The Evolution of Energy Codes

Specifying Glass,
Environment & Ecology

The Codes that Guide the Evolution of Design

Energy codes establish the minimum efficiency requirements for both new and renovated buildings. Created and regulated by multiple governing bodies, codes are a primary driver in building design and specifications. These requirements influence everything from the way a building is heated to, of course, the architectural glass that is selected. But how are glass and glazing codes developed? What are some current trends that are increasing stringency of these codes? And most important, what can you do to meet or even exceed them?

Code Governing Bodies

Several organizations and governing bodies create, review and publish mandatory and voluntary glass and glazing codes, each of which has a unique place in the ecosystem. However, all of them are working toward the same goal – improving energy efficiency in buildings by implementing effective glazing standards.

  • The GICC (Glazing Industry Code Committee) reviews each code’s requirements and how they impact the glass and glazing industry, as well as architects.
  • The NGA (National Glass Association) and the NFRC (National Fenestration Rating Council) focus on how glazing codes can help make buildings more energy efficient.
  • ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers) writes and publishes the International Code Council building codes, also known as “I-codes.” ASHRAE leverages the work of the NGA and NFRC combined with the detail work of the GICC to create the code broad proposals that ASHRAE considers and, hopefully, implements.

These organizations all work closely with glass manufacturers to help incentivize manufacturers to improve existing glass production processes and develop new technologies that will have a positive impact on the environment. Vitro Architectural Glass partners with these governing bodies to advise them on U-Value and solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) performance targets, as well as the long-term benefits for building owners striving to meet these codes.

A Trend Toward Higher Standards

With each governing body working continuously to improve energy efficiency, the glass industry is bound to advance by leaps and bounds in the coming decades. In fact, there are potential codes, trends and projections that are impacting the industry today, but may have an even bigger impact in the future.

One of the current trends that goes above and beyond the base codes and standards are Net Zero buildings. Net Zero buildings generate as much energy as they use through a variety of strategies. While Net Zero buildings are difficult to design and build when there is not enough roof area for solar panels or when facilities have demanding energy needs (such as hospitals), designing a Net Zero building is becoming easier to achieve with energy efficient, low-emissivity (low-e) glasses by Vitro—in fact, three of the world’s 11 certified Net Zero “living” buildings use Vitro Glass to help reduce reliance on artificial lighting and heating.

Another development, especially in North America, is continued improvement of U-Values. Greater insulating value reduces reliance on HVAC systems, thereby improving energy efficiency. To meet increasing demand, glass manufacturers, including Vitro, are providing more triple-glazed insulated glass units (IGUs) to reduce solar heat gain and reduce reliance on air conditioning systems.

The emphasis on improved U-values as well as the use of double curtain walls and increased use of insulating gas airspaces are expected to increase in northern climates over the next five years. Vacuum glazing is also an option when it comes to improving insulation.

While there are some codes that provide guidelines on daylighting minimums, especially in buildings like big box stores, studies are confirming the benefits of natural daylight. This provides even more incentives to maximize daylight without sacrificing energy efficiency. Whether it’s switchable glazings, controllable glazings or even thermochromic technology, the popularity and increased desire for natural daylight that fits within codes can only lead to more and more exciting new developments in the glass industry.

Engineer Around Value-Engineering

Energy codes and standards are the bare minimum requirements to satisfy overarching energy objectives. Building owners and design teams may establish their own energy or sustainability goals—codes should be used as a baseline, striving to achieve the standards not of today, but tomorrow.

Architects can ensure energy efficiency by initially specifying the most ambitious, energy efficient solutions that are practical for their project—this will allow room for value-engineering, and the building will still benefit from a product that satisfies or exceeds both the energy requirements of not only code, but also the client.

To learn more about Solarban® solar control low-e glasses and energy efficient glass products by Vitro, click here.