Photovoltaic Windows Cut Energy Use in Highly-Glazed Buildings

Researchers at the National Energy Laboratory (NREL) reported in a November 2022 study that highly-glazed skyscrapers can reduce energy use and emissions by 40% with high-performance photovoltaic glazing.

The study, Photovoltaic Windows Cut Energy Use and CO2 Emissions by 40% in Highly Glazed Buildings, was conducted using a software called PVwindow. Developed by Lance Wheeler, a scientist at NREL, and his twin brother, Vincent, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin–Stout, the software allows users to model the design of PV windows for building simulations. The researchers considered buildings with a window-to-wall ratio of 95% for most of their analysis to clearly illustrate the impact glazing has on building energy performance. Improvements in glazing technologies, such as triple-pane windows, helped improve the energy efficiency of buildings but are not yet widely used.

“I don’t want to sit here and say we should be building highly glazed buildings,” Lance told NREL. “We should be building highly efficient buildings. But if we choose to keep making these buildings, we’ve got to reconcile their lower performance somehow, and PV windows are one way to do that.”

The study concluded that, while energy use increases when a building has more windows than walls, adding PV glazing decreases energy usage. Additionally, the researchers stated that “combining PV glazing with PV panels installed on the building’s exterior, particularly on the east and west facades to capture morning and evening sunlight, can enable a skyscraper to achieve a net-zero energy status.

Software Promotes Sustainable Design

Digitalization is changing the fundamentals of company operations. The glass, glazing and metal industries have taken heed, as highlighted at the American Institute of Architects Conference on Architecture 2023 (A’23) in San Francisco. A number of exhibitors showcased new solutions designed to help architects who work with glazing products.

YKK AP America Inc., for example, showcased its newest collaboration with software developer cove.tool. The Atlanta-based software company develops building design applications to help fight climate change by updating how the architecture, engineering and construction industry uses data, automation and cost optimization. The partnership allows YKK AP to provide architects with verified data and simulations to select
products that help achieve their project’s carbon, cost and energy targets.

As a result, the architectural design process is much more streamlined, says Steve Schohan, YKK AP’s marketing and communications manager.

“Architects originally would have to go to their code books, consult various professionals and visit multiple places to get information,” says Schohan. “Cove.tool is basically a one-stop shop for decision support for a project. It’s based on Environmental Product Declarations, which have all the manufacturing information, U.S. Department of Energy data and other data that cove.tool collects and combines into a total picture to determine how products impact the environment.”


Deceuninck North America has earned recertification from Green-Circle Certified, a third-party verifier that provides independent evaluations of sustainable products and operations … Saint-Gobain and Hydro Building Systems have partnered to help developers and specifiers create more sustainable, lower embodied carbon buildings. The two companies aim to drive decarbonization by “helping the building industry design sustainable façades that have circularity built in.” … AGC Glass Europe announced that its plant in Seingbouse, France, will start producing low-carbon float glass that boasts 40% less carbon.

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