Green took on a wide variety of definitions at Greenbuild, the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) annual exhibition, which took place last week in Chicago. A number of companies on the trade show floor exemplified just how green glass can be in a wide variety of ways.

Tim Cole, chair of the USGBC board of directors, opened the exhibit by commenting on the wide range of companies here at the show, “An experience,” he said, “we haven’t seen under one roof before.” As he pointed out, companies at the show ranged from start-ups to “giants” of technology, but “we’re all in the same business—the business of saving our planet.”

Due to the diverse nature of the nearly 30,000 attendees at Greenbuild, glass industry exhibitors kept busy explaining how their products are part of the green movement. Michael Krasula at Pilkington focused on the basics, sharing with attendees “in general that glass is a good alternative.”

Krasula was among the representatives for several primary glass manufacturers explaining to attendees the value that glass can offer—when balanced with shading solutions. He said that he’s addressed here the misconception that 50, 60—even 40—percent visible light transmittance is the best solution for getting daylight credits through LEED—since homeowners and building occupants are likely to pull their blinds and forget about the daylight. “In theory daylight is great, but there needs to be a balance,” Krasula said.

To provide that balance, a great many shading solutions were showcased on the exhibition floor. Among them was a unique shading solution from ODL. Randy Brown explained that the company was spotlighting its tubular skylight. While the skylight is designed to bring natural light into even remote spots in a home, Brown said there is one problem above all that is brought up by customers—you can’t turn the skylight off. In essence, ODL has allowed for just that with its solar-powered dimmer switch. With a push of the button homeowners can shut out a full moon or darken a room during the day.

Like Krasula, Brown found himself providing education to attendees. As he commented, visitors’ reactions to his products ran the gamut from “aha, isn’t that cool and innovative!” to regular customers. His job at the show was as much about making visitors aware of the benefits of products like his as finding new customers.

Chris Aider of Accoya found that attendees were full of questions over the company’s wood products. The big question, he found, was concern over whether the modified wood product is toxic.

“We’re not making the wood toxic, we’re making it unrecognizable as food,” he would reply, a lead-in to explaining the wood’s benefits in being resistant to insects. A display at the show demonstrated how the wood is altered to not bond with water, providing its dimensional stability and durability as a window or siding product.

Aider also drove home the message that the radiate pine the company uses is faster growing than bamboo, making it a sustainable resource.

Kolbe & Kolbe also was pointing attendees toward its sustainable products. The company had expanded its selection of interior wood species to include Lamboo, an engineered, laminated veneer bamboo (LVB) product.

According to Kolbe product and market analyst Lance Premeau, “Bamboo is the most renewable material of its kind currently available for the building products industry. Selected from more than 1600 species of bamboo, Lamboo LVB products are manufactured from four of the strongest, fast growing and sustainable species.”

Lamboo Inc., Kolbe’s supplier, had representatives on the floor, explaining that its LVB product is 20 percent more stable than wood in moisture and temperature changes, has 10 times the tensile strength of wood, uses 15 percent less embodied energy than wood and sequesters 35 percent more carbon in the growing cycle than timber. As a rapidly renewable material, Lamboo allows a four- to six-year harvest cycle, about half of the harvest cycle allowable under LEED.

Bell noted that the triple-glazing allowed by its window products on display also had been of great interest to the green-minded attendees. “What’s new always seems to be the big thing at the show,” Bell said.

NanaWall interpreted green to mean providing a connection with the outdoors. The company’s SL82 structurally glazed folding wall system presents a largely uninterrupted glass façade. The product’s three levels of seals provide protection from wind pressure and driving rain, while the fiberglass-reinforced thermal break provides energy efficiency. With triple glazing, the product is able to reach a U-value of 0.29.

For active shading strategies, Pleotint showcased its sunlight responsive thermochromic technology, which automatically tints as the sun hits it and lightens when direct sunlight is no longer present. According to Fred Millett, the film “basically absorbs light energy and turns it into heat and the heat is what causes the change from more transmissive to less transmissive.”

Glass and window manufacturers can incorporate the company’s film as a unique shading solution for homeowners. Millett pointed out to attendees the green aspect of the new product, which include “keeping the view; minimizing the energy for not having to have artificial lights on when you’ve got daylighting; and minimizing the direct solar heat gain, which means you don’t have to have air-conditioning on, or as much air-conditioning because you don’t have as much sun energy penetrating the building envelope.”

Sage Electrochromics had its dynamic glazing product on display as well. Lou Podbelski, who educated attendees about how the active glazing product works and its green benefits, pointed out that sharing the green message at this show is drastically different from other industry shows, making it valuable for product suppliers focusing on the green message. “They’re already predisposed to the message,” he said of the attendees.

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