According to Paul Hooper, CEO of the Alumasc Group, new opportunities for green building suppliers are emerging in North America.
Demand for products that improve the ecological performance of new commercial and residential buildings, such as energy and water management systems, is well established and growing in the UK and abroad.
Such products are increasingly expected to contribute to the aesthetic appeal of buildings, creating significant new opportunities as well as challenges for building product suppliers.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is a key factor driving the construction industry in North America to adopt more effective techniques for managing energy and water on new-build and refurbishment projects.
The LEED rating system, developed by the US Green Building Council in 1998, was designed to assist building owners and operators in being environmentally responsible and utilising resources efficiently.
Since its inception, the LEED rating system has evolved and been applied to over 8,600 projects in North America and around the world. Projects are rated against a variety of credit categories, each of which contributes to the overall rating. Controlling solar heat gain through effective solar shading or screening is a critical consideration for LEED certification.
Spending on LEED-related construction projects has increased from $830 million between 2000 and 2008 to $12.5 billion between 2009 and 2013, according to the US Green Building Council.
Although the LEED rating system has encouraged developers and contractors to focus more on energy and water management, Green Building Codes developed in some states, such as California, have gone much further. In this case, any new large commercial building will be permitted only if the developers agree to pursue LEED certification.
As other states follow California’s lead, new demand for building products and solutions from companies like Alumasc will emerge, fueling continued growth over the next decade and beyond.
However, this creates new challenges that necessitate ongoing investment in product innovation and customer service. Suppliers must now deliver solutions that integrate different technologies, such as Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (“BIPV”) and motorised shading, with a variety of materials, including aluminium, wood, and glass, in addition to meeting specific environmental and aesthetic criteria.
Levolux, Alumasc’s solar shading and screening products division, has been active in North America for ten years, working with architects at the early stages of projects for new offices, museums, hotels, and high-end residential developments. As a pioneer in the green building products market, it has extensive experience in North America, where its solutions have been used in a variety of high-profile projects.
Levolux supplied motorised, aluminium Aerofoil Fins with a wood-effect finish that can be rotated through 90 degrees to the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art in Washington State. They control solar heat gain and glare levels when applied externally across a curved south-facing elevation, protecting art from the sun and keeping the building cool and comfortable.
The Infiniti Fin system was installed in the East Tower Lobby of the Hyatt Regency Chicago Hotel to improve comfort, create a contemporary aesthetic, and reduce noise transmission. Levolux also provided a custom screen for the hotel entrance made of twisted aluminium fins that are illuminated at night.
The Grand Hyatt New York received the Inifiniti Fin system as part of a solution to combat unwanted solar heat gain and glare through the sloping glazed roof over its recently renovated bar and restaurant. Later, the system was used externally to create an appealing aesthetic above the hotel’s main entrance.
External aluminium Aerofoil Fins were applied across glazing on north and south-facing elevations of Bay House, Long Island, New York, to form a first floor balustrade along a timber decked walkway. This solution creates an energy-efficient, stylish, and comfortable home without sacrificing outward visibility, daylight levels, or privacy.
A two-story trading floor with an exposed, west-facing glazed elevation was included in the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Greenwich Capital HQ development. To combat solar heat gain and glare, Levolux created a solution that consists of 600 fully automated Solar Shading Louvres linked to a standalone control system that automatically adjusts their angle in response to changing daylight levels. This contributes to the trading floor remaining cool and naturally lit.
Over the last five years, Alumasc’s building products business has outperformed the UK construction market by an average of 2% per year. Despite the worst recession in global economic history, the Board of Directors decided to continue investing in product innovation, customer service, and developing new export markets. Based on our experience, we believe that the prospects in North America for green building suppliers who can maintain investment while responding to new challenges are excellent.