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Walloon firm invests in high-tech glazing for energy-efficient buildings

09:57 04/02/2020

AGC Glass Europe is investing €10 million in the group’s plant in Wallonia, to build a production unit for its new vacuum glazing. The technology, called Fineo, will be produced primarily to thermally and acoustically insulate windows in both residential and office buildings.

Fineo is being produced as part of RenoWindow, a joint venture between AGC and the Walloon region, with Wallonia providing about 45% of the funding. RenoWindow will also provide a service in Wallonia to replace older glazing with more advanced technologies such as Fineo directly in consumers’ homes. The investment in the plant in Lodelinsart, a district of Charleroi, should initially create 20 jobs, with more expected from the glazing service.

For this venture, Wallonia is drawing from its Kyoto funds, made available for projects related to energy conservation and environmental protection. The construction sector accounts for more than 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in the region. Investing in more advanced glazing technologies helps improve the energy efficiency of buildings, aligning with Wallonia’s broader emissions reductions goals.

“RenoWindow is fully in line with the government of Wallonia’s long-term strategy for building renovation and energy saving, aimed at reducing overall emissions of greenhouse gases by 80 to 95% between now and 2050,” says Jean-Luc Crucke, Wallonia’s energy minister.

Likewise, AGC Europe invests about half of its R&D budget on environmentally friendly technology, and has been developing Fineo’s technology for some time. “Everything linked to energy savings, environment, sustainability, that’s a huge part of development in our portfolio,” says Marc Foguenne, the company’s VP for technology and innovation.

Fineo was designed to provide acoustic and thermal insulation that is equal to or better than triple glazing. With a thickness of 8mm, it is about a fifth to a quarter smaller than similarly sized units, and a third lighter. It is composed of two 4mm glass sheets, with 0.1mm of vacuum in between. Thanks to its thinness, Fineo can be used to replace glazing in older windows while completely preserving the frame, leading to a much faster, cheaper replacement process with little to no waste material.

RenoWindow’s glazing replacement service will be AGC’s first B2C activity and will be tested in Wallonia first. “The goal now in Wallonia is to test the market, and if it works our goal is to expand in other countries,” says Foguenne. “Basically it could be in the whole of Europe.”

Reglazing can be completed within a day or less. The service can be accessed through a helpline, as well as a web portal offering free estimates and bespoke assistance. Customers can submit a picture of the windows they wish to have reglazed, receive a visit from an expert who will draw up an estimate, and complete the renovation in a final appointment. “We try to make it extremely simple and seamless,” says Serge Martin, new business development manager at AGC. “RenoWindow offers to the end-user to do the reglazing of the window to achieve better energy performance, with a competitive cost at the same time.”

AGC Glass Europe has its headquarters in Louvain-la-Neuve, producing and marketing glass for the construction and automotive sectors. Formed in 1961 as the glass industry boomed in Wallonia and formerly known as Glaverbel, it was bought in 1981 by AGC Group, the Japanese glassmaker. It has a revenue of €2.4 billion and about 16,000 employees across Europe, with 2,000 in Wallonia.

This article was first published in the WaB magazine

Written by Betina Kiefer