Volume 36, Issue 1, January 2001


One Size Fits All

Window Film Offers Security, Aesthetics and More to Residential and Commercial Projects
by Virginia L. Kubler

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As we enter 2001, the use of window film in commercial and residential buildings continues to increase for a multitude of reasons. Facility managers and homeowners now commonly turn to window film to solve a whole range of problems that are concomitant with the increased use of glass as a building material. Sales of solar control window film have grown at more than 10 percent per year for the last 12 years and are predicted to continue to grow at this rate in the years ahead.
While the primary reasons for the use of window film remain energy savings and protection from the damaging aspects of sunlight, technical evolution has brought to the market a wide range of specialty films to answer specific and varied needs.
The following is a review of the principal areas in which solar control window film is being put to use today.

Energy Conservation
Glass is crucial to the energy efficiency of buildings. Windows typically account for a quarter of the total heating load and may account for more than half of the summer time cooling load. The more than 1 billion residential windows in the United States account for a total energy consumption per year of 3.2 percent of the country’s total energy usage—more than 1 million barrels of oil a day are used to offset wasted energy. With fuel prices set to rise as much as 30 percent this winter, it is clear that homeowners and facility managers will look for increased window energy efficiency. In the winter, costly heat loss can be reduced by as much as 75 percent with the installation of low-E window film, which will reflect heat back into the building. In the summer, by blocking the sun’s infrared energy, solar control film reduces overheating in a building’s perimeter and lowers the load on the building’s cooling system.

To cope with a huge problem with wasted energy, the city of Denver recently installed Vista Ambiance VER 35 low-E film on most of its properties. The high-tech film helps retain interior heat in the winter and rejects exterior solar heat in the summer.

Building Aesthetics

Improving the appearance of a building is another reason to turn to window film. Films suitable for this task run the gamut of virtually clear (which provides excellent visibility from the exterior and the interior), to high-reflectant films that offer almost no visibility from the outside while maintaining visibility from the inside. A highly-reflective film can deliver a clean homogenous look, and also eliminate the inside view of books, cluttered desks or other materials placed against the windows. Color provided by different sputtering metals and density offers alternative aesthetic options.


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Fading & Glare
By blocking 99.9 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet light, window film can eliminate fading damage to carpets, furnishing fabrics, wallpaper, fine woods, antiques and artwork almost totally. Discomforting glare also is reduced greatly.
Interior Décor
Today, window film is being used commonly to provide individuality in interior offices, partitioned office areas and glass entranceways. A multitude of film patterns and treatments ranging from simulated frosted glass and Venetian blinds to dramatic blocks and polka dots are available. Even custom designs, such as those that incorporate corporate logos, are available upon request. These designer films offer an attractive alternative to treated glass and come with an inherent shatterproof property.

Safety
Earthquakes, civil disturbances and acts of terrorism, combined with the increased use of glass in buildings, have increased the public risk of injury from broken glass. Some window films, such as Llumar Magnum, a laminated film of polyester and metallized coatings bonded by a unique adhesive system, can drastically reduce damage and injury from broken window glass. These films form a shield across the glass to which it is fitted so that if the glass is broken most of the pieces will be held in place.

Security
According to FBI statistics, in the United States more than 5,000 residential burglaries take place every day. Two-thirds of these burglaries occur as a result of an intruder smashing through exterior glass to gain entry. The installation of safety-security film will frustrate and delay anyone trying to break in and thereby increase the chances for law enforcement officers to catch the felons red-handed. Even if the windows or doors are smashed, the film will provide protection from glass shards for those who are inside.

Electronic Security
Windows control the amount of electromagnetic radiation entering and exiting buildings. In offices, incoming electromagnetic radiation can negatively impact sensitive electronic equipment. Outgoing electromagnetic radiation can create a risk for loss of data via electronic eavesdropping. Metallized window film will frustrate electromagnetic penetration.

Graffiti Protection
When installed on windows, glass plate doors, mirrors or stainless steel surfaces, anti-graffiti window film will protect the surface against vandals and glass taggers. The patented crystal clear, scratch-resistant coating and film laminate absorbs scratches in its surface and helps prevent them from being transferred to the glass beneath. Because it is installed directly as a retrofit item to the surface, it can be simply removed and replaced, thereby eliminating the need for expensive replacements.

Window film will do more than improve energy efficiency, building aesthetics, sunlight protection and safety. It also will contribute to productivity by enabling the use of natural lighting in a building through perimeter and roof windows. Surveys have shown that people in naturally daylit areas tend to be happier and also become more productive—whatever their occupation.