Viewpoint: Karma Sawyer

DOE program helps promote and create energy-efficient windows of the future
Sawyer is Technology Manager at U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office

Tell me about the Emerging Technologies Program at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office. How does it relate to the glass and window industries?

The Emerging Technologies (ET) program within the Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office (BTO) funds R&D in academia, at the DOE national labs, and in the private sector to develop next-generation energy efficiency technologies for new and existing residential and commercial buildings, including windows and building envelope, sensors and controls, and space heating and cooling, among others. The goal is to develop energy efficient technologies that, at minimum, perform as well as the best technologies currently available in the market, with a cost that enables mass-market adoption.

Tell me about the BTO’s building energy goals.

As the Energy Department works toward achieving higher energy performance in buildings, key stakeholders continue to step up to the plate to meet the challenge. The goal of President Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge is to achieve an energy savings of 20 percent or more in commercial buildings by 2020. To date, more than 190 organizations have joined the Better Buildings Challenge and are demonstrating cost-effective performance improvements of, on average, more than 2.5 percent per year, which exceeds the annual savings needed to meet their 2020 goal. In fact, energy consumption in buildings has been declining since 2007, and the Energy Information Administration predicts that buildings will consume 2.5 Quads less energy in 2015 compared to 2005. That is equivalent to saving 431 million barrels of oil.

What can the glass and window industries offer to the DOE? And what can the DOE offer to the glass and window industries?

Open communication and active engagement regarding technological advancement and opportunities is critical. By collaborating with each other, the window industry and the Department have the opportunity to push technological boundaries by developing new innovative approaches for energy and cost savings, in addition to expanding upon existing technologies and concepts.

Additionally, BTO remains committed to providing support for new and innovative ideas that contribute to energy savings. At the Energy Department’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and the National Renewable Energy Lab facilities, software tools and personnel are available to support [research, development and demonstration] funded by the public and private sectors. These facilities are national resources that have unique capabilities needed to make energy efficient technologies market-ready, and they are critical to the Department’s mission of advancing technology to meet evolving market conditions.

How critical are the glass and window industries to reaching energy-use goals in buildings?

More efficient windows and glass technologies have substantial potential to reduce energy consumption in buildings. Windows protect building occupants from the elements but also provide natural light and ventilation.

In 2010, approximately 3 Quads of energy losses in residential buildings were attributed to windows, and due to their energy savings potential, BTO has identified highly insulating windows to be a high priority for R&D. For example, R-10 windows have a theoretical maximum energy savings potential of 1.4 Quads.

However, the most significant energy savings can be realized when buildings are treated as optimized systems with integrated technologies. But to do that cost-effectively requires creativity and cooperation with researchers, different building technologies industries, and building owners and operators.

What energy-saving glass and window technologies excite you?

There is a variety of exciting window technologies that are either on the market or currently in development that can help consumers save money by saving energy. One of the Energy Department’s top priorities is to work with industry to develop a low-cost highly insulating window (R7+) that can reduce conduction losses. There are also tremendous opportunities to reduce solar heat gain, especially in highly glazed buildings in hot climates, through the use of dynamic systems (electrochromic windows or films, or automated window attachments). However, it is also critical that those technologies are available at affordable prices.

In general terms, why is innovation so important for the industry at large, and for individual companies?

As a result of efforts to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions, the nation’s energy landscape is rapidly changing. Industries such as energy efficient lighting, HVAC and appliances are investing in innovation and pushing the envelope to drive progress. To stay competitive, the glass and window industries can focus on creative solutions to reducing the cost of high efficiency products.'

Representatives of the BTO are scheduled to host a stakeholders meeting during GlassBuild America: The Glass Window and Door Expo. What can glass and window industry participants expect from the meeting?

As part of its efforts to help industry bring next generation window technologies from the lab to the home, BTO is meeting with stakeholders at GlassBuild America: The Glass, Window and Door Expo. BTO will gather feedback that will inform decisions on the future support for the testing and simulation infrastructure at the Energy Department’s National Labs. Participants will have the opportunity to inform BTO staff of their needs over the next 3 to 5 years, and to provide input about the facilities that will be critical to moving their energy efficient products to widespread application in residential and commercial markets, for new construction, replacement and retrofit.