What does it take to build supremely energy-efficient buildings? Is it about having renewable energy sources, best-in-class insulation, well-designed building mechanicals, smart controls, or triple-glazed windows? Of course, it can be all of those things and more. But whatever achieves high-performance in Building A may not work in Building B. That’s because there isn’t any single, smart assembly of building components that can work everywhere. “Every job is a custom job,” explains Paul Bertram, director of environment and sustainability in the government affairs office of Kingspan Insulated Panels in Deland, Florida. Bertram refers to the commercial structures that use Kingspan products, as well as more broadly to the nature of building design and construction.
Yet as performance demands increase on all new buildings, it is becoming increasingly important for the science and technology of buildings to deliver as promised. With dozens of materials suppliers involved in almost every project—all with different product features, designs, and formulations—architects and builders need to know how these different components work together.
To address this, Kingspan joined the EcoCommercial Building (ECB) network, a global organization made up of building materials manufacturers. Largely formed by Bayer MaterialScience as an offshoot of its own corporate sustainability program, the concept is intended to provide developers, owners, architects, and builders with a portfolio of services and materials solutions that collectively achieve energy-efficient, waste-minimized, and cost-effective buildings. These products and services come from a group of companies that are willing to share information and ideas.
For example, building performance might combine insulation panels with photovoltaic arrays, as well as a design that maximizes the use of sunlight to collect energy and windows oriented to reduce heat gain. To evaluate this nearly infinite combination, design teams and owners must look at whole-building lifecycle costs. “It’s about moving away from first costs, in the construction phase, to considering the longer operational costs,” Bertram says.
Members of the ECB share such information at trade shows and at its own annual conference. Bertram details how these meetings explore the current information trends on such things as material transparency, environmental product declarations, hazards, and health product declarations (sometimes referred to as “the nutrition label of building materials”). “Specific components of chemistries and toxicity are a hot topic in that room,” Bertram says.
Kingspan manufactures exterior insulated metal panels for roofs and walls with a wide array of building envelope solutions (rain screens, refrigerated insulated doors, sunshades, fire-rated panels, and related ancillaries), and Bertram says the ECB addresses envelopes very effectively, acknowledging that the envelope can be the most effective means to reduce a building’s carbon footprint.
The benefits of the network come back to its members in many ways, including a collective marketing program, as well as the sharing that occurs between research and development. For Kingspan—which is based in Ireland, has more than 100 operations globally, but is relatively new in North America—it was a good entry point for its operations on this side of the Atlantic.
The network is also helping to develop energy code standards, in keeping with the US Department of Energy’s push to save 30 percent of the energy lost through building envelopes by 2030.