Plavecsky's
by Jim Plavecsky
February 8th, 2011

The Better Building Initiative: The Push-Pull Initiative That Can Transform America

The Better Buildings Initiative (BBI) will save our nation fuel. It will help stabilize the cost of energy in the long run. It will help to make a cleaner environment. It will save building owners billions of dollars per year on their energy bills. It will create jobs. It will help stimulate the growth of the construction industry.

When I go to sell high efficiency glass featuring warm-edge spacer to commercial glass fabricators, they get it. But more often than not, their customers (the glaziers) do not embrace the benefits of non-metal spacer. And the reason the glaziers don’t want it is because their customers, the building contractors, don’t require it. Oftentimes, it is not part of the job specification. The reason the general contactors don’t require it is because the building owners don’t want to invest in it … and the reason for that is varied: the building codes don’t require it; they don’t understand the benefits; they have not calculated the payback. The bottom line is that the building owners just are not required to use it or they are not sold on it.

Lower u-values, warmer glass, improved condensation resistance … these are the benefits that energy-efficient glazing featuring warm- edge spacer provides. However, if the job specification doesn’t call for warm-edge spacer, then the glazier doesn’t care about it and he will not pay a premium for it. If this is the case, the commercial glass fabricator will quote the job with the lowest cost spacer/sealant system that meets the specification, which in most cases is still a dual-seal system featuring aluminum spacer. Is it the optimum system for saving energy? No. does it meet the spec? Yes!

The BBI can change all of this. It will take the current tax deduction that building owners may take for upgrading to more energy-efficient fenestration and change it to a tax credit. That means something like three times the benefit. Recently increased loan limits for projects which are energy related coupled with a new Department of Energy driven pilot program designed to guarantee loans for energy-efficient upgrades will open up additional sources of financing. “Race to Green” Federal grants will be given to state and local governments which do the best job of streamlining the process of adapting codes, regulations and performance standards toward energy efficiency.

The “Better Buildings Challenge” section of the BBI initially may seem to lack substance but I think, many CEO’s and University Presidents will crave the recognition that this initiative promises in return for making their organizations leaders in terms of saving energy. Finally the BBI promises to change the way our next generation of commercial building technology professionals are trained thereby placing a greater emphasis upon knowledge of energy efficient technologies available in the industry. This part of the BBI, believe it or not, has the potential to have a huge impact down the road by changing not only the core competence but also the mind- set of individuals involved in the building construction industry. I was once called upon to update a construction technology training manual and felt a great deal of intrinsic satisfaction knowing that I would be influencing the thought processes of future construction industry technology professionals for years to come!

The BBI is represents a push-pull strategy designed to propel the commercial construction industry into a fast growth curve. It is not only good for the economy, but, it is also good for the environment. It is also great for our country since it can help reduce our dependency upon foreign oil by narrowing the gap between domestic oil-supply vs. demand.

I have not agreed with everything the current administration has attempted, but the BBI makes a great deal of sense, and I am betting that it will receive non-partisan support in Congress!

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  1. Warm-edge spacer may not be the sexiest part of green building but it’s good to see them getting their due! BBI is exciting and I’m glad our federal government is taking energy more seriously when it comes to building.

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