New demands for green building suppliers are opening up in North America, says Paul Hooper, chief executive of the Alumasc Group
Demand for products that improve the ecological performance of new commercial and residential buildings, including energy and water management products is well established and continues to grow in the UK and overseas.
Increasingly, such products are also expected to contribute to the aesthetic appeal of buildings, creating both significant new opportunities and challenges for building product suppliers.
In North America, a key factor driving the construction industry to adopt more effective techniques for managing energy and water on new-build and refurbishment projects is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System.
Conceived by the US Green Building Council in 1998, the LEED rating system was intended to help building owners and operators to be environmentally responsible and use resources efficiently.
Since it was introduced, the LEED rating system has evolved and has been applied to some 8,600 projects, both in North America and internationally. Projects are rated against a host of credit categories which contribute to their overall rating. A key consideration to achieve LEED certification is the control of solar heat gain through effective solar shading or screening.
According to the US Green Building Council, spending on LEED-related construction projects has grown since its introduction, from $830 million between 2000 and 2008, to $12.5 billion between 2009 and 2013.
Although the LEED rating system has encouraged developers and contractors to pay greater attention to 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 only be granted permission if the developers commit to attaining LEED certification.
As other regions adopt a similar stance to California, this will generate new demand for the building products and solutions from companies like Alumasc which we anticipate will fuel continued growth over the next decade and beyond.
However, this also presents new challenges requiring sustained investment in product innovation and customer service. Not only must products fulfil specific environmental and aesthetic criteria, suppliers must now deliver solutions which integrate different technologies, such as Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (“BIPV”) and motorised shading, with a variety of materials including aluminium, timber and glass.
Levolux, Alumasc’s solar shading and screening products business, has been active in North America for 10 years and collaborates with architects at the early stages of projects for new offices, museums, hotels and high-end residential developments. As an early mover in the green building products market, it has substantial experience across North America where its solutions have been incorporated in a number of high profile projects.
At the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, Washington State, Levolux supplied motorised, aluminium Aerofoil Fins, with a wood-effect finish, which can be rotated through 90 degrees. Applied externally across a curved south-facing elevation, they control solar heat gain and glare levels, protecting art from the sun and ensuring that the building remains cool and comfortable.
At the Hyatt Regency Chicago Hotel, the Infiniti Fin system was installed to improve comfort levels, create a contemporary aesthetic and reduce noise transmission in the East Tower Lobby. Levolux also supplied a custom screen for the hotel entrance, comprising twisted aluminium fins, all of which are illuminated at night.
The Inifiniti Fin system was supplied to the Grand Hyatt New York as part of a solution to counter unwanted solar heat gain and glare through the sloping glazed roof over its recently renovated bar and restaurant. The system was later applied externally to create an attractive aesthetic above the hotel’s main entrance.
At Bay House, Long Island, New York, external aluminium Aerofoil Fins were applied across glazing on north and south-facing elevations and form a first floor balustrade along a timber decked walkway. This solution delivers an energy-efficient, stylish and comfortable property, without compromising outward visibility, daylight levels or privacy.
The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Greenwich Capital HQ development included a two-storey trading floor with an exposed, west-facing glazed elevation. In order to counter solar heat gain and glare, Levolux devised a solution comprising 600 fully automated Solar Shading Louvres linked to a standalone control system which automatically adjusts their angle in response to changing daylight levels. This helps to maintain a cool, naturally lit environment on its trading floor.
Over the past five years, revenue growth from Alumasc’s building products business has beaten the UK construction market by an average of 2% per annum. This followed a Board decision to maintain investment in product innovation, customer service and developing new export markets, despite the worst recession in global economic history. Based on our success, we believe that prospects in North America, for green building suppliers able to maintain investment and respond to new challenges, are excellent.