The path to net zero: Energy-efficient window choices for a sustainable space

See how energy-efficient window specifications provide effective insulation and reduce waste to help move your next building project toward zero emissions

Three ways your window choices can make your next residential building project more sustainable.

As more homeowners pursue a path toward passive housing, or housing that uses 90% less energy than a similar, standard-sized home, designers and landlords are focusing on reducing energy consumption through efficient heating and cooling options, such as geothermal or radiant heating. But home energy efficiency doesn’t have to stop at climate control systems.

Windows are among the top “energy-consuming” elements of a home. Twenty-five percent of a home’s energy is wasted as it escapes through flexible framework, poor sealing, and thin glass — all of which result in ineffective insulation.

To avoid each of these window woes, consider the following energy-efficient window tips modeled in the three projects below when designing your next sustainable home.

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Energy-efficient window tips for your next sustainable building project

Tip 1: High-stability frame materials can reduce costs and waste.

Traditional window frames can bend, causing windows to crack and the seals around them to break and letting air and water move freely through the window. Broken windows like these require replacement and often wind up in landfills. Many window frames are also made from materials that conduct heat, reducing the efficiency of the insulation they provide.

Fully recyclable materials offered the project managers and building engineers renovating this 1927-era, Boston home a low-cost but high-performance option that will steer clear of the waste in a landfill. High-stability, fiber-composite (uPVC + glass-fiber) frames provide the strength and stiffness of steel without the heat-conducting properties of metal.

Tip 2: Compression seals and welded corner joints reduce heat escape and encourage longevity.

Once window seals and joints begin to deteriorate, the insulation of the home is compromised and windows often need to be replaced. Drafts and leaks tax heating and cooling systems in a home — increasing energy usage and homeowner expenses — while broken windows create waste after they are replaced.

The 265 windows in Orchards at Orenco —  currently the largest passive-house-certified, multi-family housing complex in the nation — will let little to none of the freezing Portland air inside. Highly elastic seal material placed at three levels surrounding the window withstands continuous stress over time, resulting in fewer leaks, drafts and window replacements.

Traditional windows also have mechanical corner joints that deteriorate over time, letting water and air from the outdoors seep in. Choose windows with welded corner joints and durable seal material to ensure effective insulation and boost window longevity.

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Tip 3: Multi-pane glass capitalizes on the natural heat entering the home.

Capitalizing on natural energy to heat and cool a home is one of the oldest sustainability tricks in the book. Double-and triple-paned windows allow homeowners to achieve this through a single-investment opportunity.

Windows facing each of the cardinal directions throughout this Minneapolis home use double-and triple-paned glass to capture and block natural heat as needed. Every window has either two or three chambers between panes of glass that are filled with air or argon gas, which is often preferred to air because it does not allow for condensation to build up in between layers of glass. This space between panes of glass provides an extra layer of insulation to help trap the heat that does enter the home inside — a great way to reduce heating and cooling costs.

Whether you are building a ground-up, multi-family housing project with strict energy requirements or renovating a home to meet passive-house standards, sustainable, energy-efficient windows can be the ideal energy savers for your next project.

Visit our website for more examples of building projects utilizing sustainable window solutions.

By Katherine MacNevin, Marketing Manager, Window Solutions

Engineering progress

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