Practices

OVERVIEW - Modern Glazing Solutions: An Essential Element of Low-Energy and Sustainable Buildings

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OVERVIEW - Modern Glazing Solutions: An Essential Element of Low-Energy and Sust

Modern glazing solutions available on the market help to significantly increase the energy performance of buildings by reducing heating, cooling and artificial lighting needs in buildings. Glazing solutions are essential to achieving low energy buildings. By providing natural daylight and views, glazing also contributes to enhancing the interior quality of buildings making them comfortable and healthy living spaces.

Here you can download the PDF version of this Overview article (see below under 'Additional documents').

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Improving buildings’ energy performance

Technological innovation such as the use of double and triple glazed units with inert gas between glazing panes  and invisible low-emissivity coatings have significantly improved the insulation properties of windows and facades. Such glazing products allow natural daylight into buildings maximising or limiting solar heat gains, depending on the desired thermal objectives and energy balance. Improvements in the thermal performance of buildings results in a building’s heating and cooling load decreasing thereby reducing the overall energy consumption.

Unlike any other construction material, glass helps lower artificial lighting needs consequently reducing lighting energy consumption. As a result, many energy and thermal simulations suggest that the average glazed surface to floor ratio in buildings should be increased.

 

An essential element of low-energy, nearly-zero energy and passive buildings

Nowadays, a vast array of glass and glazing solutions exists to satisfy the needs of the most ambitious architects and building engineers who want to design and construct low energy or passive buildings. Constant technological advances in glass products and the increased focus on intelligent building design mean that integrating large glazed surfaces into low energy buildings has now become even more achievable.

 

Empowering consumers to choose the best glazing solutions

The market penetration of high-energy performance glazing products remains low in Europe despite the energy saving potential associated with window refurbishment. Over 85 % of glazed areas in Europe are equipped with inefficient glazing. More than 100 million tonnes of CO2 could be saved annually if Europe’s building were equipped with energy-efficient glazing.

To improve the market penetration of energy efficient glazing solutions, consumers needs to have access to simple, relevant and comparable information on the energy performance of each window available on the market. An EU energy labelling scheme would empower European consumers to choose the most adequate glazing solutions at time of window change.


A unique ability to provide daylight and view to the outside world

Given that we spend over 80 % of our lives inside buildings, the design of buildings, provision of daylight is critical to our quality of life. Making buildings fit for their occupants requires maximising the natural benefits of daylight for human beings. Glazing has a unique ability to provide daylight and visual connection to the outside world. Unlike other construction materials glazing fulfils many functions which translate into direct benefits for buildings’ occupants.

It has been demonstrated that we learn better, work more, feel happier and heal quicker in buildings with abundant natural light. More specifically, access to daylight in various types of buildings provides a healthier environment (e.g. hospitals) improving concentration, learning and productivity (e.g. educational buildings and offices). Direct economic benefits can come from the aesthetics of internal spaces, for example with increases sales in day lit retail establishments.

 

Glass for buildings: a sustainable choice

As new constructions become increasingly energy efficient, their main environmental impact will no longer be considered in terms of their energy consumption but on a complete life-cycle approach. The impact of manufacturing materials as well as the construction and demolition phases will become critical to improving a building’s sustainability. Glass generates minimal environmental impact, which makes it a product of choice for sustainable buildings.

Many modern glazing solutions are net energy positive as they will save more energy and carbon during their lifetime than what was needed to produce them. As such, modern glazing solutions produced by the flat glass industry are essential to making Europe a competitive and low carbon economy by 2050.

For more information please visit the Glass for Europe website.

 

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Comments

In early 2013, according to Cécile Duflot, Minister of Environment, France, thermal renovation could allow the creation of 75,000 jobs (48,000 direct jobs and 26,000 indirect jobs). The energy transition involves a massive thermal renovation of buildings in France aims for energy efficiency 500,000 renovated units / year. France is making efforts in this area anyway.