A federal initiative to introduce more energy-efficient glazing systems to the U.S. market has morphed into a competition encouraging the production of cost-effective commercial secondary glazing systems.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Building Technologies Office is sponsoring the American-Made Building Envelope Innovation Prize. The challenge offers up to $2 million to promote affordable secondary glazing systems production. The goal is to improve the efficiency of commercial windows.

The challenge offers up to $2 million to promote affordable secondary glazing systems production. The goal is to improve the efficiency of commercial windows. Graph courtesy of DOE.

According to the DOE, the prize targets innovative solutions for upgrading inefficient windows to enable building retrofits and optimize building envelopes for electrification. The prize will help establish, support and expand innovation in window systems and push teams to rapidly develop and deploy cost-effective solutions in the secondary glazing systems market.

Competitors will secure equity-focused pilot(s) in low-income multifamily or underserved public sector buildings as a component of their commercialization plans.

Secondary glazing is one option in a broader “kit-of-parts” to address the national need to enhance the overall performance of building envelopes, says Stephen Selkowitz, retired researcher, current affiliate for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and former group leader for LBNL’s windows and envelope materials group.

“The use of a secondary glazing will generally be a faster and cheaper retrofit option than a full window or curtainwall replacement,” he explains. “When a major building renovation and reuse with new HVAC is planned, a full window/façade replacement may be the best choice, although often costly and time-consuming involving occupant relocation. Secondary glazing solutions will be faster, cheaper and less disruptive in an occupied building.”

Per the DOE, secondary glazing systems can be installed without replacing existing windows or altering the building’s exterior. They also increase resiliency and comfort and reduce the building’s energy consumption. Selkowitz explains that secondary glazing can function for decades because the technology for glazing, coatings, insulating glass units, frames and seals is well-proven.

He adds that DOE’s challenge is a vital step forward for the U.S. to enhance window performance in existing buildings. The U.S. still lags behind Europe, which has already promoted new programs to encourage cost-effective glazing retrofits and replacements.

“The DOE prize is designed to increase focus on secondary glazing systems as a faster, cheaper solution to enhance window performance in existing buildings, which are not good candidates for full window replacement, and thus create large potential new markets for the glass and window industry,” he says.

For more information about DOE’s American-Made Building Envelope Innovation Prize, click here.


  1. Why not just study the European glazing methods, they were decades ahead of us in making aluminum window frames more energy efficient with the isobar thermal break which was originally brought to the US by Michael DeRosa CEO of Keystone Industries, New Castle PA. Mike is employed by Graham Architectural products in his current position as chief operating officer.

  2. These systems already exist and have been produced. Why spend the money one redesigning the wheel, when a few small tweaks to existing systems can retrofit commercial systems easy enough.

  3. Europe has not already “invented the wheel.” They are using slightly more expensive stone tools than we tend to use in our more cost-conscious American world of window frames. I expect the winner will look at the VIG (vacuum-insulated glazing) retrofit currently underway in the Grant Deneau Tower in Dayton, Ohio, and suggest significant improvements to that state-of-the-art work. I would hope the winner(s) will be creating systems with whole-unit (center of glass plus frame) R-values of at least 10 (U-value = .1). Much higher R-values are very possible. Innovation will be required to make such units practical.

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