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I would like to remind us all that buildings annually account for approximately 40 percent of global energy use in their construction and operation.

March 24, 2021  By David Heska

It’s been quite the year. Twelve months ago our worlds got rocked. Life is not the same, whether that’s in the manufacturing plant, the job site or the office. So, I thought in this column I would reflect back and look forward.  At the upcoming Top Glass conference, Gary Watson from Diamond Schmitt will tackle the same topic in a session called “Reflections and Projections: How the Last Year Changed Our Industry” so I hope I’m not repeating a lot of what he will say. 

My prediction is that life will return to a new normal in 2022 but many of the health and safety measures we’ve added over the past year will remain. Why wouldn’t we keep encouraging staff to wash their hands regularly? If we can save hours of commuting time, why wouldn’t many professionals keep working primarily from home? Here are five other predictions. 

  1. When downtown offices start reoccupying there will be an increased use of interior glass.
  2.  The large open office concept days are behind us. 
  3. Incentives will need to be provided to staff who have settled into working from home to attract them back. 
  4. Architects will see a greater demand for collaborative, flexible meeting room space within offices. 
  5. Co-working office spaces in smaller communities will increase in demand with employees only needing to head into “the big city” a couple days a week. 

Another Top Glass session I’m looking forward to is on new technology in glass lamination with Mark Jacobson. I anticipate that the decision tree he will share will be a valuable tool for each of us as we sell and select the appropriate interlayer.  Whether that’s providing UV filtration, acoustic dampening, impact resistance or post-breakage retention, the use of laminate glass is increasing and so should our knowledge of the product. 

Finally my WSP colleague Will Nash will be discussing low-carbon building materials at Top Glass. Our clients have heard us talk about embodied energy for at least 10 years now. The industry and government jurisdictions have caught up and begun asking designers to provide life-cycle analyses for the products they specify. It is important for everyone to understand the difference between initial embodied energy, recurrent embodied energy and operating energy. Initial embodied energy is used to manufacture, transport and assemble the materials to construct a building. Recurrent embodied energy is the energy consumed in the maintenance, replacement and retrofit processes of a facility. Finally, operating energy is the gas and electricity used to heat, cool and light.

I will leave it to Mr. Nash to explain some of the recent trends but I would like to close reminding us all that buildings annually account for approximately for 40 percent of global energy use in their construction and operation. This percentage has been slightly declining over the past decade, but much more can and should be done. It’s time for us to seriously consider what part we can play in making a difference for our kids and grandkids.

David Heska, P.Eng. is a director with WSP’s building sciences team in southwestern Ontario. He oversees the operation of the Hamilton, Kitchener and Windsor offices. David has been involved on window simulation projects as well as the design and replacement of windows. He can be reached at David.

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