During the 2022 Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance (FGIA) Hybrid Fall Conference in Chicago this past week, Marc LaFrance, Windows Technology manager, Department of Energy (DOE), provided updates to the DOE’s new research and development opportunity report.

The report, “Pathway to Zero Energy Windows: Advancing Technologies and Market Adoption,” is finally completed, says LaFrance. It outlines several avenues for technology development, deployment and adaptation to increase the impact that windows have on decarbonizing U.S. buildings.

The report states that windows have the potential to reduce U.S. annual energy use by 1.7% and CO2 emissions by 1.9% in 2050. The report adds that the adoption of dynamic and static technologies would substantially reduce peak electricity demand from buildings, and improving window performance would increase occupant comfort and well-being.

The report’s objectives include:

  • Identifying challenges to current technologies;
  • Articulating technology research and development areas targeting these challenges;
  • Quantifying cost and performance targets for future technologies;
  • Highlighting key cross-cutting impact areas; and
  • Discussing strategies to accelerate high-performance technology commercialization and adoption.

Why does all this matter?

LaFrance says that “45% of the heat loss of the building envelope is associated with windows. That’s enormous, and yet, why do people want windows? Everybody wants that connection to the outdoors. Windows are that connection. Yet, it comes at a significant price with energy loss.”

LaFrance says that there have been some energy-saving success stories. These include the adoption of dynamic glazing, low-cost, manufacturing-ready low-emissivity coatings, window design, rating and labeling that support programs such as ENERGY STAR, which helped drive code adoption by requiring whole window performance evaluation, along with high-performance commercialized glazing and frames.

There remain challenges and barriers to adopting advanced window technologies and reducing the energy footprint, though. These include controlling heat transfer and air leakage, controlling and utilization of light at the façade and the installation and integration of sensors and controls for dynamic facades. The biggest problem, LaFrance says, is getting through to politicians.

“Everybody gets the windows issue,” says LaFrance. “They get the opportunity and the benefits of high-performance windows. But policymakers don’t get it. I don’t think we are getting to the policymakers.”