Windows Help Meet High-Performance Goals

Sept. 1, 2008

Proper window selection and installation can help achieve optimal building performance

Although a variety of organizations have developed industry guidelines and design practices to help building professionals achieve optimal building performance, conserving materials and resources, optimizing energy and operational efficiencies, and advancing indoor environmental quality will always improve business economics, enhance building occupant health and safety, and extend the life of dwindling resources and overburdened landfills. One thing many facilities professionals don't realize: Proper window selection and installation can help achieve such goals.

"With respect to window selection in commercial and institutional facilities, building owners are most concerned about five things: comparative costs, energy efficiency, impact on the environment, aesthetics, and long-term maintenance," says Terry Zeimetz, commercial market manager at Pella, IA-based Pella Corp., speaking from experience as a supplier and an architect. "What's most appropriate for any application is based on the code-mandated performance requirements of the job."

Joel Krueger, associate at The Kubala Washatko Architects Inc. (TKWA), Cedarburg, WI, concurs with this assessment, noting that close scrutiny of any building component, including windows, is a necessity to achieve a high-performing, sustainable structure. As project manager for The Aldo Leopold Legacy Center in Baraboo, WI, Krueger employed a combination of what he calls "low-tech" solutions to yield half of the energy savings for this LEED-Platinum, zero-net-energy building. Reductions in heating, cooling, and lighting were accomplished through savvy design and the selection of insulation, HVAC, and windows for the project. By promoting cross ventilation and bringing in daylight to reduce interior lighting needs—both of which were achieved through the correct placement of high-efficiency operable wood windows—he was able to realize LEED points in two very significant areas of the rating system's Indoor Environmental Quality credit category: Credit 6 for Controllability of Systems and Credit 8 for Daylighting and Views. The added benefit, according to Krueger: "The wood, of course, is beautiful; in a building like this, which is basically constructed of wood, it only makes sense."

In contrast, fixed-frame window systems were selected for a branch of Members First Credit Union in Pace, FL, but, according to David Alsop, project architect for Sam Marshall Architects in Pensacola, FL, one of the design challenges was very similar: to allow as much natural lighting in as possible. Here, Alsop selected sashless windows made from an engineered fiber glass composite and arranged in a variety of configurations—clerestory, punched, stacked, window wall, and entrance—to meet the needs of the project. "One of the main differentiators with a fiber glass-framed window is its ability to perform in just about any environment or temperature extreme," says Pella's Zeimetz, pointing to its durability in coastal locations where salt spray may be a catalyst for corrosion. Alsop also appreciated other factors of the fiber glass-framed system. "The combination of durability, strength, and thermal efficiency, together with a very favorable pricing, led us to the decision to use the fiber glass composite window system," he says. Color options helped coordinate the windows with the building's exterior as well. And, another benefit of fiber glass that points to a sustainable, life-cycle "quality" of such a material is that no repainting will ever be required.

Linda K. Monroe ([email protected]) is editorial director at Buildings magazine.

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