Industry Concerned About Reduction
of Glass Usage in Buildings
It has been déjà vu all over again for the technical experts at the Glass Association of North America (GANA) who have sat listening to members of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) approve proposals to dramatically reduce buildings’ window-to-wall ratio (WWR).
In 2010 the glass industry successfully overturned a proposal in ASHRAE 90.1, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, to reduce prescriptive glazing area by 25 percent, from 40 to 30 percent. That proposal was not long forgotten by ASHRAE, however. This time around the standard in question is ASHRAE 189.1, Standard for the Design of High-Performance, Green Buildings, and a new addendum introduced to the green standard would reduce the glazing area allowed in the prescriptive path from 40 percent WWR to 30 percent WWR for buildings less than 25,000 square feet.
According to Dr. Thomas Culp of Birch Point Consulting LLC in La Crosse, Wis., more than 75 percent of all buildings, and a third of all floor space, is less than 25,000 square feet, meaning this proposal would have a major impact on green building design.
“This flawed proposal takes a shallow viewpoint, ignoring why designers put in windows in the first place, and the potential negative human impacts from reducing access to daylight and views,” Culp says. “It is particularly concerning that this is a green standard whose scope specifically includes indoor environmental quality and occupant wellbeing.”
GANA technical director Urmilla Sowell adds, “Windows are not just a structural component of the building envelope anymore, and WWR alone is not an adequate metric for measuring the potential of building energy efficiency. In fact, a lower WWR may conflict with tenant demands for daylighting. Daylighting is one of the many non-energy related benefits of windows. When you compare a wall or an opaque area to a window, occupant productivity, focus, health and wellbeing must be balanced against a sterile measure of energy efficiency. Glazing allows natural light to enter the building. It gives the building occupants a view to the outside, which increases productivity in employees, focus in students and recovery time in hospital patients. ASHRAE 189.1 is supposed to evaluate indoor environments as well as occupant comfort and well-being, so such a drastic reduction in WWR based on energy savings alone is not in line with the green standard objectives.”
At present, members of GANA’s Energy Division’s Building Standards Subcommittee and the Aluminum Extruders Council, among other organizations, are submitting comments in response to the proposal. Culp notes that architects, lighting designers and other related trades have likewise expressed concerns about the restrictive nature of the addendum. Sowell adds that GANA is encouraging other industry organizations and companies to submit comments as well.
While the squeeze on windows has been the focus of concern for glass industry experts during recent ASHRAE meetings, it’s not the only change proposed.
ASHRAE 189.1 also includes a proposed change to how the prescriptive criteria is set. Instead of maintaining tables of prescriptive U-factor and solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) requirements in coordination with the ASHRAE 90.1 base code, addendum “al” would simply apply a multiplier to be a notch above the base code. For example, Culp explains, wall and window U-factors will be 10 percent lower than ASHRAE 90.1. The window SHGC would be 10 percent lower, but only on the east and west sides in zones four through eight. Culp notes that, on the latter point, ASHRAE committee members didn't feel it appropriate to go lower than the 0.25 SHGC already specified in zones one through three, and found that lowering SHGC in zones four through eight would only save energy if applied on the east and west sides.
The ASHRAE 189.1 proposal was open for public comments through June 17, at which point the 189.1 committee will hold discussions on the responses during the summer. If appeals from the glass and other industries are not successful, the addendum will have a final presentation and a vote for publication late this fall, although Culp notes there may be a final opportunity for appeal in 2014.
Meanwhile, small changes have taken place with regard to ASHRAE 90.1. According to Culp, the committee has dropped a proposal that would have required switches on all operable windows and doors to turn off the HVAC system when opened. Culp notes that the added cost to integrate the switches into the HVAC system would likely have caused designers to switch from operable to fixed windows, “thus hindering the ability to have natural ventilation.” Instead, addendum “ba” is being modified to apply only to doors without automatic closing devices.
Legislation to Develop National Energy Efficiency Strategy Moves Forward
U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) insist that it’s time to put political ideology aside for the sake of the nation, re-introducing legislation they both hail as a bipartisan roadmap to an improved national energy efficiency strategy. And the two celebrated a success when that bill, which calls for state-based commercial energy-efficiency programs that leverage private financing, was passed by a Senate Committee in May.
First introduced a year ago, the Shaheen-Portman Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness (ESIC) Act is designed to increase the use of energy-efficiency technologies across the economy, while also creating jobs and making the nation more environmentally-friendly with decreased emissions. The legislation calls for strengthening energy-efficiency requirements in building codes, making supply chains more efficient, requiring efficiency measures in the federal government and encouraging energy-efficiency upgrades, such as high-performance glass and window products, as recommended in the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), at industrial facilities.
“As we know, we’re still too dependent on foreign oil – that affects our national security,” Shaheen said during a press conference in Washington, D.C. “We’re too dependent on fossil fuels. This is an energy savings that everyone can get behind. It doesn’t matter whether you’re from the Northeast, the South or the West – we all benefit from energy efficiency. It’s a win, win, win.”
The bill must be approved by the full Senate as well as the House of Representatives before reaching President Obama. It has been tweaked somewhat since first being introduced in 2011. Several spending provisions were removed, according to The Hill newspaper, including an expansion of a federal loan guarantee program for energy-efficient projects and a revolving state grant program.
The new draft instead calls for state-based commercial energy-efficiency programs that leverage private financing. Some other elements of the previous bill were included in a manufacturing efficiency bill passed in December. The provisions were more research-based, such as asking the Department of Energy to examine barriers to energy efficiency in the industrial sector and to identify best practices for advanced metering. It also called for federal facilities to track energy and water consumption.
The timing might be right this time around as Obama has cited energy efficiency as a priority in his second term, calling for the U.S. to whittle its energy consumption in half over the next two decades.
Shaheen and Portman were quick to note the bipartisan support for their latest effort toward that end, addressing the many industry leaders, energy efficiency advocates and environmental stakeholders on hand for the Capitol Hill gathering to voice their support for the legislation.
Among other things, the re-introduced Shaheen-Portman legislation aims to strengthen building codes making new homes and buildings more efficient. It will also require the federal government—the country’s largest energy user—to adopt strategies to conserve the electricity used for computers.
A recent study by the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) estimated that products of chemistry such as window and roofing coatings, insulation, piping and lighting could help achieve a 41-percent reduction in energy use and a 70-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 when combined with a shift to lower carbon fuels.
The increased industrial energy efficiency is expected to help make American manufacturers more competitive with their foreign counterparts.
Portman said he and Shaheen have identified a plan to offset the cost of the legislation, but hope to finalize it in committee. Meanwhile, staffers for both lawmakers have already begun engaging talks with House Energy and Commerce Committee members to gauge their interest in taking up the legislation. House Republicans have said they see energy efficiency as a key area of compromise with the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The updated legislation is again leaning on Congressional support for energy efficiency legislation by embracing a bipartisan approach that spurs the use of energy efficiency technologies in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors. A study by experts at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy found that initial version of ESIC would have saved consumers $4 billion by 2020 and helped businesses add 80,000 jobs to the economy.
Several industry groups have come out in support of the legislation.
According to Mark Silverberg with Technoform who is part of the Glass Association of North America’s Energy Division, the group welcomes the news. In fact, on May 8, the day the bill was voted out of committee, representatives of the division met with Sen. Portman, and four other key senators' staffs, to emphasize support for this bill, and renewing and extending the 179D tax deduction.
“This important bipartisan effort seeks to create a national strategy to increase the use of energy-efficiency technologies in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors of our economy, while also fostering job creation,” says Silverberg. “Such efforts will work best when government agencies, such as the DOE, work in partnership with private sector partners.”
He continues, “Our objective is to foster a productive dialogue between key code and regulatory influencers and the architectural glazing industry so that future policy decisions are made on the basis of good science and serve the goals of energy efficiency and human well-being.”
Ben Gann, director of legislative affairs and grassroots activities for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA), points out that a previous version of the legislation would have established a “zero-net-energy” building performance goal by 2030. However, after negotiations with Sens. Shaheen and Portman that language was removed and no longer includes provisions to create a de facto federal energy code administered by DOE.
“Any increase in efficiency standards for new building codes would be completely voluntary,” says Gann. “The [DOE] is still allowed to offer building efficiency targets, as part of the IECC and ASHRAE Standard 90.1, but Shaheen-Portman requires DOE to establish all targets and determinations related to national model codes through public notice and comment rulemaking procedures.”
He adds, “The bill does require DOE to make publicly available the analysis and methodology it uses to calculate energy savings as IECC/ASHRAE codes and standards are revised from one version to the next, and incorporate economic considerations, including return on investment and small business impact review analysis.”
Additionally, Gann points out that the legislation could provide funding to “those states that achieve and document full compliance with both the commercial and residential building energy codes.”
Green Building Committee Favors LEED for GSA Buildings
The Green Building Advisory Committee established by the General Services Administration (GSA) has recommended that the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building certification system be used for all GSA buildings as the best measure of building efficiency, according to a release from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).
“GSA has been a leader in energy and sustainability, and we are thrilled to see the leaders in the public and private sectors continue to recommend LEED as the best choice for GSA to maintain its leadership status while improving sustainability, reducing energy and saving money for its buildings,” says Roger Platt, senior vice president of global policy and law for USGBC. “Consensus-based and market-driven, LEED has been and continues to be invaluable to thousands of building professionals and remains the best option for the GSA and any governmental agency looking to save taxpayer dollars and increase energy efficiency.”
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