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  • Writer's pictureHighrise Glazing Services Team

Greening Up Glazing



It’s no secret that the wellbeing of our planet is in jeopardy. Rising tides, extreme weather, species death that destabilizes our ecosystems – each results from humanity’s reliance on unsustainable materials and processes. From our energy consumption to the massive amounts of material waste we generate, our personal and collective daily habits need a dramatic overhaul. Our lives depend on it.


We all share a responsibility to improve upon practices and systems that harm our environment. For the glazing industry, this not only involves the creation of products and materials that support energy and environmental conservation, but also adjusting our work behavior on sites and in offices to minimize our impact.


DYNAMIC GLASS


This type of glazing is manufactured with special coatings that control the amount of light and heat that passes through the surface and into a building. These coatings shift their properties in response to environmental triggers or to electronic control. Dynamic applications are often used in curtain wall, storefront, and other large commercial window systems.


Environmentally-stimulated dynamic coatings adjust their tint based on the degree of light and/or temperature sensed on their exterior surface. When light is bright or generates a certain degree of heat, they automatically darken, reducing glare and heat for the building’s interior spaces. Electronically-controlled dynamic glass, on the other hand, allows for custom adjustment to control the degree of light, heat, and glare permitted to pass through the glass.


Both of these types of glass serve to reduce a building’s reliance on artificial heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. In large commercial properties, HVAC accounts for an enormous amount of energy usage. By replacing windows and curtain wall with dynamic glass, buildings can significantly cut their energy needs. This not only saves a great deal of money over time, it’s also a responsible choice from an environmental standpoint.


Separate, but related to dynamic glass are photovoltaic glass technologies, in which glass is laminated with photovoltaic cells – the same semi-conductor cells used in solar panels – to capture solar energy. Buildings glazed with photovoltaic glass can produce and supply their own electricity needs through their windows. They generate their own energy from a renewable source, as opposed to relying on grid-based systems that often use fossil fuels as their primary source of power.



BIRD SAFE GLASS


Collision with structural glass is one of the leading causes of bird deaths worldwide, accounting for between 100 million and 1 billion deaths each year, according to the Ontario Wildlife Department. The majority of these deaths occurs along migration routes, where birds are unfamiliar with urban landscapes and fatigued from their long journeys.


While there’s no need to argue for the protection of wildlife, it’s worth noting that birds play an integral role in maintaining balanced ecosystems, serving both as predators and prey, depending on the species. Different types of birds may also act as pollinators, assisting in plant reproduction, or scavengers, helping to keep environments clear of disease-causing bacteria while redistributing essential nutrients into the soil. Protecting their wellbeing helps to maintain the natural equilibrium on which the survival of all species depends.


Bird collisions can be reduced by existing glass products. Usually, these products involve the application of patterns or UV-reflective materials that help birds distinguish walls as solid structures, rather than endless sky. Some bird-safe products can be applied as film coatings to existing glass, while others incorporate specialized properties into the manufacturing process.



WORKSITE WATER STATIONS


Implementing eco-friendly access to drinking water on worksites is a simple yet effective practice. Worksites are required by law to provide clean drinking water to workers, but many sites provide plastic cups or single-use plastic water bottles, the very worst culprits of plastic pollution in the ocean.


According to the Center for Biological Diversity, “plastic is expected to outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050” if we continue polluting at our current rate. Plastic pollution impacts every level of the oceanic food chain, from tiny mollusks to large ocean mammals and sea birds. Whether from ingesting micro plastics, or getting tangled up, suffocating, or choking from debris, sea creatures of all kinds are suffering from our overdependence on this ubiquitous material. We must do all we can to reduce reliance on plastic – especially disposable single-use plastics – wherever we can.


The ideal solution for reducing plastic waste on construction sites is to advocate that workers bring their own reusable cups or water bottles to the worksite, and fill from the company cooler. Some states require the use of disposable cups for sanitation purposes. In such cases, it’s best to provide cups made from recycled, biodegradable materials on worksites. Plastic should never be the first option. There are plenty of affordable, easily-accessible solutions to use instead.



OFFICE PRACTICES


Construction workers in offices also contribute significant amounts of waste to landfills every year in the form of paper, electronics, boxes, and disposable cups, plates, and utensils. When it comes to office practices, the “reduce, reuse, recycle” model is always a good approach. Here are a few simple ways to enact this policy:


Reduce:

  • Go paperless as much as possible.

  • Set the default on copiers and printers to print on both sides of the paper. (This default can be bypassed individually if preparing a formal document.)

  • Reduce overuse of lighting and HVAC systems by setting conservative temperatures.

  • Install motion or light detection sensors to turn off lights automatically when not in use.


Reuse:

  • Save one-sided printouts to use as notepaper, or to print on the blank side.

  • Buy recycled toner cartridges and collect used cartridges for recycling.

  • Implement sustainable kitchen policies by phasing out plastic or disposable utensils, cups, and plates. Eliminate the use of any Styrofoam products.

  • Encourage employees to keep and use their own set of reusable plates, cups, forks, and knives.


Recycle:

  • Recycle bottles, cans, paper, cardboard, and plastic.

  • Collect e-waste like ink cartridges, old computer parts (keyboards, monitors, mice), lamps, clocks, phones, etc., and partner with organizations that will come to your office and handle this type of recycling for your business.

  • Commit to purchasing materials and supplies made from recycled materials whenever possible, including printer paper, kitchen supplies, pens and notepads, and other common supplies.


IT'S A MATTER OF CHOICE


To make true progress on improving our impact on the environment, we must address our habits of consumption from every angle. From the materials we use to our own individual behaviors, every decision we make has the ability to diminish or add to the severity of our situation. Thankfully, there are many ways to improve. It may seem overwhelming, but even the smallest efforts repeated by many, over time, can result in real, lasting changes.


Here at Highrise Glazing Services Inc., we encourage everyone to assess where they can implement more sustainable practices. For those in the glazing industry, this may mean encouraging GCs to select dynamic glass over other options. On a personal level, it may mean bringing your own water bottle to the job site or office. No act is too small. We’re in this together, and together, we can make a difference.


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