Energy, Aesthetics and Occupant Comfort Drive Existing Facades toward New Directions

If you’re not sure where to find your next commercial glazing project, go downtown to any big city and look around. The answer may be right in front of you, because as some industry experts point out, there will always be more existing buildings than new construction. So the potential for existing building construction is always higher than new.

Faced with an aging building stock and accelerating demand for energy efficiency, a number of cities and municipalities are starting to adopt increasingly stringent energy codes and requirements. Combine that with the dip in new construction over the past year, and a solid stash of renovation work awaits. In New York City (NYC) alone there’s an estimated 50,000 buildings in need of renovation or retrofit solutions—that could translate to hundreds of windows per building, which also means significant opportunities for the glazing industry.

Why Change?

Commercial buildings, particularly those lacking high-performance glazing, have long been viewed as energy wasters. Energy, however, isn’t the number one reason building owners decide to upgrade.

“No. 1 is making sure the building is economically viable. Maintaining tenants and attracting new tenants [because] as more buildings come along the competition gets stiffer …” says Steven Kraus, CEO of Skyline Windows in Bronx, N.Y. “Some owners are very proactive … they’re ready to invest to keep their building where it is. It’s toughest when they’re having trouble seeing how the investment will pay for itself. It’s an economic proposition and it’s got to be programmable in a payback and leasing is the easiest way to do it.”

He continues, “I think owners are looking at buildings, particularly early post-war buildings, they not only don’t meet energy code, but their façades are tired and they’re looking at their options. They can knock down the building and rebuild; they can strip the existing façade and put on a new one, or they are looking at how they can upgrade the façade without ripping it off. These projects are primarily commercial and some residential buildings.”

Francis O’Neill, account executive with Apogee Renovation, part of Minneapolis-based Apogee Enterprises, adds that his company is told repeatedly by owners that aesthetics and the health and well-being of occupants are essential to the decision to renovate.

“One positive from the pandemic is there’s now a real emphasis on the health and wellbeing of building occupants,” he says. “That means health/safety, but also employee retention, recruitment, increased production and engagement. Wellbeing is really front and center, in addition to aesthetics and energy efficiency.”

He adds, “What we see, where it’s not mandated, is the owner has to upgrade because the business that will occupy the building is demanding it for their employees. If they don’t have a great workspace, including wellbeing and health options, they won’t have the great employees.”

Another critical driver, Kraus adds, is acoustical mitigation—which is mandated in New York.

“Single-glazed, older buildings are too noisy, and many parts of the city are mandating meeting acoustic attenuation requirements. This, combined with electrochromic or conventional IG and proper high-performance framing can be used to meet the requirements.”

Energy Woes

The U.S. building stock as a whole accounts for about 40 percent of all energy produced in the U.S. As a result, more and more major cities across the U.S. are tightening their energy codes. O’Neill says much of the focus on energy performance and renovation is happening in energy benchmark cities—those adopting strict energy codes and regulations—as well as cities with an old portfolio of buildings.

“For example, in NYC alone it’s estimated that 50,000 buildings are required to be renovated by 2030,” he says. “So that renovation market is estimated [to be] $18 billion by 2030.”

He says in the Big Apple this demand stems from Local Law 97 (LL97), which affects buildings greater than 25,000 square feet. The law sets increasingly stringent carbon emissions caps for energy use in NYC’s large buildings starting in 2024 and in 2030.

New Opportunities

When you combine the aging building stock with increasingly stringent codes and the declines in new construction from the past year, it could mean more work for the glazing industry. Not every company, however, may be ready for this type of work. Companies interested in this field must also be aware of how the design and building trends are evolving.

“In our high-end niche market, more buildings are demanding custom solutions. Building owners don’t want cookie cutter,” says Kraus. “They want uniquely designed solutions. Companies need to be prepared to meet with the design team to prove their solution; building owners will pay more for it and they will get more.”

The information is excerpted from the article titled, “About Face, Energy, Aesthetics and Occupant Comfort Drive Existing Facades toward New Directions

To read the full article in the April 2021 issue of USGlass magazine, click hereTo sign up to receive USGlass magazine free of charge, click here.

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