Energy Efficiency Means a Big Push for Australia’s Glass Industry

September 8th, 2009 by Editor

The glass industry in Australia is not all that different from North America’s. Both areas are dealing with similar issues: the global economic downturn; impending requirements for increased energy efficiency and awareness; evolving standards and building codes And in both parts of the world glass companies recognize that it is their industry that can best determine how glass can be used to meet the growing demands. So in Australia, as in North America, glass producers and processors join together annually to discuss, debate and work toward bettering their industry. With the theme to “Aim Higher,” the Australian Glass and Glazing Association (AGGA) is doing just that, as its annual meeting took place last week at the Hyatt Regency Coolum, which is located on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.Close to 300 attendees from the Australian glass industry, as well as a handful of representatives from other countries, gathered to take part in the three-day conference.

Sessions began on Thursday, September 4, with Nigel Carpenter, AGGA executive director, discussing the association’s future. Recently they held a strategic workshop where they began work on developing a one, three- and five-year strategic plan, with the goal of “shaping and growing the demand for glass used in the built environment by positioning it positively in the broad sustainability debate,” according to Carpenter. Six key actions were put in place: advocacy; education/training; collaborating with other groups; focusing on product quality and standard compliance; representation of membership; and governance.

Chris Barker with the Australian Glass Group and Howard Wigham with Viridian next provided an overview of the Australian glass market as a whole.

“Australia is less impacted than other economies [by the global downturn], but globally glass has not been spared,” said Barker, noting that global capacity is down about 20 percent since last year. “In Australia glass demand is a function of building activity … We are starting to see some positives.”

Barker said he predicts some residential recovery moving forward, but the commercial side is still experiencing a “reasonable decline.”

One topic that’s getting a good bit of discussion is the government’s Six Star regulation (similar to ENERGY STAR® for residential buildings in the United States). The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) is striving to increase the energy efficiency provision in the 2010 edition of its building code, which has placed significant emphasis on glass, having stated: “With most other building elements at practical limits of thermal performance glazing is the remaining pathway to better ratings.”

But Australia still has a ways to go to get to where it needs to be in terms of energy-efficient glazing usage, Barker said. For example, according to one chart he showed low-E glass is only used in about 5 percent of new residential construction on the state of New South Wales; the expectation is to reach 25 percent by 2012.

Barker added that the use of value-added glass in the residential market as a whole is forecast to grow about 45 percent by 2012.

“A goal well worth aiming higher for,” he said.

Wigham continued the discussion of energy efficiency.
“It’s a great opportunity and [represents] an enormous impact on glass and windows-and it’s more than just IG, as it’s dependent upon where you live so it could be solar control, etc.,” said Wigham.

The awareness about the benefits of energy efficiency are real, he pointed out.

“Consumers are hungry for answers and we have the opportunity to provide a solution,” he said.
Much like the North American market, Wigham also emphasized that the types of glass and windows that will be required will be dependent on the climate zone.

“The answers are different depending upon the location, but it’s becoming driven by regulation; this won’t happen unless we all do our part,” he said. “We want the right windows specified for the right problem.”

Ellen Rogers, DWM contributing writer is in Australia reporting on the event.

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