Energy Experts Share Thoughts on Trends and What the Industry Really Needs

“Are you going to stand by and let competitors come in or are you going to get involved?”

Those were the words of Marc LaFrance, windows technology manager on the emerging technologies team at the Department of Energy (DOE), when he appeared as part of a panel discussion this week during the virtual fall meeting of the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). The group discussed “Emerging Trends, Innovations and Opportunities in the Fenestration Industry,” and LaFrance’s fellow speakers included Jeff Baker, WESTLab, and Rob Tenent, National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Much of the discussion concerned new technologies, and Baker addressed what this all means in Canada.

“Getting to a 0.14 U-factor by 2030 is a huge push,” he said. “That push is leading to a lot of interesting things. We are doing a lot of work looking at the design possibilities. It’s going to mean new technology to get there. A lot of activity will happen in the next ten years or so.”

Tenent weighed in, and said that the material aerogel has a lot of potential. “That one has been fun to see and talk about how these things can be integrated,” he said.

“There is definitely more functionality coming into the glass,” he added, including dynamic glazing. “There is a potential for dynamic low-E.” But there are a lot of technical challenges to overcome, for example, trying to put energy generation into vertical building facades. “That is a pretty big technical challenge,” he pointed out.

LaFrance jumped in and reminded attendees that the DOE, along with industry stakeholders, have invested tens of millions of dollars into new technologies.

“In ten years you will see a revolution in the use of dynamic glazing,” he said. “We do support Canada to get to more stringent levels as Jeff said, but we need more traction in the U.S. to get to that demand.”

Baker agreed that industry members have to get involved and he said it’s all in the mindset.

“There is a lot of work to be done here but you can look at it as an obstacle or an opportunity,” said Baker. “It’s a huge opportunity for manufacturers. But it’s about how you bring that technology into production and bring them out in high volume.”

LaFrance agreed wholeheartedly, adding a key factor in all this—it all comes down to demand.

“For this to really happen we need to get to that demand side … Windows are kind of being left behind. There is a lack of collaboration in this goal of getting that high-performance technology out.”

“We have to figure out ways to drive the demand, and it’s about a complete redesign of the building,” Baker added. “How do we drive that technology in existing building stock because that’s where the improvements really need to be made.”

Baker ended by sending a clear message to window manufacturers: “If you are not looking for new ways to install glass and glazing in your products you will be left behind.”

Click here for a related story that includes information about a funding opportunity available from the DOE. LaFrance urged companies to apply.

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