Money-Saving Products focuses on products that support commercial buildings and create cost-savings to facilities managers and building owners. The winners were selected by our editorial staff and it was based on the relevance to commercial building management and also the potential for cost-savings.
BUILDINGS’ editors chose this product for its sealing ability and longevity, which provides vaulable energy savings. But this product has other features as well that caught our eye.
REHAU’s System 4500 windows and doors are an affordable way to let in daylight and fresh air without the potentially costly pitfalls posed by other window materials.
The uPVC construction, compression seals and welded corners save money on maintenance, replacement and building damage by keeping moisture out and conditioned air in.
The tilted operation also makes it easier to clean—you can wash the outside of the window from inside the building instead of hiring someone with scaffolding or other access equipment to clean from the outside.
The windows are especially popular in denser communities that are close to high-noise environments like airports and highways, explains Corrie Neukirchner, director of marketing and corporate communications for REHAU.
“We’re seeing an increased demand for highly noise-insulating windows and increased interest in sustainable and energy-efficient solutions,” says Neukirchner. “This is a great product for building owners to differentiate their properties and ensure occupant comfort and health.”
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Janelle: Hi. This is Janelle Penny, editor-in-chief of BUILDINGS media. I’m here with Corrie Neukirchner. She’s director of marketing and corporate communications with REHAU. And REHAU was recently honored as an Editors’ Choice winner for BUILDINGS’ annual Money-Saving Products awards for its System 4500 Windows and Doors.
Congratulations on being named an Editors’ Choice winner, and welcome, Corrie.
Corrie: Thank you so much. We’re super excited to have been chosen. And this is a great honor being here, talking to you today. Thank you.
Janelle: Awesome. So, tell me about the product.
Corrie: Oh, where to begin? So, basically, let me start by introducing the topic of windows a little bit. Basically, most people when they hear “windows,” when they think of doors, they think about daylighting and how it really improves occupant moods and increases worker productivity.
But when it comes to the energy-conscious side and design implications with that, a lot of people wrestle with what it means for the solar heat gain in the summer and the heat loss in the winter.
Enter our System 4500 UPVC design, which is basically an architectural window and door line that achieves a commercial CW rating, and provides the highest performance regarding pretty much everything you need here—so wind and water penetration, structural integrity, as well as thermal and acoustical insulation—all the while giving great design versatility when it comes to color choices and configurations.
So, it’s a UPVC window and door system that’s basically used in high-rises and has a really wide scope of commercial building applications—think schools, offices, health care, government facilities. But the system can also equally be used in your regular single-family home and multi-family construction.
What makes this system really unique is its somewhat non-traditional operation, which here in North America, we’re not necessarily used to. So, it’s basically a system that allows for a dual operation. On the one-hand, tilting in for safe and secure ventilation.
But you can also open it up all the way for faster ventilation, but also for ease of cleaning and really outstanding performance based on the system design and the compression seal technology.
Janelle: Great. So, what challenges does it solve?
uPVC Framing vs. Aluminum
Corrie: So, when we think of commercial applications, like the ones that I mentioned before, really the framing material choice has been and continues to be aluminum. So, it’s really not because the material is so great, but it’s kind of always been used and it’s really top-of-mind.
But let’s look at some of the downfalls of aluminum.
Aluminum has mechanical corners. That’s just the nature of the product. But if you put a mechanical corner into a building that, as we all know, it’s going to move with the earth. And with everything that’s happening, eventually these corners, as they’re moving with the building, will start to leak. That leakage will seep into the building and eventually, that’ll lead to mold. It’ll lead to things like corrosion, and that greatly reduces not only the life of the window system, but also overall of the building.
In addition to that, we also know that aluminum has a very high thermal conductivity, which requires the use of thermally broken aluminum window and door systems and, additionally, higher rated insulated glass units. And these two factors together are driving costs for window or door systems up tremendously.
Now, if we think of System 4500 uPVC Windows and Doors, they cater to all the benefits I mentioned before when people think of aluminum windows. So, you have the structural integrity because the system uses steel reinforcements.
At the same time, you can also apply countless color options that can even mimic the appeal of other materials. If we have a designer that’s really into the aluminum look, we can definitely make that system, the better performing system, look like alumninum, or like wood or any other possibility, really.
But then the great thing about the system is really that it doesn’t possess any of the alumninum downfalls.
A uPVC system has fusion-welded corners, which basically means there’s no chance for any water to penetrate the building structure and seep into its core. Therefore, we’re increasing the longevity of the window and door system, but also overall of the building’s health.
Also compared to alumninum, the thermal conductivity of PVC, which is 0.11 compared to 1.37 for aluminum, is resulting in a much higher thermal performance. Which is obviously is great for energy efficiency.
Janelle: Right. So, you mention efficiency, material costs and avoiding water damage, which obviously gets expensive very quickly. Can you elaborate on how it saves money?
Corrie: Yeah. Absolutely. So, just touching on that last point, the energy efficiency, so based on the uPVC material on the one hand, so just basically on the thermal conductivity that I just explained. But on the other hand, the compression seal technology. And that’s something that’s inherent to the System 4500 design.
So, if you think of your traditional North American systems, your hungs and your sliders, that’s what we call a friction technology, because you don’t really have a seal that’s actively compressed.
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If you think of the part of the window that’s inside the wall, which is the frame, and then the operable part, which is the sash, in the System 4500, these two parts are being actively compressed using hardware, using multi-point locking systems. That means there is a much tighter fit. So, hot air from the outside that you don’t want to let out because it’s summer and it’s hot and you want to contain your AC is not going to get in. And reverse in the winter.
Those two things, material as well as the compression seal design work together really nicely and basically drive the U-value, which is the measure for thermal efficiency, really low.
On the other hand, going back to the mechanical corners that I mentioned for aluminum windows, so knowing that over time, the aluminum windows and their mechanical corners will leak and seep water into the building structure. Obviously people have made precautions and are starting to install sill flash pans into the building structure that is basically designed to catch that water that leaks from mechanical corners.
This is a precaution that is not only adding additional steps to the installation process, it’s obviously costing money, it’s costing time, which ultimately, is also costing money.
All of these things, all of these additional steps, you can just do away with, with System 4500 because of the welded corners, because there is no way the water is ever going to get in.
Longevity Benefit: Service Life
Additionally, going in line with what I just said is the increased longevity.
So, if you think of aluminum windows, their service life is really somewhere between 5 to 15 years. When you think of uPVC, it’s really upwards of 35 years. We have projects over in Canada, we have projects in Europe that have been installed for more than 50 years, and the windows are still very operable, they’re functional, there’s absolutely no need for them to be replaced.
So, that obviously helps building owners to be enjoying their system for a much longer time.
And then, finally, the other point is the maintenance aspect of uPVC windows compared to aluminum, but also compared to wood windows, where you have to over time, because of weathering and other environmental factors, apply paint, apply other agents to basically keep the window nice and smooth.
With the uPVC surface and the material properties that it comes with, none of this is necessary. All you have to do is give it a good clean with water and soap, and that’s all that’s ever needed.
Janelle: Sounds great. What else can you tell us that’s unique or interesting about it?
Unique Safe Ventilation
Corrie: I would say the most unique factor about this system, the factor that stuns more people, is really the operation because it’s something that people aren’t used to. The reaction we get from people who have seen it before and are a big fan of it is mostly people who’ve traveled to Europe and seen it in operation there.
It is a very unique system when it comes to the operations, because it’s just not what we use typically in North America. But it provides very safe ventilation, so you don’t have to be worried about kids getting out of a hung window or a sliding window that you opened to get fresh air in. So, that’s a great benefit.
And the additional benefit of opening the window all the way to the inside, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on getting cleaners to take care of the windows from the outside. You can actually take care of everything from the inside. So, that’s a great benefit.
The other point of what makes System 4500 such a great system is the versatility of the system. So, with basically a limited number of profiles, we’re able to create a huge number of configurations.
We can build picture windows, we can build operable tilt-turn windows, we can build hoppers, tilt-slide doors, swing doors, French doors—a configuration combination of a number of units, so it’s super flexible and really caters to everybody’s desires and design needs.
The other point that I touched on is the safety issue. So, not only is it a very secure system when it’s in ventilation setting, but it is also very safe when it comes to forced entry. Because of multiple locking points and hardwood, it goes all around the sash perimeter. It is practically impenetrable. So, there’s no way for a burglar or somebody who is trying to get in from the outside to conquer it.
So, it’s a really safe choice as well for single-family homes where you’re basically on the ground level as well as higher up floors in commercial settings.
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An additional point and I touched on that is the color variety that the system offers. So, a lot of times, people say, “I’m not into the PVC look. I don’t like that white vinyl look of things. I don’t want that in my office, I don’t want that in my home. I don’t what that in whatever setting.”
So, there’s really no need to let that limit you because you can pretty much put any color that you want in there. And like I mentioned, you can even imitate the look of other materials if you’re really into that more rustic wooden look, or if you’re more into the modern aluminum look, so that’s all totally feasible.
And then, lastly, which is in my opinion and experience, a factor that’s been growing specifically in the multi-family and commercial aspect is the growing interest in sustainable choices.
So, again, people, when they hear “PVC”, they might not necessarily think, ‘Oh, that’s the most sustainable choice.’ Compared to aluminum though, it very much is for a number of factors. No. 1, the raw material that uPVC is based on is 57 percent salt. So, it’s a very natural portion.
The other aspect is that it’s fully recyclable. We are using recycled material when we produce our window systems. When you’re done with your window system and you want to put a new system in, or you just don’t need it anymore, the system can be recycled.
And then, overall, if you count in the production of uPVC versus aluminum, you count in the life cycle of both products, the carbon footprint is about 80 percent lower for uPVC compared to aluminum. So, it is a truly much more sustainable choice when it comes to window framing material.
Janelle: Interesting. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Corrie. And thanks to everybody out there listening.
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