Recognizing the Industry’s Environmental and Sustainable Efforts
The building and construction industry is continuing to move toward an increasingly sustainable built environment. Terms such as net-zero and embodied carbon have become common. And while high-performance products, including glass and glazing, are essential to the discussion, there’s a lot more involved. It takes dedicated companies and individuals advocating for the right products in the right applications.
The 2021 USGlass Magazine Green Awards recognize the contributions of companies and individuals, as well as their products, dedicated to improving the industry and the environment. Our editorial team carefully reviewed each submission and selected winners that demonstrate an environmentally conscious commitment through their products, operations, and individual efforts.
Product selection criteria included a focus on sustainability, innovation, production and application. Companies were assessed based on their commitments to their environmental, operational performance, along with their sustainability strategy. Individuals were evaluated on their involvement in green building practices and the advocacy and development of a sustainable/high-performance built environment. If you would like to nominate a product, company or individual to be considered for the 2022 program, please email Ellen Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Infinite Recycled Technologies LLC
Albert Lea, Minn.
With approximately 11 million tons of architectural glass disposed of in landfills each year, Infinite Recycled Technologies in Albert Lea, Minn., a division of Watson Recycling, found a way to reduce that waste. The company created proprietary technology that recycles laminated glass by separating the glass lites mechanically from the plastic interlayer.
“We are an innovative recycling company that creates solutions for difficult-to-recycle materials in the glass industry. We specialize in recycling laminated architectural glass panels as well as various interlayers and other manufacturing waste associated with the glass and glazing industry,” says Patrick Elmore, president of business development. Elmore says various manufacturers use their recycled material as a replacement for virgin material in their manufacturing processes.
“Our research lab is constantly collaborating with companies (both local and global) to create new methods of recycling materials that were previously considered to be non-recyclable,” he says. “We work to provide methods that are financially viable as well as provide a net positive to the environment. This means we use minimal chemicals in our process and strive to create minimal waste in the recycling process.”
The company’s operations have enabled local, regional and global companies to reduce the amount of waste they send to landfills through recycling.
“More than 90% of the material that we recycle was previously disposed of in landfills,” says Elmore. “This enables companies in the glass industry to assure customers that they are delivering a solution that is not only perfect for today but sustainable for the future.”
The company also offers a beneficial use for waste created in its facilities.
“The recycling that we provide has many environmental benefits,” says Elmore, explaining that using recycled cullet in place of virgin material can be beneficial to glass manufacturers. For one, he says every ton of recycled material replaces 1.2 tons of mined virgin material. Also, 30% less energy is consumed in the glass-making process (42KWH/ton of material), and air pollution is reduced by up to 50%.
“By recycling waste material instead of sending it to a landfill, our customers are able to reduce their environmental footprint and provide a key part to the circular economy,” he says.
LBNL /Stephen Selkowitz Consultants
When it comes to the “greening” of the glazing and façade industry, few are more dedicated than Stephen Selkowitz. For more than 40 years, Selkowitz has focused on energy efficiency, sustainability, and innovation in the building industry, with a technical emphasis on thermal and daylighting aspects of glazing, windows and building façades. He was the department head for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) Building Technologies Department for more than 25 years, and has a broad portfolio of activity in building systems performance, simulation tools, and lighting. He served as group leader of the Windows and Daylighting Group, concentrating on the technical aspects of glazing/windows and façades. His work involved developing and validating new technologies and tools and testbeds to ensure occupant benefits of high-performance windows while meeting societal goals to move toward a net-zero energy/carbon built environment.
Selkowitz has been involved with many groups and organizations throughout his career and is currently on the board of directors and a fellow for the Façade Tectonics Institute. He was involved in the launch of the National Fenestration Rating Council and was instrumental in developing essential tools for the industry still used today.
“In the early 1980s, as low-E was being developed and introduced to the market, it became clear that the industry needed reliable but quick, low-cost ways to determine the properties of a window system. At the time, the only option was to build window prototypes and send them to a test lab for time-consuming and expensive testing,” he says.
Selkowitz led the LBNL team that developed and validated the WINDOW and THERM tools, the supporting International Glazing Database, and improved the energy modeling of windows in DOE-2 and later EnergyPlus.
“These are now mainstream elements of the glazing/façade industry, allowing reliable design changes and thermal optimization in hours, not weeks,” he says.
He has also been involved with the global façade community, attending many international events.
“Since glass and façades are a global industry and much of the push for building sustainability has come from overseas, I’ve engaged with related international building efficiency organizations since the 1980s, particularly with four different International Energy Agency (IEA) Tasks and Annexes (each with a four-year research program) related to windows and daylighting,” he says. Selkowitz remains involved in an IEA Annex on Resilience of Buildings to Overheating.
Efforts that help increase high-performance glazing products to further develop a sustainable built environment are critical to him.
“We have an emerging existential global threat to our societal wellbeing based on our past and present energy use and carbon emissions, and buildings are one of the largest global sources of those emissions,” he says. “Since windows are a thermal weak link in the envelope, some have argued to reduce window area to save energy. But we spend 90% of our time indoors, and building occupants need views and daylight for their health, wellbeing and productivity. Our challenge is to provide a stimulating and healthy indoor environment while minimizing carbon emissions in the building sector.”
While some may suggest such goals cannot be mutually achieved, Selkowitz says they can.
“An important part of my work has been to demonstrate that with excellent design, an integrated system of high-performance glazing, shading and façades can deliver the value desired by building occupants and owners while helping to achieve global climate change goals. This may require some new products, better tools, new design/build/operate paradigms, and new business practices, but we have evidence today that these goals are achievable at scale if we commit to them.”
Smart Window Insert
Powered by DynamicTint
Upgrading and replacing all single-pane windows with double-pane windows can be expensive and carbon-intensive. Crown Electrokinetics, of Corvallis, Ore., has a solution. The company developed its Smart Window Insert powered by DynamicTint, allowing users to upgrade and upcycle existing windows from single- to double-pane with a minimally invasive installation. The company uses roll-to-roll processing to create its DynamicTint thin film that can be applied to any glass surface.
According to the company, the Smart Window Insert uses thin-film technology that is ubiquitous and less carbon-intensive than replacing the entire window. Since the window inserts are not part of the building’s curtainwall, they can be installed and removed easily. In addition, building owners have the flexibility to move the window inserts from window to window as needed.
Alpen High Performance Products
WinSert Window Inserts
WinSert inserts from Alpen High Performance Products, based in Louisville, Colo., were developed to attach directly to the interior of existing windows without any drilled holes or penetrations of the building. The result is less energy impact on the existing structure, reduced installation time, and elimination of almost all disruption for building occupants. According to the company, WinSert single-pane windows effectively “become” triple-pane windows. The high-performance components combined with thin glass, rather than traditional glass, also presents a huge opportunity to reduce embodied carbon in the built environment.
The company constructs its inserts with thin glass technology and high-performance fiberglass frames, two materials with low embodied carbon compared to some other building products. Alpen also uses thin glass and fiberglass materials for other products, allowing it to share the same resources, raw materials, and workforce between various products, and use less energy in transporting them.
The company notes that while not directly related to the product’s recyclability, one important feature of WinSert is that it allows building owners to keep or re-use their existing windows but still improve thermal performance. This helps extend the life of windows in the built environment and reduces potential waste sent to landfills. In addition, it increases the life of existing heating and cooling systems by not having to work as hard to keep the building comfortable, therefore saving HVAC system replacement. By improving the thermal performance of the windows, the structure becomes more thermally efficient, reducing the high energy usage required of the HVAC systems.
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