“The trouble with energy efficiency is its boring. It’s just not sexy.”
It was a sentiment shared by Chris Mathis of Mathis Consulting in Asheville, N.C., today during the Energy Symposium portion of the Glass Association of North America’s (GANA) Fall Conference underway at the Omni Hotel in Charlotte, N.C. Mathis was one of three presenters during the segment addressing various aspects of energy efficiency and performance as it relates to the building environment.
The topic on which Mathis spoke – “Why Buildings Matter and the Importance of Glass” – covered some critical points to keep in mind, particularly in regards to codes.
“What is the code?” he asked. “The code is the least safe, least strong and least energy-efficient building allowed by law,” he answered. Citing historical events such as the earthquake in San Francisco in 1906, Hurricane Andrew in South Florida in 1992 and Hurricane Katrina along the GulfCoast in 2005 that have led to stronger codes.
Mathis said, based on history, there is a tendency to wait for disasters and then react.
“This industry cannot afford to wait,” he said, stressing the importance of investing in existing buildings.
“We know what to do; it’s just boring.” He said 93 percent of the commercial buildings in the United Sates were built before 2003; 74 percent were built before 1989.
“These older buildings are not energy-efficient,” said Mathis, but have two things in common: they have good bones and location—they are in areas such as downtowns, where communities are rebuilding or cities, where revitalization is taking place.
“We’ve got to address existing buildings, but we all love new buildings,” said Mathis. Why? Because new building is easy. “Every existing building requires the best of what we can give it.”
It’s just not as exciting.
What’s exciting, Mathis explained, are topics such as photovoltaics, net zero energy, etc. The American people think that’s the power, Mathis pointed out, but, if you do the math, the power is in insulation, caulking, windows, sealants, lighting, etc.
Where the fenestration industry has failed, he said, is that it has “failed to deliver the power of our solutions, we have failed to deliver the strength, durability and power of what we have to offer.”
He also said the code landscape is going to change. What’s the future look like? Next month ASHRAE 90.1 2013 will be published, “the new minimum standard.”
“The code is not leading-edge, it is not innovative … exemplary, green, sustainable, differentiating …The code is the starting point for differentiating,” said Mathis. “The next time someone says ‘Does it meet the code?’ We should be saying ‘Yes, and then some.’”
He continued, “Everyone loves to talk about net zero, it’s fun and sexy, but the code is a long ways from net zero.”
Mathis pointed out that the glass and glazing industry has to acknowledge its strengths and weaknesses [and recognize its competitors]. “The competition is an opaque wall, discomfort, anyone who thinks they can overcome the building challenge with a bigger AC or furnace.”
He continued, “Everyone needs to understand that glass is the driver…we need to be a part of the solutions.
“The glass industry must challenge the ‘business as usual’ thinking. We can take a huge leadership role in making building envelopes dramatically better the next 100 years; there are opportunities to be captured and a lot of buildings are in need of new windows that are saying ‘Please use me.’”
Stay tuned to USGNN™ for more on the Energy Symposium and news from the Fall Conference.