IGMA Heads to the Lab

Testing and sustainability are two key elements in the modern-day architectural glazing sector. Earlier this month, members of the industry got a real-life crash course in both.

Attendees of the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance (IGMA) Fall Conference in Denver were treated to a tour of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), which research scientist Rob Tenent said is “the only national laboratory solely focused on energy efficiency and renewable energy.”

The campus itself is billed as “a living model of sustainable energy,” he said.

And it proved to be just that.

Dynamic glazing is one of the many building technologies NREL utilizes throughout its campus.

The lab’s research support facility (RSF) is a Platinum LEED, net-zero building that produces more energy than it receives, and metal and glazing throughout the campus has a big impact on its sustainability.

The variation of window size is dependent on orientation, and shading elements are utilized on south-facing walls. Much of the office spaces apply sunshades and lightshelves to maximize natural lighting, and electrochromic SageGlass is used in multiple buildings.

With an emphasis on natural daylighting, use of energy in the buildings is controlled. In the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF), for example, occupants try to minimize artificial lighting between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Artificial lighting is supplemented by the many solar energy systems set up throughout the campus.

The lab’s involvement in glazing is not limited to its buildings. NREL is very involved with the glass industry from a testing standpoint, Tenent said, in both dynamic and insulating windows.

Its capabilities include “advanced fenestration durability analysis” and thermal cycling stress testing.

According to Tenent, the lab’s “differential thermal stress testing is the only thermal cycling chamber capable of controlling the temperature and RH (relative humidity) independently on both sides of a fenestration sample or wall section at the same time.”

During the tour, IGMA attendees got a look at the Differential Thermal Cycling Unit that has been developed on behalf of the industry. In addition to other fenestration-related work, the facility is doing durability testing of electrochromic windows, and those on the tour saw the oven in which that is taking place.

On the whole, NREL employs approximately 2000 people, and 130 staff members across 14 lab organizations support buildings research at the company.

Tenent said it has been active in fenestration since 1985 and has supported emerging building envelope technologies for more than 30 years.