Only Online - USGlass January 2007
What We Do for the Environment
Arthur Ulens of AGC and Glaverbel Talks About the Industry's Role
USGlass magazine recently spoke with Arthur Ulens, president of AGC Flat Glass and chief executive officer (CEO) of Gaverbel, on a subject about which he feels passionately: the environment and what the glass industry is doing to combat global warming.
USG: You have stated that a lot is being done to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and a lot will continue to be done. Can you tell us what you were talking about?
AU: Our industry has not been waiting for the Kyoto Protocols to take effect to become environmentally aware, and it should continue to move ahead. Today, the energy required to melt a ton of glass is less than 10 percent of what it was a hundred years ago. Since the 1970s, CO2 emissions per ton of glass melted have been reduced by more than 60 percent. All these improvements mean that today the energy requirement to melt a ton of glass is getting closer to a theoretical minimum amount of energy while also taking into account the ever-increasing quality requirements.
USG: What role does the glass industry play in the global environment issue?
AU: Both low-emissivity (low-E) glass and solar-control glass have a major role to play [when it comes to] the environment issue because they make it possible to reduce the amount of energy used and therefore CO2 emissions.
Based on an independent study conducted by the European Federation for Flat Glass Manufacturers (GEPVD), manufacturing one square meter of low-E double glazing leads to the emission of 25 kg of CO2. On the other hand, the CO2 savings from replacing one square meter of single glazing with low-E double glazing represents 91 kg CO2 per year.
In other words, the CO2 emitted during production is offset after three and a half months of use if you replace all single glazing with low-E glass.
In terms of solar-control glass (based on Glaverbel estimates), if you measure CO2 emissions of buildings in Brussels and Rome, you see that specific CO2 emissions can also be dramatically reduced by approximately 65 percent from using high performing low- and solar-control glass instead of a traditional single-glazed unit.
Based on our assumptions, if we take it one step further and try to balance the CO2 emissions due to the manufacturing of glass with the potential CO2 savings gained by the use of high-performance low-E and solar control, we see that the CO2 emitted during production of one square meter of glass is offset in two months in Italy and two and a half months in Belgium.
Choosing the right glass is therefore important for Kyoto.
USG: In terms of environmental issues, you have said the industry needs to explain what our challenges are and what we can do. Can you tell us what you meant by that?
AU: Glass manufacturers need to continue developing products that provide increased comfort while decreasing the energy bill and decreasing energy consumption and CO2 emissions.
Coatings are one of the glass industry's biggest revolutions. Over the last decade, whether hard or soft, coatings have evolved to provide efficient solutions in terms of selectivity, solar control and, more recently, neutral aesthetics.
Coatings of the future will also be increasingly active as already initiated by photovoltaic glasses that absorb the sun's heat and store and convert it into electricity.
With the help of nanotechnology and bionics, these new active--or intelligent--coatings will continue to play an active part in energy control and energy generation.
USG: What would you like to see the glass industry do in terms of environmental issues?
AU: It is the glass industry's challenge to unite and get the following messages across in the interest of the environment:
USG: Do you think there are different attitudes toward the environment in the glass industry in different parts of the world?
AU: The attitudes are identical. We are all aware of the importance of the environment as a "social corporate responsibility" and of the cost of energy. The cost of energy alone is forcing us to take action. But the reaction is different.
The European industry is certainly advanced compared to other parts of the world. Standards and regulations exist or are being put into place. The figures I mentioned previously are convincing enough.
Glaverbel is constantly putting manufacturing processes into place to improve the environmental impact. It was the first company to introduce a lead- and copper-free mirror. Decorative glasses are very important today. For certain building site projects, we see that more glass gets used inside the building than outside. For Glaverbel's Lacobel varnished glasses, we have made sure that the paint used to opacify the glass does not contain any heavy metals. Our company has a strict policy in terms of waste management and our aim is to be close to zero in terms of land-fill management by the year 2010.
On the one side, the United States has decided not to sign the Kyoto agreements; on the other hand we know that the majority of states and Canadian provinces are now implementing energy-efficiency programs. Al Gore is busy producing the right shockwaves with the promotion of his film and Arnold Schwarzenegger in California has voted a law imposing a reduction of 25 percent of gas emissions.
China is not required to cut its emissions under the Kyoto agreement until 2012. Yet because of rapid industrial development, China's emissions are now second only to those of the United States. China knows that energy consumption needs to be put high up on the agenda and is definitely moving in the right direction.
I see clearly that most parts of the world are committed to putting standards into place that will cut energy costs, reduce local pollution and, of course, carbon emissions. Japan is lagging behind and should follow the example of other countries by putting proper energy efficiency standards into place.
USG: Do you think there are different attitudes toward the environment by the different industry segments (primary manufacturers, fabricators and contract glaziers and retailers)?
AU: It is difficult to compare because, as I mentioned in the previous question, everybody has the same objective. Everybody wants to reduce energy consumption, if only for cost reasons. But the different types of businesses we are involved in mean that the methods we are using are different.
Big companies like Glaverbel or Asahi have a corporate social responsibility toward the environment. To show their commitment, they invest the necessary budgets, they set up voluntary policies of waste management and land-fill management. They analyze, design and create environmentally-friendly processes that can be implemented throughout the company.
For smaller companies, this is much more difficult from both a human and a financial point of view. It is therefore important for multinational companies to understand that they have a role to play. Multinational companies have to set an example for smaller manufacturers and for their customers. They also have to supply governments with the right information. We all know that standards are the most efficient and fastest way of changing people's attitudes. Governments have to adopt policies that will help everybody to adopt efficient social attitudes toward the environment, whatever the budget or the size of their company might be.
For contract glaziers or smaller companies Kyoto is far on the horizon. They are close to the market and to the end consumer and are much more preoccupied with the day-to-day business. This means that they are faced with two practical things: finding the right products for their customer (in this case, it is clearly in their interest to sell environment-friendly products) and managing construction or demolition waste. There is an interesting initiative I would like to mention in the Netherlands where windows on a building site are separated from the rest of the waste and saved in specific containers and recycled. This is all managed by a professional organization called Vlakglas Recycling Nederland (Flat Glass Recycling Netherlands). This sort of initiative should be encouraged. Belgium is looking into this system.
USG: Architects are very concerned about environmentally-responsible design. How can the glass industry help them do this?
AU: In addition to the points I made earlier about the products available and the energy efficiency they offer, we must not forget that architects are important in helping us to initiate the development of new products.
The recent evolution toward improved energy efficiency and aesthetics has emphasized the need for high-performance, easily-fabricated, neutral glass that can cope with tempering, screenprinting or bending. The soft-coat temperable coatings that have recently been launched achieve just that: they make it possible for architects to continue creating original and complex designs without compromising on energy efficiency.
The fully glazed building of tomorrow will therefore be not just original with complex shapes, mixed colors, structures or aesthetics, but also fully environmentally friendly.
Here again it will be up to us to communicate the messages linked to the performance and the energy efficiency of our products to architects.
Charles Cumpston is a contributing editor to USGlass magazine.
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