January 6th, 2020
The View from Here in the Rearview Mirror: 2019 Edition
I hope everyone had a great holiday season enjoying some old traditions and maybe even creating some new ones. For the past three years, I have used my first blog of the season to reflect on what happened in the previous year. So, you could say that this has become one of my traditions.
At the beginning of 2019, my observation was that federal legislation that would impact our industry was always slow to move forward—and we are still in the same boat. Much of the progress we’ve had can be attributed to work being done at the state and local levels, as well as in the private sector. In short, we are making our own successes.
In case you missed it, here are the top three trends I reported on in 2019:
- Local legislators are leading the way. In the past year, we have seen local governments enacting bold green building initiatives to fight climate change. Among the most notable was New York City, which announced a new law that mandates carbon emission limits for approximately 50,000 of the city’s buildings, in an effort to achieve its aggressive 80% carbon reduction plan by 2050. Failure to comply by 2024 will result in annual fines for every metric ton of carbon dioxide over the prescribed limit. It is considered the most ambitious law in the world for a large city and could cost building owners hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of dollars in fines.
Similarly, Washington, D.C., is also looking at its own aggressive target of 100% renewable energy by 2032. Globally, the UK passed historic legislation that will require net-zero carbon emissions by 2050—making compliance legally binding.
What does this mean for us? The Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) estimates that there are approximately one billion single-glazed windows in use today—and many are in high-rise residential and commercial buildings. Once upon a time, it might have been a difficult sell to justify the cost of replacing old windows with newer energy-efficient versions. But with these new carbon emission limits and penalties for noncompliance, replacement could now seem like a more appealing option.
- Labor is and will continue to be a key issue. You can’t attend an industry meeting or open a trade magazine without reading about the ongoing issue of finding quality skilled labor to meet the demands of building and construction. I will not belabor this issue (pun intended) because of the vast coverage of the problem and potential solutions, such as automation, but it’s worth acknowledging. At last year’s WDMA annual legislative conference it was one of the key areas of focus for the organization with the goal of balancing the need to create a robust workforce without restricting the economic growth of businesses. Conversations on this topic will continue well into the future.
- Energy codes are shifting and driving innovation. In 2019, we saw the introduction of the 2018 version of the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) that was born from a collaboration among the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES). The result? More consistency among codes and certifying bodies that promise a more streamlined way of achieving energy efficiency goals and the inclusion of environmental health and safety as code minimums.
I also covered the growing Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program and the overall global interest in green construction, but probably one of the most intriguing topics was California’s Title 24, Part 6 that went into effect last week. The code requires that all new buildings achieve zero net energy (ZNE) levels by 2020 for residences and by 2030 for commercial buildings—causing many companies selling into California to make some swift product upgrades.
From that, the idea of skinny triples was born. Skinny triples use a very thin glass for the center lite and krypton gas filling in a triple pane insulating glass unit (IGU), which has been made possible at a reasonable cost because of the volume of thin glass being produced for flat panel TVs and the much lower cost of krypton gas. In terms of cost savings, the California Energy Commission compared the cost of alternative building envelope improvements and came up with a potential savings between $5.50 and $6.60 per square foot of window area—making this technology a viable option to not only meet the needs in California, but in other localities as well.
The View from Here
The View from Here is that there are pockets of progress happening and as an industry, we need to be nimbler and more adaptable than ever to take advantage of opportunities. We must remain educated and in the know, adjusting our businesses and products to match the changing landscape of codes, standards and trends toward greater energy efficiency. What will 2020 bring? I look forward to finding out and continuing to keep you all informed of all the latest trends. Thanks for reading.
What’s your View? Email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.