GlassCon Global VE-Glass Expo VE Keynote Addresses Glass’ Place in a Sustainable Future

Dr. Franz Prettenthaler discusses possible uses for glass to help improve global carbon dioxide emissions.

Dr. Franz Prettenthaler, director of the Life Institute for Climate, Energy and Society at Joanneum Research, presented his keynote speech, “Climate Impact and Paris Lifestyle,” during GlassCon Global VE-Glass Expo VE. He spoke about the causes and impacts of climate change as well as the role of glass in a sustainable future.

His presentation began with an explanation of what climate change is and how there are natural geological factors as well as man-made factors such as carbon dioxide emissions. He said that while many might attribute especially cold or warm temperatures to natural variability, that does not take into account the global picture.

“Climate is the average weather over 30 years,” said Prettenthaler.

While geological factors can also be taken into account, he explained that man-made carbon dioxide emissions are the largest impact factor for the global climate.

Prettenthaler looked at different construction materials’ carbon dioxide emissions. When looking at a comparison of global carbon dioxide emissions by industry sectors, steel produces 3 billion tons of COannually compared to 1 billion tons of COannually by aluminum and only 100 million tons by glass. He described glass’ emissions as negligible. However, when looking at a comparison of global average COemissions per ton, aluminum produces by far the most due to its light weight.

“The glass industry needs to look closely into which alliances it enters into with other construction materials. Steel needs to do some decarbonization work and aluminum per ton has carbon issues to solve,” he said, proposing wood as a sustainable material that could be used. “That’s a research topic for the future.”

He also encouraged the use of thinner glass as a way to cut back on material usage. In addition, Prettenthaler proposed two possible uses for glass to help improve global carbon dioxide emissions. The first is a transportation pod, which could weather-proof bike lanes, making cities more bike-able throughout the year as biking is the most efficient form of transportation. The second is for use on roofs to facilitate urban gardening and prevent soil erosion. Prettenthaler explained that the greening period for plants has shifted four weeks earlier over the past 40 years, making plants more susceptible to frost damage. Thin glass systems on roofs could protect agriculture from the weather while still allowing in sunlight.

The virtual event was co-organized by the Finishing Contractors Association International and USGlass and [DWM] magazines.