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Above and Beyond: Windows Exceeding Energy Performance Codes Bring Host of Benefits

Posted By Tom Herron, National Fenestration Rating Council, Monday, April 28, 2014

According to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), the amount of energy lost through windows represents four to five percent of total U.S. energy consumption at an annual cost of $50 billion. Yet fewer than 30 percent of commercial buildings use high-performance windows, doors, and skylights – otherwise known as fenestration.

One way building owners can save energy, facilitate sustainability, and maximize their return on investment is by requiring these products to exceed energy performance codes.  

Many people assume using more windows increases the potential for energy loss. In reality, however, the right windows actually enhance overall building performance. The judicious use of fenestration reduces energy consumption by decreasing HVAC and lighting loads while allowing natural ventilation. Furthermore, buildings with above-energy-code fenestration command higher resale value, minimize environmental impact, and improve an organization’s reputation.

High-performance fenestration also offers many other benefits. For example, multiple studies reveal that adequate daylighting improves productivity in businesses, increases sales in retail stores, facilitates learning in schools, and promotes faster healing in hospitals.

Another important -- although somewhat lesser known -- advantage of high-performance fenestration is that it helps reduce peak loads on the energy grid, decreasing stress and increasing reliability.

Exceeding Code: Good for Owners, Good for Tenants

While fenestration energy-performance codes are evolving to improve minimum standards, surpassing these standards protects owners and tenants from the unforeseen financial consequences arising from short-sighted design or construction decisions. Demanding windows, doors, and skylights that exceed energy performance codes also encourages the fenestration industry to develop products that are more efficient and to create innovative design strategies.

Moreover, building owners who demand above-energy-code fenestration demonstrate their commitment to green construction and sustainability. By sharing these energy performance ratings, owners are enabling their clients to make educated, informed decisions when buying, renting, or leasing a building. By helping their tenants minimize utility bills, owners are also helping themselves by staving off the potentially high cost of future retrofits.

Financial Advantages to Building Owners

Buildings consume about 70 percent of the electricity in the U.S. This makes it more important than ever for owners to insist on above-code energy performance from their windows, doors, and skylights. While sometimes overlooked, analyzing the value of high-performance fenestration during the integrated design process is a practical strategy that can maximize return on investment and help make our buildings greener, cleaner, and more sustainable.

Perhaps most compelling of all, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that building energy codes will produce a financial benefit to owners of nearly $2 billion annually by 2015, increasing to over $15 billion annually by 2030.

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