June 28, 2022

The AIA Conference in Chicago Raised Many New Issues

By Paul Daniels

Last week I attended the AIA Conference in Chicago. This was their first conference in three years. It was well attended, and everyone seemed optimistic about business. Most architects that I spoke with said that they were back in the office, and many were requesting in-person lunch and learns. It was good to see architects optimistic, as they are working on future projects that will affect the building industry over the next several years.

A panel discussion that I was a part of brought up as many questions as it addressed. Value engineering was one of the issues, but was defined by the architects as immediate cost reductions. No one seemed to be willing to broaden the definition to building life cost reductions, just cost-cutting. Everyone agreed that better communication was needed between all stakeholders, but there were no comments on how to achieve this in the real world.

Reducing operational and embodied carbon was brought up, as well as Environmental Product Declarations (EPD). The architect on the panel warned manufacturers that they need to be producing these documents as they are the future for designing projects that will have a lower negative impact on the environment. While this sounded good, it seems to be something not widely available in the glass business at this time.

Another term that you are going to be seeing in building codes and LEED projects is LCA – Life Cycle Assessment. This is the document that EPDs are based on. While these terms are going to be important in future projects I don’t know if the glass industry is paying much attention to them today.

One consensus of our panel discussion was that next generation products, that may cost more today but save much more over time. They will continue to be value-engineered out of many projects until the building codes catch up and make them mandatory. This sounds like a “what came first, the chicken or the egg?” Everyone wants next-generation products that will be environmentally friendly and save energy and money, just not right now.