals to limit—or even eliminate—fire-rated glass in interior fire corridors, according to several fire-rated manufacturers.
And glass manufacturers could possibly see emissions requirements coming through legislation or through regulation. Both Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency are working to limit manufacturer emissions nationally. The California assembly has a bill that could be approved in the near future. Emissions regulations could make it difficult for U.S. glass manufacturers to compete in the global market.
What is the industry to do in the face of somewhat overwhelming forces? Bill Yanek, executive vice president of GANA, recommends coming together to help influence change. Energy codes, such as ASHRAE, aren’t going away. However, a whole industry voice to recommend performance-based standards that provide benefits for daylighting, rather than just eliminating windows, can make an impact. And a fire-rated glass industry, often-divided over code issues, can only challenge the sprinkler manufacturers through one voice. Emissions regulations are also coming, sooner or later. Glass manufacturers need to keep up with advancements in climate change proposals, and the industry collectively needs be vocal with government bodies about its interests.
By Katy Devlin, associate editor