Glass and Climate Change
Glass has a unique role to play in society’s attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change. The energy used in making high-performance architectural glass products is quickly paid back.
Glass in buildings
On average, buildings account for almost 50 percent of the energy consumed in developed economies. Governments are putting increased focus on legislation and policies to improve their energy efficiency.
Sustainable building rating system initiatives are helping to transform the market for added-value glazing in North America, Europe, Malaysia and India. In China, legislation is at an earlier stage, but the government has already introduced building regulations to improve the energy efficiency of new buildings.
We work closely with governments and authorities framing building standards to ensure that the energy conservation properties of glass and glazing are taken into account when standards are set.
Energy issues are crucial to the building glass industry, as glass products can make an important contribution to combating climate change. Improving the energy efficiency of buildings also brings other benefits.
Well-glazed buildings are more comfortable and cheaper to run for the owner and occupier. From a social point of view, national economies and energy security will improve when energy-importing countries become less dependent on increasingly expensive supplies from other parts of the world.
CO2 emissions and low-e double glazing
The potential for low-e glass (double and triple glazing) to cut CO2 emissions from new and existing buildings has been analyzed by the Dutch scientific institute TNO in a study undertaken for the trade association Glass For Europe, of which the NSG Group is a member.
It found that up to 90 million tonnes of CO2 emissions could be saved annually by 2020 if all Europe’s buildings (existing and new residential and non-residential buildings) were fitted with double-glazed low-e insulating glass units. An additional seven million tonnes of CO2 emissions could be cut through a greater use of triple-glazed low-e insulating glass units for new buildings, where appropriate.
To maximize energy efficiency all year round, the ideal glazing solution often balances both solar control and low-emissivity performance. Our products offer two ways in which this can be achieved: by applying a single product that provides both solar control and low-emissivity in an insulating glass unit, or by using both a solar control product and a separate low-emissivity product within an insulating glass unit.
CO2 emissions and solar control glazing
In hot conditions, or for buildings with high internal loads, solar control glass is used to minimize solar heat gain by rejecting solar radiation and to help control glare. In more temperate conditions, it can be used to balance solar control with high levels of natural light. The issue of air-conditioning is a major concern to building designers and architects. Often, more energy is used to operate air-conditioning systems during the summer months than to heat the building in winter, thereby increasing its carbon footprint. It is therefore essential to improve the energy efficiency of buildings during the summer as well as in the winter.
A study undertaken by TNO for Glass for Europe concluded that between 15 and 80 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually (roughly between 5 percent and 25 percent of the EU’s target) could be saved by the year 2020 by optimal use of solar control glass.
Low-e insulating glazing can be a net contributor to energy conservation in buildings
Low-e glass is a value-added product with a transparent coating on one surface. This reflects heat back into the building, thereby reducing heat loss through the window.
The coating also allows large amounts of free solar energy to enter the building, thereby heating it passively.
Glass in vehicles
As we describe later in this section, in the automotive industry, the shift to electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids marks a new era, with CO2 reduction a major focus. This ‘eco-innovation’ will drive glazing advances in solar energy control, energy-saving and weight reduction. We are well placed to meet these challenges. Our technology will be critical to differentiate us from low-priced competitors and we are currently developing new products to meet the demands of the next generation of vehicles.
Climate change: Our challenges and opportunities
The principal risks to our business introduced by climate change are those associated with potential damage to our plants and infrastructure. These include flooding and wind damage. We mitigate these effects through climate change risk assessment in our investment decisions.
Price and availability of fossil fuels is also a risk for us, which we seek to minimize through energy conservation and the use of alternative energy sources for our processes. Our waste reduction programs seek to reduce our consumption of all resources used in the execution of our business.
Our added-value products, such as low-e glass, solar control glass and glass for photovoltaics have the principal purpose of reducing energy consumption in buildings and generating energy from the sun.
We are therefore in a strong position to help mitigate the effects of climate change by helping to conserve energy in buildings and vehicles and to assist with the generation of solar power.
A significant part of our R&D effort is dedicated to finding solutions to the challenges raised by climate change, reducing energy consumption and waste.