Earlier this year, I accepted an invitation to speak at the premiere door and window technology conference in Europe. For the last 42 years, the ift Rosenheim has sponsored the International Rosenheim Window & Façade Conference in Rosenheim, Germany, near Munich. The ift Rosenheim is an international scientific service provider and testing institute specialist for evaluation of construction products, widely respected throughout our industry globally. This was quite an honor, and I spent many hours preparing for this presentation. What I learned along the way, and experienced at the conference, was much more than I expected.
More than 950 attendees from 18 countries attended the symposium and workshops. There was an excellent conference program and impressive lineup of speakers from a variety of valuable perspectives. In her opening address, Gabriele Bauer, the mayor of Rosenheim, set the tone for the conference while showing an effective understanding of the challenges of the future. She said, “Energy efficiency is our most important new energy source.”
Elaborating on Mayor Bauer’s observations, the director of ift Rosenheim, professor Ulrich Sieberath introduced the crucial themes the European fenestration industry is facing in his opening address.
Battling bureaucracy is a major challenge of the markets of today. Germany has 141 norms, 66 standards and 13 criteria of quality that govern fenestration products. This must be simplified for our industry to continue to develop products that address the challenges of the future.
- Ease of installation, thermal performance, ease of use, safety and security are the highest ranked requirements of channel participants.
- New product designs must address moisture and condensation, fire reaction of building components, frame ratios and radiant heat transfer (in addition to conduction and convection).
- Designers need more precise expectations and specifications for product performance and durability to successfully create new products based on both physics and user needs.
- The European window industry is prepared regarding Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). However, there aren’t many requests for them yet.
- Products are not engineered for standards, but for people.
Complementing professor Sieberath’s themes, here is my list of notable quotes from the conference:
- “Buildings represent the interface between politics, poetry and people. We have to fundamentally rethink the energy performance of buildings: We continue to put the wrong materials in the wrong places and create too many buildings that don’t work for their occupants and won’t last for the future. Climate projections suggest that many public spaces will be unusable by the mid-2050s; yet retrofit rates only average 1 percent per year. If eyes are the windows to the soul, windows are our access to the world.” – Dr. Ken Shuttleworth, Make Architects
- “The ultra-low efficiency building standard in Germany has to be reconciled with the cost efficiency principle of the EnEG act of 1976, last amended in 2013. What’s next in this area: Better define ultra-low energy housing, develop more holistic approaches for verifying cost-effectiveness, and practical and policy approaches, which balance the objectives of the energy savings act, ultra-low energy ordinances and the renewable energy act. There are 250 million windows in the EU that lack insulation in the frame and glass.” – Hans Erhorn, Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics
- “In the Industry 4.0 transformation underway, sustainability will be the driver, with information and communication technology becoming the enablers that will allow a turnaround on how societies manage energy. Context management will replace operational planning. What should we expect in the smart companies and factories of the future? Decentralization, flexibility and adaptability, modularity and autonomy, greater productivity. New business models become possible.” – Professor Alexander Verl, Fraunhofer
- “What should the windows of the future be able to do? They should improve technical and aesthetic functionality, while reducing the risk of new technology introduction. They should be lighter, and capture energy from the environment and facilitate its conversion into usable forms. Future windows should incorporate Life Cycle Assessment to both track manufacturing inputs and as a product planning tool.” – Professor Monika Willert-Porada, Bayreuth University
As you can see from the snapshots above, the conference was rich with smart people who have been working in a variety of important areas to our industry. So you don’t think that my time near Munich in October was all work and no play, I’ve included a few pictures from our Festive Evening, Bavarian style.
I want to give a double shout-out to Dean Lewis of AAMA staff, who was an excellent thought partner and collaborator to develop my presentation, which compared curtainwall, insulating glass and thermal break standards of North America and Europe. Dean is way-smart, knowledgeable and a pleasure to work with. The AAMA standards, which have been developed over 75 years based on member and industry stakeholder consensus, were well-communicated to a global audience – and equally-well received.
My presentation and attendance at this conference gave me a practical example of the benefits of international cooperation: to foster collaboration, to more effectively address the challenges of performance, long-term durability and sustainability, and to connect people and ideas.