Boiling Up in Napa

I get to spend most of my time in a verdant Dionysian garden this week. The occasion of my visit to California’s Napa Valley is the 2018 Annual Conference. For years, it was the Glass Association of North America’s (GANA)’s annual conference, but now that that group has merged with the National Glass Association (NGA), it’s currently the NGA-GANA Annual Conference. Except that it’s not. NGA’s annual meeting has always been around its GlassBuild show in the fall. I am sure they will get it all sorted out pretty soon. I would also expect at least one or two regular meetings to disappear as a usual consequence of two groups coalescing into one.

The first session of the day was relatively uplifting because of the sincere and deep commitment of the former GANA leaders to the betterment of the industry. Their overwhelming desire to help the industry and to have the new association represent that industry was evident. The fact that there are still a whole lot of details such as the aforementioned meetings, dues, procedures etc., to be worked out is not a surprise. GANA’s strength has always been the depth of its volunteers’ commitment, its technical and representation (i.e. code and government) arenas. I hope all of that enthusiasm, technical aptitude and industry advocacy remains after the integration is complete.

The glass industry is going to need all of its strength in a big way in the future. The subsequent sessions today included reports from the Insulating Committee and the Energy Committee and you can read Ellen Roger’s excellent report here.

I instead want to focus on an underlying reality: glass is under attack, and we need to recognize it.

First, some background. If you were around earlier this decade, you will remember the “battle for the wall” that the industry had to wage against extremely ominous ASHRAE 90.1 code requirements. The industry came together in a strong way and fought back that challenge to the amount of glass that can be used.

Well glass is again in the crosshairs, only this time instead of a head-on frontal assault by one giant entity, it’s being hit by a variety of groups in different ways. Without a response from our industry the result will be a reduction of glass square footage in both residential and commercial projects.

Codes consultant Tom Culp detailed some of these challenges in his report during the Energy Committee meeting. In addition to proposed changes to 90.1, Culp also cited concerns about specific regions as well.

“Some in New York City are trying to prevent all-glass buildings from being built under the performance path, even if you can show the building has equivalent or better [energy] performance using advanced systems such as combined heat and power. We worry that they might try to bring limits on this good construction practice to ASHRAE next,” he said.

California also has glass in the crosshairs.

“We are hearing it will be more challenging to build all-glass buildings in California. As they tighten up requirements in other parts of the building such as HVAC and lighting, there is less room to trade off for glazing area in the performance path,” Culp added. “One solution for our industry is to bring our higher performance products that have been developed for the north into the California market, and use the higher performance to gain more glazing area.”

Combine Culp’s warnings with some of the proposals coming from the National Fenestration Ratings Council (NFRC) and stringent changes to Energy Star proposed by Natural Resources Canada, and you’ll see the full breadth of the damage that could occur.

Last time ASHRAE tried to throw the whole industry into boiling water, we all jumped up and fought our way out. This time, a whole bunch of different cooks are each turning up the heat, one at a time … ever so slightly. It’s easy to miss what’s happening when it occurs in small incremental steps.  The glass industry has got to be sure it does not miss countering a single threat.