I decided to take a little different of an approach for the blog this week. Up top I’ll hit a couple of news items but for the 2nd half I have an extremely interesting interview with a guy who I consider to be one of the most fascinating in our industry today.
-- So is it me or did the fact that the General Service Administration noting that they have been looking at LEED for “almost a year and half” just make you sad? Seriously it should never take that long or am I missing something? Yes they studied 160 tools and standards, (there’s really that many? My goodness) but does it really take that long to eventually decide on the biggest and most prominent one?
-- A website for you to absolutely visit and bookmark. The Efficient Window Collaborative has added to their already amazing site and it now is even better. The new window selection tool is tremendous. Kudos to Kerry Haglund and her team for once again raising the bar when it comes to educational resources.
-- While we’re in congratulatory mode, we’ll send some congrats out to Alissa Schmidt of Viracon for winning a Distinguished Alumni award from her alma mater Minnesota State- Mankato. Alissa represents our industry well and it’s great her efforts are being recognized!
-- Ok now on to the interview portion… this week I tracked down Avi Bar, Vice President, Architectural Products, Advanced Glazing (Solera Panels) to get his take on the current code landscape and more. I met Avi 2 years ago and was extremely impressed by his intelligence and focus. When the code discussion started to heat up, I thought getting Avi’s opinion would be interesting. And after getting his answers I have no doubt that this will surely get some people talking.
Max: The building/energy code process continues to evolve. As someone that follows it the way you do, what’s your take on where the codes are now and where they are going?
Avi: I think there are two primary shifts now in code. Energy codes getting stricter and becoming mandatory vs. voluntary. The codes are reflecting the rising energy costs and environmental challenges. The codes recognize that the building envelope plays a significant role in addressing these challenges. However most advances have been predominantly incremental as we try to tweak existing technologies and materials. This in turn results in incremental code changes. All the evidence however indicates that we need a more radical change in energy codes. This will be fed by two possible triggers. An event that forces more scarcity of fossil fuels or breakthrough technologies to compete. We hope that the former doesn’t have to occur before the latter. There are materials such as ours that are making that true. In Europe code tends to be more stringent and mandatory as energy costs are substantially higher but the net result is better buildings, and more innovation and greater value in the derived from the glass industry. Another point of interest is that energy metrics for buildings are now factoring quantifiable benefits to the use of daylighting strategically as the primary lighting source during usable hours.
Max: What’s your take on the ASHRAE issue and the on-going discussions/angst that is seemingly pretty active in our industry now?
Avi: Here is the basic premise. ASHRAE standards are driven by two primary conditions.
a) Higher energy costs
b) Environmental stewardess
Both these conditions are important and real and should not be ignored. Asking ASHRAE to relax rules and code will compromise buildings ability to be sustainable from an environmental and financial standpoint.
The codes are not going to get less stringent. The voluntary nature is not going to spread. Instead I predict (as we can see everywhere else in the world), the codes will get more stringent and mandatory. We can sit and cry about it or we can rise to the challenge.
The issue the glass industry is trying to address is that most current glass products are based on a composition that is fundamentally flawed. Glass is a highly conductive material. Air in the units (or gasses, which are highly prone to leakage) are highly convective. Low-e is reaching its maximum value in reducing U Values. Spacers are highly conductive too. Therefore the fundamental construct of glass is challenged as its only potential improvement is incremental. Even with triple glazed units which add cost due to additional material and installation costs. Over and above this, vision glass struggles to deal with the daylighting question appropriately since it introduces heat and glare unless controlled through shading devices, which adds more cost.
So given these constraints it’s obvious that the "Nemesis / Enemy " is the code. If you can't improve then the code is too strict.
But that does not have to be the case. If we look at using innovation and technology to change the construct and paradigms on the glazing, then we could retain our position on buildings. There is much work to be done in this realm but it's not far off. Therefore my recommendation is instead of blaming ASHRAE and seeking lobbying money to fight it, let's invest this money in innovating and lower material costs.
The glass industry in short needs to embrace two fundamental things
b) Education throughout the value chain
Next week, part 2 with Avi including where the Architectural community weighs in on this.
LINKS of the WEEK
The old “hotmail.com” address is now dead. Wow.
Big question for business owners, replace the server or go to cloud based computing?
This is a school that gets it, a “nice weather” day!
VIDEO of the WEEK
Take the next 6 minutes and see why the Portland Timber organization is one to be admired. An 8-year-old boy with cancer gets his wish, and the Timbers pull out all of the stops. Really impressive to make the effort and build the memory here.