Glass Industry Responds to Proposed Better
President Obama has unveiled a five-point “Better Buildings
Initiative” intended to make commercial buildings 20-percent more energy-efficient
by 2020 by catalyzing private sector investment through a series of incentives
to upgrade offices, stores, schools and other municipal buildings, universities,
hospitals and other commercial buildings.
This new commercial component initiative builds on investments through
the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and the proposed HOME
STAR legislation that encourages energy upgrades in homes.
During a speech at Penn State University on February 3, the President
proposed to make American businesses more energy-efficient through a series
of five new initiatives:
1. New tax incentives for building efficiency: The President is calling
on Congress to change the current tax deduction for commercial building
upgrades to a credit and increase the program by $1 billion;
2. More financing opportunities for commercial retrofits: To address gaps
in access to financing, the Small Business Administration is working to
encourage existing lenders to take advantage of recently increased loan
size limits to promote new energy-efficiency retrofit loans for small
businesses. The President’s budget also proposes a new pilot program through
the Department of Energy to guarantee loans for energy-efficiency upgrades
at commercial buildings.
3. “Race to Green” for state and municipal governments that streamline
regulations and attract private investment for retrofit projects: The
President’s budget proposes a $100 million “Race to Green” competition
for State and municipal governments to implement innovative approaches
to building codes, standards and performance measurements.
4. The Better Buildings Challenge: The President is challenging CEOs and
university presidents to make their organizations leaders in saving energy,
which will save them money and improve productivity. Partners will commit
to a series of actions to make their facilities more efficient. They will
in turn become eligible for benefits including public recognition and
5. Training the next generation of commercial building technology workers:
Using existing authorities, the administration is working to implement
a number of reforms, including improving transparency around energy efficiency
performance, launching a Building Construction Technology Extension Partnership
modeled on the Manufacturing Extension Partnership at Commerce and providing
more workforce training.
With Windows in Mind
During his speech at Penn State, the President offered “one extreme example”
of a building making energy-efficient envelope upgrades: the Empire State
Building. Many glass industry professionals have followed the much-publicized
window replacement that is expected to reduce energy use by 38 percent
and save $4.4 million per year in energy costs (see November 2010
USGlass, page 22).
Obama also pointed out during his speech that, over the last two years,
similar incentives have been offered for cities and residential manufacturers.
One example he alluded to was Landover, Md.-based Thompson Creek Windows,
an energy-saving window manufacturer “that was able to boost business
by 55 percent” through such programs.
Glass industry professionals were understandably optimistic following
the President’s remarks at Penn State.
“This is very encouraging news,” said Chris Dolan, director of commercial
glass marketing for Guardian Industries. “Recent advances in commercial
fenestration products and technology can make a significant improvement
in the performance of the building envelope. With the slowdown in construction
of new buildings, energy savings can be achieved by retrofitting existing
“This is a very encouraging step,” added Dr. Thomas Culp of Birch Point
Consulting LLC, energy consultant to the Aluminum Extruders Council and
the Glass Association of North America. “A lot of focus and work is aimed
at the energy-efficiency of new construction and, while that is important,
it ignores the 72 billion square feet of existing commercial building
space where huge amounts of energy are wasted.”
During his speech President Obama touched on initiatives already promoting
research in this direction, such as Penn State University’s Energy Innovation
Hub, a five-year initiative designed to improve the energy-efficiency
of buildings in the United States. He commented on Pittsburgh-based PPG
Industries involvement in the Hub, noting that through high-performance
glass products “PPG Industries is providing walls that reflect sunlight
and windows that reflect infrared.”
“We are pleased to see President Obama and his administration re-emphasize
their commitment to energy-efficient buildings, and PPG is proud to be
one of five industry partners in the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Hub,”
said Mark Seeton, director of sales and marketing for PPG Industries.
Seeton added, “We contend that the construction industry and the country
as a whole would benefit from even bolder incentives.”
The initiative also builds on last year’s Building STAR bill (see April
2010 USGlass, page 18) that never got off the ground.
Seeton added, “We believe the Building STAR Energy Efficiency Act of 2010
didn’t provide financial incentives large enough to entice building owners
into retrofitting or improving the energy efficiency of their buildings.
For windows, the rebate was $150 to $300 per unit, while the curtainwall
rebates were $3 per square foot. A more generous credit or rebate would
have induced more building owners to move forward with energy-efficiency
“The initiative is not only favorable for our industry but for overall
sustainability and the reduction of carbon emissions on a broad level,”
agreed Don McCann, architectural design manager for Viracon. “A recent
government report states adding low-E to every window in the U.S. would
reduce oil consumption by 500,000 barrels of oil a day. This equals 1/3
of the oil we import from the Persian Gulf daily.”
New Smart Features Debut in USGlass
As of this issue, you’ll see something new popping out in USGlass magazine—2D
bar codes. These two-dimensional codes offer readers and viewers immediate
access to additional information about a product or service.
In order to utilize the MS tags, visit http://gettag.mobi on your smartphone
to download the appropriate tag reader (free of charge). (You can also search
for “Tag Reader” in the app store and download it there). Then, simply open
the app, point at any MS tag (try the one below) and you’ll immediately
be taken to the enhanced online content.
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