Architects will pay for high performance

The nation’s green building trend continues to drive demand for high-performance glass despite rising prices, architects say.

Owners' and designers' requirements for achieving and maintaining transparency and long-term energy savings take precedence over cost in many cases, says Gyo Obata, principal at Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum in St. Louis.

“Architects really want to use glass to bring in the light,” Obata says. “But we also want to use glass to keep out the cold and keep in the heat. … To use it and still have a green building, the technology of the glass becomes important.”

Obata says architects will continue to specify glass even with high prices, particularly for low-emissivity, ultra-clear products. “If glass brings daylight in and cuts down costs for electrical energy, I don’t mind paying more for it,” Obata says. And, “I’m urging the industry to come up with a glass that is highly visible [ultra clear] from the inside.”

Beyond energy savings, achieving certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design from the U.S. Green Building Council has also become a top priority, says Steven Dickens, project architect from Walnut Street Development LLC in Fairfax, Va. Glass constitutes a significant part of LEED certification, as it fills several criteria in the rating system, often making the price of high-performance products worth it, he says.

“High performance is critical to many aspects of LEED. For example, if you have high-performance glass, you can have a smaller [heating, ventilating and air-conditioning] system,” Dickens explains. “To be committed to doing LEED means you can’t back off on glass.”

However, Dickens warns, green building benefits can only measure so high against rising prices.

“I’m not going to say demand [for glass] will remain high--no matter the price. There is a limit,” he says. “It could become sustainability versus the economy. But we’re not there yet.”