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Solar Decathlon competitors look to glass industry for performance products

Post Time:Nov 12,2013Classify:Industry NewsView:137

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Twenty teams led by college and university students designed, engineered and built structures that balance energy efficiency and aesthetics. The homes, on display at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Oct. 12-20, maximize solar power by taking advantage of glass products that provide ample natural light while reducing heat gain. “The most energy efficient design of a building is a masonry or brick wall,” says James Bogdan, manager of green building initiatives for PPG Industries of Pittsburgh. However, “the most important thing to know is people’s connection to the outdoors through vision glass.” PPG supplied its high-performance Solarban 70XL glass for two Solar Decathlon houses. Solarban 70XL glass “lets in a ton of light and blocks out a ton of heat,” Bogdan says. The glass has a light to heat gain rating of 2.37, according to the company Web site, but has the look of clear glass.

The Carnegie Melon house (top) and the Georgia Tech house (bottom) both feature high-performance glazing from PPG. Photos by Lorin Hancock, McLean, Va.

Cathy Chung, architecture student at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, cited the light to heat gain ratio as a reason for choosing PPG’s glass in their solar house. “We chose it because we have this exposed southern glazing,” she said, referring to the nearly floor-to-ceiling glass panels lining the back of the house. “We would like to let in as much light as possible.” The Georgia Institute of Technology of Atlanta also used Solarban 70XL to maximize daylighting in their structure. PPG’s glass “allowed us to maintain a perimeter clerestory,” says faculty adviser Franca Trubiano. This “perimeter of sky” allows light to flood into the structure without adding solar heat gain. This lack of heat gain was key for the exposed southern glazing, she says. Instead of having a window “punched through the wall,” Georgia Tech students wanted a floor-to-ceiling window panel to function like any of the other panels making up the structure. “We were really lucky,” Trubiano says, referring to PPG’s involvement. “Up until May we had specked out a fiber glass window. When we received [the] email from PPG, within a 24-hour period we got everyone on board.” She was also pleased by the “zero problems with collaboration” between other industry players: Trainor Glass of Alsip, Ill., Kawneer Co., of Norcross, Ga., and Oldcastle Glass of Santa Monica, Calif.. NanaWall of Mill Valley, Calif., supplied systems for three other universities: Cornell University of Ithaca, N.Y., New York Institute of Technology and Santa Clara (Calif.) University. “The opening glass NanaWalls are critical to the design of Open House. The five doors and two windows allow us to achieve our vision of openness, while providing an energy-efficient solar-passive design—which means less energy is spent on lighting and heating the interior of home,” says NYIT architecture student Matthew Vecchione. See this week’s GreatGlazing project to learn more about the NYIT house. Santa Clara University team manager, James Bickford agrees: “We chose the NanaWall system because it has very good insulating properties for a window. It allows us the elegance of this architectural feature while preventing any adverse thermal loss.” James Bogdan called all the projects a “win-win.” “We want to support this because it’s the right thing to do,” he says. Bogdan referenced architect Ed Mazria who is leading a challenge to create carbon-neutral buildings by 2030. “If you can properly design [energy efficient buildings], then that will be the first step,” Bogdan says. He is confident that the solutions for carbon-neutrality exist, and that the only remaining hurdle is “trying to push the industry to accept these new design considerations.” Learn more about the Solar Decathlon here.

—By Lorin Hancock, editorial assistant

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