Volume 9, Issue 1 - January 2008

12 Years  and Counting
Manufacturers Prep for Possible Energy Usage Reduction by 2020
by Penny Stacey

Going green—lately, it’s become more than a trend, and thanks to resolutions like H.R. 3221, it soon may become a goal for many builders and door and window manufacturers. H.R. 3221, which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in August and currently is under review in the U.S. Senate, calls for a 50-percent reduction in energy use in residential buildings by 2020. Many think the bill could have serious implications for door and window manufacturers—and yet others aren’t even able to talk about the legislation’s possibilities. Many manufacturers contacted by DWM for this article declined to comment, citing any preparations for the possible requirement as “proprietary information” and others saying they hadn’t even considered the legislation yet.

Not all of them, though, took this stance. Scott Widmer, engineering manager for ProVia Door in Sugarcreek, Ohio, is not only aware of the legislation—but also notes the company hopes to be a part of the legislation’s future.

“We think the legislation is aiming in the right direction,” he says. “While we may not agree with every detail of the legislation, energy conservation and reduction should be on every responsible steward’s priority list. We want to influence the legislation in the direction we think is right, true and just in the long term.” 

Gorell Windows & Doors in Indiana, Pa., a four-time Energy Star® partner of the year, also has strived to be an active part of the legislation’s preparation—and other bills under review.

“We are very involved with many Energy Star initiatives and have been one of the leaders in the industry discussing different ideas with Energy Star, the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency about ways to reduce energy through higher performing replacement windows,” says company president Wayne Gorell.

Associations such as the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) and the American Architectural Manufacturers Assoc-iation (AAMA) currently are watching the legislation to see what the future might hold.

“The majority of our members are aware of this, and many are concerned that the legislation will require dramatic changes to the products they manufacture today,” says John Lewis, AAMA technical director. “At this stage, we are monitoring the energy legislation and keeping the membership informed as changes develop.” 

WDMA director of codes and regulatory compliance Michael Fischer says the WDMA has placed the new possible energy efficiency requirements on the agenda of its new Advocacy Committee “in order to best monitor and participate in this legislation.”

On the same note, the WDMA hopes the energy legislation under review is carried out in a reasonable way for door and window manufacturers.

“Increased stringency of building envelope components, like doors, windows and skylights, is an important strategy to reduce residential energy consumption,” Fischer says. “That being said, it is important that the cost-benefit value proposition make sense. Setting goals that far outstrip available technology and capacity will not achieve the stated goal. We hope that the DOE and federal legislators will do their homework and set the standards to achieve the best possible—and achievable—results.”

Preparation Starts Early
If the legislation passes, the requirement for the 50-percent energy usage reduction by 2020 is more than a decade away. However, in terms of developing new products, that really isn’t a lot of time. What are manufacturers doing to prepare for this?

“We are constantly evaluating new and innovative ways to make our windows more energy-efficient,” Gorell says. He adds that the company just introduced a new energy-efficient glass system called Ultra Master III™ to stay in line with the green trend.

He says the company also is looking at new designs for the future in response to such legislation.

“We are also working on new design concepts that make our windows even more energy-efficient,” Gorell says. “Our philosophy is, ‘if it isn’t broke, it’s a great time to improve it.’ We are always trying to improve our products and make them even more energy-efficient.”

ProVia notes that developing new energy-efficient products always is a priority for the company—but Widmer couldn’t reveal details.

“I cannot comment on our product pipeline. However, product innovation and energy efficiency are priorities,” he says. “It’s something we are always working on.”

New products aren’t the only concern, though—there’s also the cost factor that comes with designing new products.

In today’s economy, Widmer notes this is more of an issue than it hopefully will be in the future.

“As the increasing cost of energy approaches the (presumably) decreasing cost of new technologies, at some future point, I think the trade-off will be less controversial,” he says. “Regardless, the return on investment will not satisfy everyone.”

For Gorell, while new products are always a consideration, he thinks just the increased usage of today’s energy-efficient window products could help reduce overall energy usage—so cost isn’t so much of an issue.

“We feel our products, in conjunction with other significant energy saving tactics, can reduce [energy usage] by 50 percent today, so yes, it is and will be cost-effective for us as a manufacturer,” Gorell says.

While Gorell and Widmer were very willing to speak on what the future may hold for them if this legislation comes to fruition, other manufacturers contacted for this article were a good bit secretive.

One representative from Simonton says that the legislation is “too far out on the radar screen right now” for them to comment on possible changes.

Andersen Windows spokesperson Cameron Snyder concurs.

“While we are active in code and regulatory affairs, we are not going to provide comments on the current legislative review in the Senate,” says Snyder.

Representatives from Marvin also note that they can’t comment on the proposed legislation at this time, since it has not yet been passed.

What about the Glass?
While door and window manufacturers certainly have a role in developing energy-efficient products for the future, their suppliers also have their work cut out for them.

“The weakest link in the envelope is obviously the glass,” says Lou Podbelski, vice president of SAGE Electrochromics Inc. in Faribault, Minn. The company manufactures a glass product that can go from clear to darkly tinted with the touch of a button.

He does believe that the proposed legislation (and other types of legislation and regulations that encourage energy efficiency) will encourage glass manufacturers, though, to assist door and window manufacturers in the green arena.

“If left to our own devices we may not do the right thing and find ourselves in a bad fix that would be tough to get out of,” Podbelski says.

While tinted glass is important for allowing the sun to shine in and provide light and heat at times, at other times, the daylight has adverse effects—such as on a hot summer day, he notes—causing manufacturers to develop products that meet both criteria.

“[We need] some sort of compromise glass with a [solar heat gain coefficient] that lets a reasonable amount of light in but at a certain time of the day blocks a certain amount of light,” he says.

Serge Martin, vice president of marketing of AGC Flat Glass in Alpharetta, Ga., agrees.

“You also have energy consumption for your lighting so a higher level of daylighting is something you want to have,” says Martin. But, he says glass products that meet these criteria are certainly available.

“Low SHGC is something that is widely available on the market right now,” says Martin.

He notes, though, that there is still a learning curve for how these products are incorporated effectively.

“On the very short term the products are there, but maybe the design that we apply is not fully realized,” Martin says. “There may be some education or some things to be learned by architects.”

PPG Industries’ director of technical services Mike Rupert says photovoltaic (PV) technology—a solar power technology that uses solar cells or solar photovoltaic arrays to convert light from the sun directly into electricity—also is key.

“Glass will play a role, primarily in PV applications,” says Rupert.

Of course, with any new technologies such as these, price is always a concern.

“The good news is that the way we make the product it can be mass-produced with high-volume manufacturing to get the price down low enough where it makes sense,” Podbelski says of SAGE’s electrochromic glass.

Rupert says cost is the number-one concern about photovoltaic (PV) technology, but that the industry as a whole can make strides if it works together.

“PV will take off if we can get the cost down,” he says. “Those kinds of cost reductions are going to come from all sources, be it the manufacturing, the components, the installation [and] how they harness and control that power, if the whole industry concentrates like they are.”Martin suspects this decrease in cost is in the near future, though.

“We see [use of PV] growing consistently and year after year the cost of solar electricity is going down,” he says.

Can We Get There?
Along with the effects the resolution may have on the industry as a whole, there is also a question of timing—with only 12 years until 2020, can the industry make it in time?

Widmer says for ProVia, the timeline is actually helpful—but may hinder others.

“[The timeline] works as a filter on marginal performers,” he says. “Some will succeed.”

Lewis says that it depends on the text of the final bill, if passed by the Senate and signed by the president. Whether this bill passes in its current form, though, many, including Lewis, suspect more stringent energy efficiency requirements will be coming down the pipeline (see page 23 for related story).

“AAMA is convinced that the time has come for moving aggressively toward reasonable changes for the industry to reduce the demand for energy in residential and commercial construction,” Lewis says. “Our position is to ensure that these changes are phased in over a reasonable timeframe and that the mandated changes are cost-effective and well-grounded in commensurate energy savings.”

Fischer notes these coming changes can be seen not just in federal legislation, but also in state considerations, right now.

“We already see a response to the need for increased energy efficiency in the energy code proposals to be heard by the [International Energy Conservation Code] committee in February,” he says. “Even if the final bill drops building efficiency measures in favor of automotive efficiency standards, those proposals will move forward, albeit with less urgency.”

He adds, “Florida is considering similar proposals; California is moving toward new technologies and has recently revised ‘cool roofing’ standards, so the trend toward greater buildings efficiency does not rest solely in the hands of Washington.” 

What’s Next?
Are Zero-Net Energy Requirements in the Future for Residential Construction?

While the future of H.R. 3221 is unknown, it appears likely that more energy-efficient requirements are on the way. While the current text of the bill currently calls for a 50-percent reduction in energy usage in residential construction by 2020, it calls for commercial construction to create “zero-net energy” buildings by 2050.

According to the act, the term zero-net energy commercial building means a commercial building that is designed, constructed and operated to: 

  • Require a greatly reduced quantity of energy to operate; 
  • Meet the balance of energy needs from sources of energy that do not produce greenhouse gases;
  • Result in no net emissions of greenhouse gases; and 
  • Be economically viable.

While there’s no mention yet of zero-net energy residential buildings (or a definition for what would be considered a zero-net energy residential building), could this be in the future? Wayne Gorell of Gorell Windows & Doors in Indiana, Pa., thinks anything is possible.

“In terms of energy consumption and where things are, I don’t think anything is off the table,” he says. “I am not sure this is a possibility by 2050, but I do think technology will take us there. Look at what has happened with low-E glass. It was really only introduced about 25 years ago and it has entirely changed the replacement window industry and the energy conservation ability of windows.”

Scott Widmer, engineering manager for ProVia Door in Sugarcreek, Ohio, notes that while it may be a possibility—it may be even more difficult to achieve, as homeowners don’t always have the resources available that businesses do.

“Technology, yes, [it’s possible],” he says, “but it will likely create social-economic challenges as most homeowners do not have the capital funds that many companies have to invest in energy-efficient building technologies.”

WDMA’s director of codes and regulatory compliance, Michael Fischer, notes that climate also is a factor.

“There are many new technologies and systems that could help move residential buildings to a zero-net energy formula,” he says. “Whether or not is achievable in all climates is another question.”

Consumer choice will be an issue, too, according to Fischer.

“Future homes will be different, but making a wholesale architectural shift when consumers are still interested in traditional designs like colonial-style homes will be challenging,” he says.

Lewis, who works on both the commercial and residential side with AAMA members, answers quickly when asked if “zero-net energy” is likely to show up on the residential side: absolutely.

“We understand that the residential housing stock represents at least as large an opportunity to reduce energy consumption as does commercial construction,” he adds.

Zero-Net Energy Homes
Will They Ever Be a Reality?

With bills like H.R. 3221 calling for zero-net energy commercial buildings by 2050, many are wondering—and suspect—it’s in the future for residential building as well (see related sidebar on page 23).Rural Development Inc. (RDI) in Turners Falls, Mass., with the help of suppliers such as Southwall Technologies, has made it a reality for one local couple. According to RDI, the home, known as the Colrain house, reaches almost zero-net energy usage. 

The Colrain house, which was completed in May 2007, is equipped with vinyl Paradigm windows and a patio door featuring Southwall’s “Heat Mirror®”. The windows feature a solar heat gain coefficient of .34, a U-factor of .20 and low-E glass.

For more information, visit www.ruraldevelopmentinc.org.

ABC Forum Asks: Can 30-Percent Energy Reductions Be Met By 2010?
An open forum examining the prospect of meeting a 30-percent improvement in residential energy efficiency by 2010, sponsored by the Advanced Building Coalition (ABC), was held recently in Chicago. Approximately 60 people from the glass industry, including PPG, Pilkington, AGC Flat Glass, representatives from the Glass Association of North America, the American Architectural Manufacturers Association and other parts of the building industry and government, were in attendance.

“The goal [of the forum] was to have experts in the field present concepts and ideas as to how can we achieve an additional 30 percent in energy savings over the current code by 2010,” says Thomas Zaremba, the designated spokesperson for ABC and forum moderator. Zaremba says this reduction was addressed both for residential and commercial buildings. “We also had as the subject matter how the code development process can assist in the development of this increased efficiency in the code sector and what are some of the 30-percent solutions.”

A variety of answers to this question were presented.

“There was a belief that 30-percent energy savings could be achieved. The representative from Pacific Northwest National Labs [Todd Taylor] asked some very poignant and difficult questions,” Zaremba says. Essentially, Taylor asked, “Thirty percent of what?”

“How do we measure this and where do we start?” Taylor asked of his audience. “With all of the energy that the building uses? The appliances? The windows?”

Zaremba summarized, “The building is not just a structure. It is a living thing with machinery in it and all these other things that consume electricity and energy.”

Henry Green, past president of the International Code Council’s (ICC) board of directors, also spoke at the event.

“He, as a building code official, indicated that he is convinced that if building codes were properly [executed] and enforced … the existing building codes, we could save at least 30 percent more energy,” Zaremba says.

Other speakers included Michael Freedberg from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Ron Majette from the Department of Energy, Craig Drumheller from the National Association of Home Builders, Craig Connor of Building Quality, Chuck Murray of Washington State University and Julie Ruth, code consultant for the American Architectural Manufacturers Association.

ABC says it will be holding additional forums in the future and will be asking new questions. At press time, the second forum was scheduled for January 8 at the Sheraton Grand Hotel at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.

“It’s going to ask the question ‘Will the current code proposals result in greater energy efficiency or do we need the federal government to intervene?’” he says.

The forums are relatively new to the industry, as the coalition itself is only about six months old.

“About six months ago it occurred to me,” says Zaremba, “that there was a need for a really broad-based group of building component manufacturers to get together and start to work together to develop more efficient and cost effective building codes or energy codes for construction of both residential and commercial buildings. So we kind of got together on a real informal basis and decided that we would develop this coalition.”

Members of ABC include glass manufacturers AGC Flat Glass and Pilkington North America and the International Window Film Association, as well as consulting companies and other building component manufacturers. The group intends to promote significantly increased building energy efficiency, sustainability and other improvements in new and existing buildings.

While many fear such drastic energy reductions will cause strife between various industries, all struggling together to reduce energy within a building, Zaremba notes that the group endorses a “whole-building” basis for codes and efficiency programs.

Serge Martin, vice president of marketing of AGC Flat Glass in Alpharetta, Ga., also notes that a whole-building format is the only way to achieve this.

“[The reductions] will only happen if we look at the house as a whole building and not just focus on each of its components,” Martin says. “If we don’t take into account the glazing, the heating and air systems, etc., which is along the lines of where we’re going right now, it’s not going to work and you’re not going to get 20- or 30- or 50-percent energy reduction.”


© Copyright 2008 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.