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Inside Innovation: Canada’s GlasCurtain well positioned for construction’s net zero future

John Bleasby
Inside Innovation: Canada’s GlasCurtain well positioned for construction’s net zero future

In 2019, Calgary-based GlasCurtain Inc. was awarded certification from the prestigious Passive House Institute in Germany for its THERM line of thermally-broken triple-glazed curtain wall system. It was a first for any company, let alone a Canadian firm. GlasCurtain’s unique standing atop the world remains today. 

In fact, global construction’s move towards increased energy efficiency and carbon reduction appears to be well matched with the ambitious development path plotted by GlasCurtain back in 2014.

“Right now, there is an elevated environmental consciousness and conscientiousness in our society,” managing director Peter Dushenski told the Daily Commercial News in a recent conversation. “We feel we are at the forefront.”

One reason for Dushenski’s optimism is the building industry’s recognition of embodied carbon reduction as the number one challenge to be overcome in the future, what he calls “the next frontier.” He reasons the building industry is already becoming very good at reducing carbons related to operations.

Dushenski references projections from Architecture 2030, a non-profit, non-partisan, independent organization established in 2002 in response to global climate concerns. They suggest that by 2050, a mere 29 years from now, operational carbons will only account for 10 per cent of a building’s carbon impact. Embodied carbons will form the remaining 90 per cent.

“Operational carbon will be just a drop in the bucket compared to the carbon that is being caused by building buildings.”

The increased focus on embodied carbons presents an enormous opportunity for those supplying components and materials for the construction of new buildings or the renovation of existing ones. It fits GlasCurtain’s mission perfectly. Already globally recognized as a leader in high R-value glass curtain walls for cold climates like Canada and Northern Europe, it has another arrow in its quiver — extremely low embodied carbon compared to aluminum-framed systems.

 

Carleton University’s Engineering Design Centre will feature an R-8 rated triple-glazed glass curtain wall system, engineered and manufactured by GlasCurtain, and including triple low-e coating and a bird-friendly ceramic frit.
PHOTO SUBMITTED — Carleton University’s Engineering Design Centre will feature an R-8 rated triple-glazed glass curtain wall system, engineered and manufactured by GlasCurtain, and including triple low-e coating and a bird-friendly ceramic frit.

 

“We did our life cycle analysis in 2009 as part of our policy and vision to be 10 years ahead of the curve,” explained Dushenski. “Life cycle analyses are becoming increasingly important for a variety of certifications.”

GlasCurtain’s life cycle analysis revealed its fibreglass-framed THERM line products have 60 per cent less embodied carbon than comparable aluminum curtain wall systems.

That really excites Dushenski. It’s simple math.

“Cutting the 90 per cent carbon embodiment by half has much more impact than cutting the 10 per cent operational carbons by half.”

But the cherry on top is that GlasCurtain is all about letting natural light flow to the interior of buildings. GlasCurtain’s system means window-to-wall ratios do not have to be shrunk to minimal levels in order to meet energy efficiency objectives or even code minimums.

That’s important when it comes to selling the concept of Net Zero Energy/Net Zero Carbon buildings to owners or occupants. Some current attempts like the Front Flats development in Philadelphia have the curb appeal of an oversized 12-volt car battery due to their minimal glazing.

Mind you, GlasCurtain is a premium product, akin to what Dushenski calls a Tesla Model S. As a result, its products have found favour with architects working with owner/occupiers, governments, government agencies and higher learning institutions like universities. For those clients, long-term durability, natural interior light that attracts and retains talent, and taking a leadership position in terms of energy efficiency and carbon reduction, is worth that premium.

Dushenski points to Carleton University’s 25,000 square foot Engineering Design Centre in Ottawa, designed in collaboration with Diamond Schmitt Architects and KWC Architects and scheduled for occupancy this autumn. It’s an example of GlasCurtain’s trifecta of energy efficiency, low carbon embodiment and high window-to-wall ratios, presented in an attractive overall design.

While commercial interests are inclined to put their priorities on more superficial structural features, Dushenski believes their outlook will change with the arrival of new codes and the approach of international carbon reduction deadlines.

There’s good reason for Dushenski’s optimism about the future —GlasCurtain’s business already doubled during 2020, something not many building component companies can claim.

John Bleasby is a Coldwater, Ont.-based freelance writer. Send comments and Inside Innovation column ideas to editor@dailycommercialnews.com.

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