Contributing editor Ellen Rogers spent three weeks
traveling through Australia studying the door and window industry there.
Her report shows that much like the North American market, energy efficiency
is a top-priority for both door and window manufacturers as well as glass
When Vic (Vidar) Moen’s father started making insulating
glass (IG) in Melbourne, Australia, 20 years ago, he said to his son,
“We’ll have to be patient because it might take a couple of years for
this to catch on here.”
“He hasn’t survived to see it yet,” says Moen, who serves as the director
of Moen Glass, an Australian Glass Group™ company.
Moen says it was his family’s Norwegian heritage that led his father,
who had been a glazier in Norway before relocating to Australia, to start
the IG line.
“My father could not believe he was glazing single-pane glass here,” recalls
Moen. “He was sure, though, that IG would hit so he installed a Lisec
line that we are still running today.”
Moen estimates that at the time there were, perhaps, five or six insulating
lines running in the entire country of Australia. Today his company, along
with the others under the Australian Glass Group umbrella, operates four
IG lines (as well as a variety of other glass-processing equipment lines)
and the market for IG, as well as high-performance, energy-efficient glass
products in general, is quickly growing.
Similar to the Energy Star® program in the United States, Australia’s
Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) uses computer simulations
to assess the potential thermal comfort of homes on a scale of zero to
10 stars. The more stars, the less likely the occupants need cooling or
heating to stay comfortable. Zero stars, for example, means the building
shell does little to reduce the discomfort of hot or cold weather, while
a 5-star rating indicates good, but not outstanding, thermal performance.
According to NatHERS, before the introduction of national energy-efficiency
regulations for houses in 2003, less than 1 percent of Australian houses
achieved 5 stars.
Efforts are underway there to develop more stringent energy requirements
and the use of high-performance glass is well-poised to grow. On April
30 of this year the Council of Australian Governments requested the Australian
Building Codes Board (ABCB) increase the energy efficiency provisions
in the 2010 edition of the Building Code of Australia. These provisions
would include a 6-star energy rating, or equivalent, for new residential
buildings, as well as a significant increase in the energy efficiency
requirements for all new commercial buildings.
But Australia has a ways to go.
“The penetration of IG in the Australian market is only around 10 percent
for new construction,” says Chris Barker, head of sales, strategy and
marketing for the Australian Glass Group. “If you looked at it across
all existing housing it would only be about 1 percent.”
Likewise, the use of low-E glass is also limited.
“The expectation is to reach 25 percent by 2012,” he says, adding that
the use of value-added glass in the residential market as a whole is forecast
to grow about 45 percent by 2012.
Howard Wigham, executive general manager for Viridian, Australia’s only
local float glass producer, also expects to see the use of glass for energy-efficiency
“It’s a great opportunity and [represents] an enormous impact on glass
and windows—and it’s more than just IG, as it’s dependent upon where you
live so it could be solar control, etc.,” said Wigham.
Much like the North American market, Wigham emphasized that the types
of glass and windows that will be required will be dependent on the climate
“The answers are different depending upon the location, but it’s becoming
driven by regulation; this won’t happen unless we all do our part,” he
said. “We want the right windows specified for the right problem.”
Wigham continues, “The climate zones in Australia are quite different,
as one area will [benefit from] shading co-efficient or a low solar heat
gain while others will [benefit more from] IG. It’s really about giving
a product range to the market because it’s not a one-size-fits-all market
and it’s way more than IG.”
Barker adds that manufacturing for the many different climate zones can
be a challenge.
“All of the United States is covered by four climate zones; in Australia,
with 20 million people, we have 80 climate zones, so we’ve complicated
things a bit, but we’re also very much in a developing stage.”
Why Change Now?
“The awareness of climate change generally has brought interest up,” says
Barker. “We now have a change in government that’s far greener than the
previous was. I also think the introduction of 5-star was seen as a major
catastrophe from a cost perspective. Now, things have moved through and
we’ve all found that it wasn’t a catastrophe from a cost perspective.
We’re now seeing the building industry acknowledge, somewhat reluctantly
still, that going to 6-star is an affordable and necessary outcome.”
Barker continues, “I think the glass industry has been very much involved
in driving some changes and the window industry is quickly catching up
so we are now truly becoming partners in terms of a fantastic outcome.”
In that regard, last year the Australian Glass & Glazing Association
(AGGA) and the Australian Window Association (AWA) joined forces to create
Sustainable Windows Australia (SWA) in partnership with Sustainability
“It’s important for us to work closely with window companies in terms
of regulation, because if we don’t make the right glass and they don’t
have the right windows it will ultimately come from somewhere else,” says
Moen agrees, “The industry is in a position where it is trying to drive
regulations itself as opposed to having to respond to regulations—the
industry is leading the regulations rather than lagging regulations.”
A Step at a Time
With so much talk and discussion about the importance of energy efficiency
and climate change, the Australian fenestration industry is quickly jumping
on board and an increasing number of companies are starting IG lines.
As exciting as it may be, this could also be a challenge for the industry.
“When you attend a meeting or conference (such as the AGGA’s annual event)
and every agenda item and presentation is about IG, energy and sustainability,
then it is resonating with those companies in attendance and they are
going to have to respond,” says Moen. “I think they’ve been building up
to this for quite a while and there are a number of people getting into
this and then turning around and wondering, where’s the work?”
Cost factors may also be a concern.
“What happens to pricing in these early years and how does that then impact
the price point going forward?” questions Wigham. We all know it’s much
harder to get prices back up once they go down.”
Increasing imports is another challenge with which the Australian window
and glass industry is faced.
“As the stringency levels increase and the complexity of the glass and
window components becomes more onerous there will come a point where suddenly
we are a very attractive market for overseas suppliers who already see
this as their bread and butter, when for us it’s the Rolls Royce,” says
Moen. “So will this increase in star ratings create a sweet spot for the
imports to come in and really push in a lot of very high-performance products,
but at very low prices because that’s where there markets have been for
10, 15 years?”
“And the only protection we’ve got is that our housing industry is not
standardized [sizes]. The windows in our houses generally are made-to-order.
It’s more complicated,” says Baker.
Moen adds, “And that complication is our relevance.”
And just like in the United States, it’s product quality that can distinguish
one company from another.
“When your company prides itself on product quality you need a good regime
to enforce it because you can’t allow this to go unchecked and unpunished,”
says Wigham. “[If you do] it will drive down the quality.”
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