Demand for Energy Performance Could Mean Opportunities for Non-Traditional Materials

High performance glazing products are some of the industry’s most in-demand materials, and much of that stems from increasingly stringent building codes and regulations. To help buildings meet those goals, several products and technologies are available that go beyond the realm of conventional energy-efficient glazing.

Dynamic Glass

Over the past decade or so, dynamic glass has begun to find its place in more building projects across the country. According to Brandon Tinianov, vice president of industry strategy at View Inc. in Milpitas, Calif., “Ten years ago you couldn’t stumble across dynamic glass … today that’s not the case. You see it more frequently in places where there are tons of travelers [i.e., airports] as well as office buildings.”

One reason for the increasing interest in these products, he says, is people are drawn to the outdoors and natural light.

“We won’t be moving away from highly glazed facades, and we’re not turning our backs on glass,” he says.

Other trends driving demand include awareness around climate change and building regulations, as well as an increased focus on health and wellness.

“Post-pandemic, there is a new awareness of how our environment affects our health,” he says. “Our environment has a direct impact on personal human health on a daily basis.”

While dynamic glass is being used more frequently, there are still barriers to acceptance, the biggest of which is awareness and education.

“People who aren’t glazing experts, architects or designers have never heard of it. Part of the reason is that once it’s installed it falls into the background and you just look through it instead of at it,” he says. “There’s an opportunity for the design community to educate not only owners and developers, but also the occupants on the importance of the health and wellbeing … to say if you make these decisions, they can improve your health and wellness fundamentally.”

VIG

Vacuum insulating glass (VIG) is similar to an insulating glazing unit, but with an evacuated space between the two glass lites that offers high levels of thermal insulation. While versions of VIG products have been around since the 1990s, it hasn’t yet reached mainstream acceptance. According to Michael Spellman, president of VIG Technologies in Jupiter, Fla., one of the challenges includes previous attempts that didn’t completely deliver. “The market has a long memory when it comes to past disappointments,” he says, adding that another challenge is lack of specifications and appropriate test methods, as well as product availability.

“There are not currently many sources for VIG, while the market volume needs [for higher performance glazing] are large [sources],” he says. “The industry requires a reliably stable source of supply.”

And, like so many other niche and premium products, cost is also a concern for some.

“Even though architects are constantly impressing us with new designs, the organizations that are paying for the materials remain diligent in cost control. This always impacts the implementation of newer technologies,” says Spellman.

Spellman says the market is continuing to design improved thermal performance into framing systems, as well as to drive improved center-of-glass U-values. Both these efforts must also maintain visible light and reduce solar heat gain where possible. Other trends include superior primary sealants that offer both improved thermal and moisture resistance, while maintaining an aesthetically pleasing sightline.

This focus could mean opportunities for VIG, he says, noting several benefits that can help in the move toward a more sustainable built environment. These include reducing carbon emissions; creating a more comfortable home and office environment; opportunities for landlords to increase the value of their rental spaces; and a direct alternative replacement for the multitude of existing single and inefficient window systems comprising the retrofit market.

Closed Cavity Facades

Double skin facades have been used globally for many years, offering just that—a second building skin for enhanced energy performance. The systems are used in North America, though not as frequently as in Europe, and mainly in colder climate zones. Permasteelisa, an Italian façade contractor, has a double skin system called the mfree-SCCF closed cavity façade, which incorporates automated shading within the cavity of a double skin for a holistic design and performance solution. With this system, the cavity between the inner and the outer skin is completely sealed, and the solar shading is integrated within the cavity.

Massimiliano Fanzaga, communication manager with Permasteelisa S.p.A., says such façade technologies are increasingly important, especially given the attention to environmental considerations.

“Advanced and sustainable façades improve the sustainability of buildings, reducing their carbon footprint, and improving the quality of life of the occupants,” he says. “We are glad to see environmental considerations become increasingly part of a company’s culture … This request is helping us to continuously improve our own carbon emission reduction plans as much as the ones of our supply chain.”

He continues, “Developers are looking for the most efficient means to construct a building in a short amount of time and not always considering the long-term energy consumption of the overall building. Advanced and sustainable facades must become the solution for this problem with energy and commodity costs on the rise …”

While technologies are available without trade-offs between aesthetics and performance, “the sustainable choice becomes a real matter of commitment and strategy for developers and owners,” Fanzaga says. “From an overall economic perspective, advanced and sustainable façades will not necessarily cost more when considering the life cycle of our projects and also count on a sustainable construction approach.”

Ellen Rogers is the editor of USGlass magazine. She can be reached at erogers@glass.com

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