Strategic Window Selection Offers Green, Economic Benefits

One area that plays a vital role in making buildings greener and more sustainable while providing a greater return on investment is choosing the right fenestration products – windows, doors, and skylights.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), new buildings that are not certified by a national, third-party system face an uncertain future. In fact, they even risk being functionally outdated by the time they are ready for occupancy, and this can quickly lead to obsolescence in today’s challenging marketplace.

The Role of Windows

The installation of high-performance windows leads to many important benefits. While they typically require a greater initial investment, they provide improved comfort, increased value, and a higher return on investment in the long run. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), buildings consume 40 percent of the energy in the U.S., and high-efficiency fenestration could reduce this amount by up to 25 percent.

Explaining Efficiency

So what exactly is high-efficiency fenestration?

There are two major factors that determine the energy efficiency of a fenestration product. The first is the U-factor. This is a measurement of heat loss. U-Factor ratings generally fall between 0.20 and 1.20. The lower the U-factor, the greater the product’s resistance to heat flow, and the better its insulating value.

The second major factor that determines the energy efficiency of a fenestration product is the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC). The SHGC measures how much of the sun’s energy (both visible and near-infrared light) striking the window transmits as heat into the room. The SHGC is based on a scale of zero (for no heat gain) to 1 (for 100-percent heat gain).

In cold Northern climates, it is advisable to use products with a SHGC to capture as much of that passive solar energy as possible. An SHGC of 0.55 and higher is recommended for this region. In hotter Southern climates, however, a lower SHGC of 0.4 or less is recommended to keep the solar energy out. In climates where heating and cooling are equally important, an SHGC between 0.4 and 0.55 is best.

When considered as part of the integrated design process, one can weigh these factors to help decrease the high amount of energy buildings are currently using.

Business Benefits

The U-factor and the SHGC measure fenestration performance from a technical perspective, yet it is also important to understand the accompanying business benefits.

While savings on energy costs are important, properly placed fenestration products can help buildings command higher rent, achieve faster leasing, secure greater occupancy, and generate higher resale value.

Furthermore, installing the right kind of fenestration products can reduce operating costs, create a healthier work environment, increase productivity, improve one’s reputation for being a good corporate citizen, and achieve potential tax benefits.


Developers around the world continue to face challenges. The growing emphasis on socially-responsible property investing, however, offers considerable rewards to green builders. With careful planning, they can install fenestration products that produce a strong return on investment in hard dollars and soft dollars. The best part of all is that windows have a long lifespan. Once they’re installed, you can just sit back, enjoy the view, and reap the rewards.