Volume 8, Issue 11 - December 2007

Energy and Environmental News       

Energy Star® Update: DWM Talks to AGC Flat Glass

As part of its continuing coverage of the proposed changes to the Energy Star windows program, DWM magazine spoke to Serge Martin, vice president of marketing for AGC Flat Glass North America, for the glass company’s view of this important matter.

“At AGC we think it’s time to finally say it: Consumers often buy the wrong windows, featuring a glass that does not maximize their energy efficiency—because the glass was not designed and specified with their true regional energy needs in mind,” says Martin.

He says it’s time to end the one-size-fits-all approach to glass. He gives the example of a window you can find at Home Depot that is advertised as suitable for any region.

“How can a window in Michigan be the same window that should be used in South Florida?” he says. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

While he is pleased to see that the Department of Energy (DOE) is looking at making the criteria more stringent, he does have some reservations.

“The thing we fear is that they [DOE] will settle on a mild compromise. We need to do something deeper,” he said.

However, he does concede that major logical changes, such as requiring triple-glazed glass in certain regions, would require time for companies to implement. He adds that more appropriate coatings are readily available from all glass manufacturers.

“Low-E glass made sense in the past,” says Martin. “But now it is time to strengthen the requirements.”

In addition to talking to DWM magazine, AGC is taking steps to raise awareness in the industry regarding this important issue through interaction with its customers and other marketing methods.

“We’re trying to raise awareness to code bodies, etc., so the appropriate changes are made,” he says.

USGBC Launches LEED for Homes

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) launched its Leadership In Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-for-Homes program at the organization’s annual Greenbuild conference in Chicago in November. A nearly two-year pilot program to adapt the LEED rating system to residential building ended this spring, but USGBC says it waited until Greenbuild for its official debut so the program could be balloted with the organization’s full membership.

It will incorporate results from the LEED for Homes pilot program that began in 2005 and is expanding into more areas of the country. During the pilot phase alone, more than 8,000 homes across the United States were part of the program, with more than 300 gaining certification.

Housing represents a significant new market sector for USGBC—and, despite the current construction slowdown, one in which it believes that urgent action is needed. The group estimates that residential buildings contribute 21 percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions. McGraw-Hill SmartMarket reports that only 2 percent of American houses are built green; there were more than 1.8 million new single-family construction starts in 2006, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. LEED-for-Homes provides a framework for homeowners and developers who want to improve that ratio, according to USGBC.

Approximately 336 houses have earned LEED certification since USGBC began piloting the residential ratings program in August 2005, and 8,000 more are in the pipeline. “Obviously the growth is wonderful,” says Emily Mitchell, the LEED-for-Homes assistant program manager. “The numbers have exceeded our expectations. Twelve houses so far have achieved LEED Platinum, the highest ranking.”

Created exclusively for new commercial construction when it was launched in 2000, there are now seven programs beyond the original new construction category: commercial interiors, core-and-shell, schools and existing buildings. LEED for neighborhood development and retail are in their pilot phases, and USGBC expects to roll out its next pilot program, LEED-Healthcare, in 2008.

Change was the Word at EE Global

Changing building designs, changing legislation and changing the world were the goals of the array of speakers at the Energy Efficiency Global Forum & Exposition (EE Global), November 11-14 in Washington, D.C. More than 800 delegates, exhibitors and media from 32 countries attended the Alliance to Save Energy’s inaugural event focused on energy efficiency. Attendees represented governments from several countries, businesses, nonprofits and trade associations.

RK Stewart, president of the American Institute of Architects, spoke to changing building design during a session focused on “Energy Efficiency: The Cornerstone for Creating Carbon Neutral Buildings.” Stewart’s presentation, “What Kind of Ancestors Will We Be?” asked how future generations will look at the buildings we leave behind. As he noted, building design, construction and materials leave a far larger carbon footprint than cars and trucks, despite popular opinion.

Stewart also noted that government mandates and incentive programs may need to play a stronger role on making buildings more energy-efficient. A graph he showed the audience comparing California energy efficiency to that of the United States as a whole showed that the state’s total energy use “has basically flat-lined” since the government has taken a strong stand in requiring energy efficiency.

The various green rating systems available can play a part in bringing buildings in the United States close to the net-zero energy requirement proposed by House Bill 3221, the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2007. According to Stewart, AIA is currently in the process of evaluating the various rating systems in use.

“They all work,” Stewart said. “All the systems out there have their virtues and they all have areas where they could be stronger.” Stewart said the goal of the evaluation is to help the rating systems learn where they could strengthen their programs and to guide the design community when it comes to choosing a rating system.

Scot Horst, chairperson of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Steering Committee, examined what “efficiency really” means. Efficiency, Horst explained, means “doing more with less.” More, for Horst, means, in part, looking at buildings holistically. Optimizing just one part of the building isn’t enough, since every component impacts the whole.

“Until you look at how the whole system is working together, you really don’t understand how it is working,” he said.

Wolfgang Feist, Ph.D., director of the Passive House Institute, spoke on “Improving Energy Efficiency by a Factor 10—The Passive House Standard.” According to Feist, a few simple changes to existing systems can go a long way. One example he focused on was adding “Super Windows” to homes.

“I have seen a lot of single-pane windows in Washington,” the German joked, “and it’s very cold here.”

Feist stressed that adding just one additional lite helps improve energy efficiency and thermal comfort dramatically. While this may seem like an obvious fact for the glazing community, the policymakers, designers and even building owners in the room listened carefully.

But are these changes cost-effective? Many of the speakers stressed the message that energy efficiency doesn’t have to be at odds with cost effectiveness.

Brenna Walraven, chair of the Building Owners and Managers Association said that, at least with regard to commercial buildings, it is a much-believed myth that the only way to become green is with a major capital investment. Colin Dyer, president and chief executive officer of Jones Lang LaSalle, noted that 50 percent of people surveyed by his company perceived green buildings as more than 5 percent more expensive than conventional buildings. “More clarity is needed on the economics,” Dyer said.

In many cases, the speaker said, small adjustments could be made with little or no cost. The discussion drove home the point that cost must play a part in the discussion of energy efficiency.

To actually create this change, the building codes must come into discussion. Chris Mathis, president of MC Squared and a founding member of the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC), focused on efforts for energy efficiency beyond those required by current building codes during a presentation on “Best Building Energy Efficiency Performance: Moving Beyond Codes.” He began by offering a loose definition of building codes: “The least safe, least strong, least energy-efficient building allowed by law.”

As with other speakers at the event, Mathis advocated a change toward more energy-efficient buildings through the codes as well as through incentive programs.

“The primary ‘friction’ in the system is resistance to change,” Mathis said of the code process.

“Are we doing enough?” Mathis asked. “If we embrace the idea of sustainability, what can we do to get there?”

He encouraged his audience to look at the building codes as the minimum required, and strive for attaining higher certifications in new construction and renovations. “What minimum are we willing to embrace?” he asked.

Bill Nesmith, the assistant director for conservation with the Oregon Department of Energy, noted that some states have worked to make sure their codes offer something more stringent than at the federal level. Oregon has worked for several years to create stringent codes for improving energy efficiency.

One listener noted that no matter how well-designed the code, it won’t work without enforcement.

Nesmith agreed. “You can have the greatest code in the world on paper; if it’s not enforced it can’t get you where you want to go.” He added, “People have to want it, and want the green features.”

The next EE Global Forum will be held in December 2008 in Brussels, Belgium.

Greenbuild Conference Exposes Attendees to Efficient Windows
Former president Bill Clinton delivered the keynote speech at the Greenbuild conference in Chicago in November. More than 20,000 people from all over the world took part in three days of educational sessions, LEED workshops, hands-on training, local green building tours, networking events and the exhibition.

Clinton accepted a plaque honoring his library in Little Rock, Ark., for achieving platinum LEED status. He discussed the political aspects of the environmental situation and said that, for the United States, it is an opportunity—not a problem.

“It is the greatest opportunity for mobilization for this country since World War II,” he said. According to event organizers, Greenbuild’s exhibit hall sold out nearly a year in advance: its 800 booths displayed the newest green building technologies, products and services, which included doors and windows.

Mike Riley, a commercial representative for Pella Windows & Doors, reported good traffic at the booth.

“Pella’s very big on green—recycling and energy efficiency—and we’re showcasing a fiberglass window that is 30 percent more energy efficient. It’s a triple-lite unit that can have blinds between the lites. They really like that, especially in medical facilities.”

Eric Nilsson, vice president of CertainTeed corporate marketing in Valley Forge, Pa., adds that it is important to educate people on what is really green.

“Sustainable construction is undoubtedly one of the biggest and noisiest topics in our industry today,” he said. “In this cluttered marketing environment, we understand the challenge in ascertaining what does and does not constitute green construction, which is why we created the CertainTeed Green Building Products reference guide. This brochure, like our booth, was designed expressly to provide industry professionals with a concise information source about our products and how they impact the environment and their sustainable projects.”

Glen Miner, architectural market manager performance glazing for PPG Industries, explained that the company’s low-emissivity glass “plays right into LEED certification.” The company was promoting its green credentials, not only for glass, but also for its coatings. On the glass side, Miner said, “A lot of people are coming up to us here with projects and our glass fits right into them.”

Most of the Greenbuild seminar schedule is geared toward green and sustainability in the broadest design and build sense. However, during the Greenbuild conference, several hundred people, primarily architects involved in commercial work, attended the session, “High Performance Windows and Facades: Research and Development, Tools and Market Transformation Programs.” Steve Selkowitz, head of the building technologies department at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), discussed the research and development aspects; Nils Petermann of the Alliance to Save Energy discussed the market transformation; and John Carmody of the Center for Sustainable Building Research at the University of Minnesota handled tools.

Petermann discussed the Energy Star® label and what it means. “It’s a very successful program. Half the windows being sold today qualify for Energy Star,” he said.

Petermann said the next step is highly insulating windows, which perform better than average windows today, but not as well as the super windows that Selkowitz had discussed. According to Petermann, about 1 percent of windows sold today fit into this category.

“They cost too much,” he said. “[Gaining a larger market share] is a significant obstacle to overcome.”

Carmody rounded out the program by naming some tools (websites, computer programs and simulation tools) that can be used to select the best window for a commercial or residential application. 

NAHB to Unveil Green Building Program Next Year
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) announced that it will launch its National Green Building Program on February 14 at the 2008 International Builders’ Show.

Ninety percent of residential builders and developers are interested in participating in a voluntary green building certification program, according to the results of a recent NAHB survey.

“As confirmed in this survey, voluntary, market-driven programs are the best way to encourage the growth of green building,” said NAHB president Brian Catalde, a builder from Southern California. “More than 100,000 homes have already been built and certified by voluntary, builder-supported programs across the country.”

The NAHB National Green Building program will link dozens of successful state and local voluntary green building programs with a national online scoring tool for builders and verifiers. It also will provide a registry of green homes and green builders as well as extensive educational resources.

Almost 80 percent of the builders and developers surveyed identified the NAHB National Green Building Program as the one that they would most trust over other national programs such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED-H rating system. Survey questions also focused on green land development practices. 

More than 80 percent of respondents listed leaving as many trees as possible as the most important consideration when developing land for new home construction. Other practices builders say are most important include minimizing site disruption (69 percent), making greater use of recycled materials in home building (59 percent) and preserving open space by building on smaller lots (54 percent). 

AAMA Develops Statement Regarding Energy Star® Changes
The American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) has developed a position statement in response to the proposed revisions to the Energy Star Program for fenestration products, as presented in the Department of Energy (DOE) letter from Rich Karney dated October 9, 2007. 

AAMA members provided considerable feedback, asked questions, and developed possible solutions, and these were compiled into the position statement, according to AAMA.

Visit http://www.aamanet.org/mp/AAMA_Position_Statement-EnergyStar_11-09-07.pdf to view the paper.


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