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Architects demand low-e at lower costs

Green design, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and low-emissivity will continue to be the buzz words for architects in 2007 as designers demand even more energy savings out of their glazing systems. However, architects say the high costs associated with the higher performance are still prohibitive for many projects.

“We’re always trying to reduce the U-value so that the envelope is much more energy efficient, but we pay such a considerable premium for the glazing,” says Paul Donnelly, vice president and senior project architect for Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum Inc. in St. Louis. Designers often find it difficult to convince building owners that the energy savings are worth the added expense, he says.

Glass companies can help by providing designers with concrete data about the energy performance of their products, Donnelly says. “We need to be able to bring quantitative information to the table. We’re at a new stage in this process where these folks realize that they have to give some pretty concrete data to justify the expense associated with their product,” he says. “Clients don’t buy it unless they have some real professionals indicating the hot facts.”

Randal Cartwright, project architect for DeStefano + Partners in Chicago, agrees. Building owners are working with tight budgets and need to be convinced that the extra costs are worth it, he says.

“We need to be conscientious about value, and be able to say that this product will give you savings in exact dollars and cents in years to come,” Cartwright says.

Architects demand even more than just low-e, says Jorge Pernes, project architect at the Miami office for Perkins + Will. Designers want high-performance glazing with even more transparency.

“The thing we would love to see from glass companies is clearer glass with a nice low-e coefficient that is not super expensive,” Pernes says. “Everything that is low-e has a tint to it. To go to clear glass, the cost becomes exorbitant.”

When the cost for ultra-clear glass is still too high for building owners, architects will continue to look to tints and finishes. For 2007, green will be the way to go in glass colors, Cartwright says. “A few years ago it was blue, and before that, bronze. Now, we’re seeing green,” he says.

Glass fabricators reported in a Jan. 2 e-glass weekly article that they recognize the demand for more low-e products, and are also focusing on higher performance in 2007.

“The trend is really going toward higher performing products. The soft coat or solar control low-e’s are getting easier to run, and more and more architects understand their benefits,” said Max Perilstein, vice president of marketing for Arch Aluminum & Glass Co. in Tamarac, Fla. “We are seeing that in the specifications.”

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