Energy Efficiency Isn't the Only Consideration How Green Are Your Windows

When it comes to the windows in your building, like most people you’re probably focused on energy conservation—keeping the air conditioning inside in the summer and the cold air outside in the winter. While you’re probably aware that not all replacement windows are created equal, when it comes to energy savings, there are other “green” alternatives that your board may wish to evaluate when selecting replacement windows.

First Steps Taken

Believe it or not, by considering replacement windows, you’re already accomplishing one of the big-picture goals for environmental sustainability. Updating and maintaining existing housing stock is environmentally friendlier than tearing down and rebuilding (not that you were considering that, but it’s good to know.)

Along the same lines, make sure the windows you’ll use have a long life cycle. If you’ve never replaced the windows in your building, you’ll want to ascertain the guaranteed aspects of various window products from every potential window supplier, as well as the overall projected life span of these window products. One obvious reason to undertake such an analysis is to examine the annual cost of the windows; however, the environmentally correct choice is to select the windows that have the longest projected life span. A longer-life window product means less waste in landfills, fewer trees cut

down, less pollution and less energy wasted in the manufacture and distribution of replacement windows.

Assessing the experience of other buildings can be beneficial to your own board/management team. Check with neighboring buildings or others in your management company’s portfolio that have replaced their windows within the last five to seven years, see how happy they are now with the results, and ask when they expect to replace those windows. Their answers might surprise you.

Beyond the Macro Impact

Being a good world citizen can be quite satisfying. But in the end, cutting energy usage for your residents is critical in order to meet their objectives, such as controlling energy bills while keeping living spaces comfortable year-round. While many window replacement companies focus on the window frames to prevent air drafts, retaining heat or air conditioning, most of the surface area of a window is glass—and not all glass is created equal.

Some panes have special coatings to heat rooms in the winter and keep them cool in the summer. Some manufacturers trap special gases between double-paned windows to reduce heat transfer through the glass. To get the best possible combination of these features, look for windows with high ratings from the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).

Another aspect of glass consumers should be clear about is protection. And not in the sense of buying glass that won’t break. Energy-efficient glass (often called “Low-E”) will help your residents protect their furniture, carpets, and wall coverings from fading due to expose to ultraviolet light—something that’s probably equally important to you in common areas of your building.

The Frame Game

Although Shakespeare didn’t ask, “what’s in a frame?” building administrators most definitely should. In evaluating frames, there are three key qualities to consider: strength, durability, and the level of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that the frame contains.

Frames can be built of vinyl, aluminum, wood or composite materials.

Plastics oxidize and degrade over time, releasing volatile organic compounds into living spaces that can affect people’s allergies, asthma, and overall health.

Though they are not exactly the same, strength and durability—the other two key factors—are related. Obviously, window frames in older buildings need to withstand the installation and use of window air conditioners. But, let’s face it, not too many buildings are facing that situation. In window parlance, the term “strength” relates to a window’s ability to resist wind and storms. Windows expand and contract based on their exposure to heat, cold, and sunlight, and some materials are more resilient than others. Look for materials that can stand up to repeated weather cycles while retaining their original shape and position.

Again, composite materials have good rigidity, strength and are environmentally sound. When it comes to durability, we return to one of our opening points—how long will the windows last? Durability comes into play in terms of weather resistance, the need for regular maintenance and repair, and the impact another replacement down the road will have on the environment.

In addition to the green aspects of replacement windows, windows should also appeal to your aesthetic sense and fit the style and look of your building. That’s an article for a future issue—but the next time your board/management team meets with a replacement window company, be sure to ask, “How green are your windows?”

Geri Kruszewski is marketing/events manager for Cranford-based window company Renewal By Andersen.

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