Study shows benefits of window retrofits in buildings

October 3, 2012

The use of retrofitting projects in the commercial real estate industry is increasing in the U.S., as companies are beginning to see that this alternative to complete replacement efforts is much cheaper and just as effective.

According to a new study from The Preservation Green Lab, projects where the windows in a building are simply upgraded instead of replaced is a cost-benefit to companies, as the significant savings and performance levels that are achieved are demonstrated in the research.

The study, "Saving Windows, Saving Money: Evaluating the Energy Performance of Window Retrofit and Replacement," analyzes decades of research for multiple types of buildings.

"A number of existing window retrofit strategies come very close to delivering the energy benefits of high-performance replacement windows – at a fraction of the cost," said Mark Huppert, technical director of the Preservation Green Lab. "From weather stripping and sealing, to installing exterior storm windows or interior cellular shades, almost every retrofit option offers a better return on investment than outright replacement."

Not only were these projects shown to be just as efficient as the use of a completely new product, but the area in which they occurred did not impact the effectiveness of the retrofit as a whole.

"Whether you live in Boston, Chicago or Phoenix, the conclusions are nearly identical," said Kirk Cordell, the executive director of the National Center for Preservation Training and Technology. "With careful planning, it's possible to affordably increase the energy efficiency of a home or residential building without compromising its design quality or historic character."

Investing in a new window project is usually something that homeowners struggle with, as the type of changes to make to existing products is difficult. This is also applicable for those businesses that choose to install a new setup instead of altering an older version.

According to an Energy Star release, for newer windows, the type of material and the location of the project tend to be more of a factor.

"Do your homework and research the windows you’re buying and the company that manufactures them," noted one industry expert. "Not all windows, nor window companies, are equal. Price is important, but it’s not the critical factor. The key is investing wisely and making sure your replacement windows meet ENERGY STAR® guidelines for your geographic area."

Regardless of the type of renovation or retrofit project that is being undertaken, promoting the installation of efficient windows is one of the goals of projects like the Philadelphia-based Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub).