Opening the Door for Improved Sustainability

Inside Sustainability Magazine Interview with Aidan Harney

Established in 1975, APA Facade Systems is a leader in the design and  manufacture of high-performance, sustainable aluminium profiles for windows, doors, curtain wall systems, Juliet balconies, roof lights, louvres and solar shading. Over the past four years, APA has developed a long-term sustainability plan for its activities. In a profile authored by Imogen Ward, Sustainability Manager Aidan Harney discussed the effects this has had on its supply chain, product design and business operations. 

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Innovators in fenestration for over 40 years, APA Facade Systems is dedicated to increasing sustainability in every aspect of its work to achieve a greener, more environmentally friendly industry.  

We are dedicated to putting the environment first across all levels of the business.” Sustainability Manager Aidan Harney said. “Our sustainability plan was not just approved by management: a significant consultation process was carried out to ensure that all team members understood, contributed towards and committed to this plan.” 

APA’s thermally enhanced aluminium pro-files perfectly demonstrate the company’s dedication and commitment to ecologically friendly design. A high proportion of APA’s projects have been awarded LEED or BREEAM certifications. One such project, the Dublin Landings development, featuring APA’s capped and structurally glazed curtain  wall system, was certified to LEED Platinum & BREEAM Outstanding. These are the highest green building certifications possible.  

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Reframe Your Perspective 

APA’s products continue to gain popularity amongst fabricators due to their inherent and innovative interchangeable-part design, resulting in an increased speed of assembly as well as a significant reduction in stock holdings. These window systems are fabricated with expandable cast cleats and secured with conical screws allowing them to be dismantled, recycled, reproduced and reused, contributing to the circular economy of the construction industry. This is not the industry standard: a lot of competitors use corner crimping when assembling their windows, a process that makes dismantling (and recycling) implausible. 

“We don’t allow people to crimp our  corners,” said Mr Harney. “As a result, our systems enable us to be more flexible, as one can construct the system in-house and then disassemble them ready for safe and simple transportation. Another plus is their contribution to a circular economy. Once the systems are old enough to be replaced, they can either be dismantled for proper recycling, or refurbished and reused in another building.” 

APA Façade Systems provide solutions to enclose every elevation of the building envelope, from windows and doors to louvres and solar shading. 

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Brise soleil (solar shading) can be  hugely beneficial to the environment and  the building’s overall operational costs. Brise soleil substantially reduces the need for air-conditioning during the summer by controlling the level of sunlight entering  the building. This subsequently lowers the internal temperature which consequently reduces energy consumption. 

APA Facade Systems also developed an app. This significantly reduced the amount of paper used, whilst also providing customers with access to technical information at the click of a button. The app removes the need to carry around and leaf through clunky manuals, enabling customers to search for specific product information whilst on-site on their phones, tablets or laptops.  

We used to provide our partners with manuals, and these books were really thick,” Mr Harney said. “We would give away hundreds of them in a year. The development of our app meant that we could provide links to technical sections, ensuring our clients quick and easy access to a solution. It is a complete digitisation of everything we do.” 

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Closing the door on CO2

The time frame set out for APA’s sustainability plan is 2030. Over the next seven years, the company is determined to reduce its carbon footprint by 50%.

There is an increasing importance on responsible component sourcing,” Mr. Harney said. “Our sustainability team works closely with the purchasing depart-ment to continue to assess the supply chain. We are actively in discussion with the entire chain, searching for new ways to reduce the global warming potentials of every component.”

The majority of APA’s products have already obtained Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) providing data about the environmental impacts of a product through its life cycle. These declarations are the industry standard; APA, however intends to use them as a stepping stone to improve the sustainability of all products.

“Discussions surrounding the topic of EPDs started many years ago,” Mr Harney explained. “I personally contacted most of our suppliers and asked them if they knew what an EPD was. At the time, many of them didn’t. So, we have learned together, implementing sustainable improvements. That’s the beauty of it, we’re all on the same journey towards a brighter future.”

APA Facade Systems are members of the Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) – the country’s leading sustainable building authority. All members of the IGBC are united in one common goal – to accelerate the transformation of the built environment to one that is sustainable through leadership, research and education.

“The IGBC helps companies understand the industry’s environmental impact and offers training and support to advance an organisation’s sustainability journey,” Mr Harney said. “They have been great mentors to us and have assisted with all our concerns. They are really involved, continuously working hard to encourage people to improve their carbon impact.”

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The solution is Less Pollution

APA’s sustainability plan was built on the UN Sustainable Development Goals; as a result, the company aims to slash its carbon footprint in half by 2030. Once this goal is accomplished the next step will be reaching carbon neutral status before 2040.

“To achieve our sustainability goals, we are dedicated to increasing the use of recycled components, managing water and energy usage,” Mr Harney said. “We also plan to improve our waste manage-ment systems, in the hope of successfully progressing towards a circular economy in every way possible.”

Always striving to improve, APA frequently updates product designs to meet the ever-evolving thermal performance and sustainable standards required in the construction industry.

“Our research and development team are always looking for ways to improve our products,” explained Mr Harney. “Our ST Window Suite was first introduced to the market over 20 years ago. Since then, there have been multiple enhancements, with our latest window, the passive house standard ST90, specifically designed to meet the ever-increasing thermal efficiencies required by architects and their design teams.”

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In another step on the road to a green future, APA hopes to move away from anodised finishes. Anodising requires the use of primary billet aluminium (aluminium ore that has not been used previously) which requires 95% more energy to create than a recycled billet. APA offers anodic powder coating as a more sustainable solution.

“Anodising enhances any impurities on an extruded profile, which is why primary billet has to be used,” Mr Harney said. “The whole electrochemical process consumes extreme amounts of energy and negatively impacts the environment. A great alternative would be anodic powder coating, which provides the same appearance and colour consistency
of standard anodised finishes without the environmental strain.”

When discussing his time at APA Facade Systems, Mr Harney was very reflective: “I joined the company six years ago and the fenestration industry was entirely new to me, which was both terrifying and exhilarating,” Mr Harney concluded.

“It was exactly what I needed. APA is like a family, and it’s a great place to work because everyone here cares about creating the best products in a high-quality sustainable manner.”

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