Windows: Beyond Energy Efficiency

The homebuilding industry may still be struggling, but that’s not keeping manufacturers from moving forward with new product releases. RD+B caught up with a number of leading window makers in the days following this year’s International Builders’ Show to see what trends  drive their product-development efforts.

Not surprisingly, energy efficiency is at the top of the list of consumer demands when it comes to window purchases. Beyond that basic requirement, though, design flexibility and attention to detail remain as important as ever. Read on to learn more about window trends and products.

Andersen Windows and Doors

Functionality concerns: “We find that customers want ease. They want energy efficiency, long-term performance, a wealth of design options to choose from and easy operation, with convenience features – like low maintenance – built in,” says Stacy Einck-Eckberg, brand public relations project manager, Andersen Windows and Doors.

Design drivers: “In the higher-end market, we continue to see a focus on options that afford the greatest flexibility in design, with an emphasis on both energy efficiency and sustainable design in materials and manufacturing practices,” Einck-Eckberg says.

Product-design response: “We recently introduced the Andersen Exterior Trim system for our A-Series, Andersen 400 and Andersen 200 Series,” Einck-Eckberg says. “It cuts trim installation for an average house to about one-half day. It’s made with Fibrex composite material that’s factory finished and virtually maintenance free, and contains 40 percent preconsumer reclaimed wood fiber, by weight.”

Kolbe Windows and Doors

Functionality concerns: “The number-one area of emphasis is energy efficiency. Homeowners are more knowledgeable and they are asking more questions about high-performance glass options, including triple pane glass. Depending on the region, other performance aspects also carry great importance, such as hurricane-impact resistance in coastal regions,” says Lance Premeau, market and product analyst, Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co.

Design drivers: “Personalized enhancements and customization are essential to the higher-end market; [these] homeowners crave the ability to individualize their windows. Expanding environmental choices also are important, such as FSC-certified wood species,” Premeau says.

Product-design response: “In 2010, Kolbe expanded its selection of interior wood species to include Lamboo, an engineered, laminated veneer bamboo, manufactured from four of the strongest, fast-growing and sustainable species,” Premeau says. “And Kolbe’s K-Force impact products are constructed without unsightly brackets, visible rods or extra locks [for the] highest performance against the elements.”

Loewen

Functionality concerns: “The demand for products that are energy efficient and sustainable is definitely growing. Many of the code requirements, rebate/incentive programs and green-building programs have caused greater demand for improved product design. Consumers also want products that have longer lifecycles to minimize our footprint on the environment,” says Jon Sawatzky, product and brand manager, Loewen.

Design drivers: “We’re witnessing strong polar growth in both the traditional and modern/contemporary markets. Customers in the traditional segment are looking for products that provide historically-correct details without sacrificing performance. Customers pursuing modern projects are looking for clean lines and minimal profiles. In both cases, there is a general trend toward products that are highly customized,” Sawatzky says.

Product-design response: “Our market segment is focused primarily on the higher end, and to remain competitive, it’s crucial we offer a broad product range,” Sawatzky says. “We’re dedicating more resources to product development and releasing improved products, such as our new Double Hung. Many of our standard features are optional for other companies.”

Marvin Windows and Doors

Functionality concerns: “Energy efficiency is the number-one functionality concern for consumers. And, how a window performs in its 10th year is just as important as how it performs in the first. And as the remodeling and replacement market continues to be strong, homeowners want products that match their existing styles, but perform to modern standards. And ease of maintenance has become a key consideration,” says John Kirchner, public relations manager, Marvin Windows and Doors.

Design drivers:  “We’re seeing a real demand for indoor-outdoor living at the high end. People are looking at products that open up the outdoors. Related to this is a desire for natural ventilation. And grilles between the glass are increasingly popular, giving the look of divided lites,” Kirchner says.

Product-design response: “At this year’s IBS, we introduced our new Clad Ultimate Glider. It’s energy-efficient, smooth to operate and has a removable sash for easy maintenance,” Kirchner says. “Our Venting Picture Window is a true innovation in natural ventilation. This comes with a need for screens, and we’ve recently introduced an improved retractable screen.”

Milgard Windows and Doors

Functionality concerns: “One trend that will not go away anytime soon is energy efficiency. But as standards across the board become higher, expectations for more efficient products that don’t require expensive upgrades also will become higher. And, as we move beyond the era of tax credits, expect to see more emphasis placed on functionality as a way to add value,” says Maureen Faccia, director, fiberglass product management, Milgard Windows and Doors.

Design drivers: “In terms of style, traditional remains strong, as double-hung windows continue to be the most popular choice. However, the tide may be turning, as we’re seeing growth of more contemporary styles, such as gliders, and we expect this trend to pick up as younger buyers enter the housing market in the next five years,” Faccia says

Product-design response: “Given the window’s increasing role as a style maker, and the fact that more people are looking at homes as a long-term investment, we’ve taken a hybrid approach to window design,” Faccia says. “Our Essence Series features fiberglass on the outside and natural wood on the inside, with a new finishing process that allows more exterior color options than wet-coat applications. And our Premium Vinyl Tuscany Series is finding its way into higher-end homes. It offers greater customization, new offerings – such as Swinging Patio Doors, and new exterior vinyl finishes.

Pella Corp.

Functionality concerns: “Energy efficiency is simply an expectation in today’s market. We also have experienced an increase in local codes adopting higher wind-zone requirements and in geographic areas requiring windborne debris protection, which, in turn, requires the use of impact-resistant glazing or shutters. And consumers are looking for features that simply make their lives easier. Windows and doors that have blinds or shades between the glass, for example, eliminate the need for dusting room-side window treatments,” says Polly Tousey, product manager, Pella Corp.

Design drivers: “Customization and design flexibility – we still see a variety of architectural styles that use a variety of different products. For example, wood types, like mahogany, alder and Douglas fir, are used to complement the architecture, cabinets, furniture, floor and trim in the home. European window styles, like French casements and tilt-turn windows, also are becoming more popular,” Tousey says.

Product-design response:  “Pella’s Designer Series windows and patio doors provide the convenience of window fashions between the panes of glass, yet allow flexibility to change the color, fabric or style as your life or décor changes,” Tousey says. “Pella also offers one-of-a-kind products, like our Rolscreen retractable screens, Vivid View screens, the integrated casement crank and the self-closing sliding screen door. And Pella offers the ability to design windows online.

Ply Gem Windows

Functionality concerns: “Energy efficiency is a top factor. Many custom builders are early adopters and are demanding the highest possible ratings from the products they choose. While Energy Star requires u-values in the .40 to .32 range, many custom builders are requesting performance as good as .20 and below, in order to meet their energy-use and green-building objectives,” says Chris Pickering, vice president, marketing, Ply Gem Windows.

Design drivers: “Among higher-end custom-home builders, we’re seeing more move away from white rectangles and express interest in colors and architectural shapes to differentiate and personalize their homes. Builders and contractors in the higher-end  market also are looking for solutions to installation challenges,” Pickering says.

Product-design response: “Architecturally-styled windows are a key component of the Designed Exterior Collection, introduced at IBS to help builders differentiate their homes – architecturally accurate shapes help make a unique statement,” Pickering says. “To create a seamless look, we’ve introduced several accessory products and installation solutions. For energy efficiency, we recently introduced the R-5 Series. And we expanded the Mira Premium Impact Series to include impact-resistant windows in standard double-hung, double-hung stationary, radius operable casement and fixed outswing patio doors.”

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