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Volume 6   Issue 8               September  2005

WDMA  Opens Up

The New Look of 
Windows, Doors and Skylights

         by Jeffrey F. Lowinski

Doors, windows and skylights are critical to project design and manufacturers are upping the ante with new innovation and technology. 

Wood is good and better than ever. New processes, treatments and other application-specific-materials make this natural product stronger than nature intended. But it’s not about wood only today. Vinyl, aluminum and a host of other materials make up the world of windows, doors and skylights, and include special extrusions and coatings which are environmentally friendly and high-pressure decorative laminate and other processes which replicate the look of wood. Materials are also no problem for doors. Wood, vinyl, fiberglass and steel are also readily available in styles and sizes to satisfy most architects and specifiers.

Thousands of standard sizes in all types of windows, including double hung, sliding, casement, awning and others, give designers the freedom to create focal points simply and effectively. Cladding is far from boring: colors from forest green to peach and beyond are available to add pizzazz to the project. Divided lites, rectangular, half round, round, oval, skylights, sun tunnels and more enlighten architecture while creating visual excitement. 

In doors, varieties of stiles and glazing options adorn an opening effectively. Sidelites and transoms are obvious, but there’s also decorative leaded and obscured glass to add a custom twist to the mix. There’s more—doors have fire-ratings to meet or exceed building codes and glass curtainwalls and expanses can also satisfy life safety and fire egress criteria while letting in light and vast expanses of views.

What’s New?
Heat gain and energy loss are no longer necessarily a custom or high-cost issue. Glass and glazing products offer advanced thermal performance and energy savings. Low-E coatings are the norm and some units are filled with inert gases for greater insulation and improved technology. Exterior doors feature insulated construction, state-of-the-art weatherstripping and other energy-based design features.

Migrating from the research arena is the new electrochromic glass. This technology allows the glass to change state when an electric current is applied over its surface. These types of windows can block the glare of the sun or provide instant privacy with the flip of a switch. Electro-chromic windows are part of a new generation of technologies called switchable glazing or smart windows—which change the light transmittance transparency or shading of windows in response to an environmental signal. VELUX USA recently expanded its line of skylights to include electrochromic technology offerings for some of its products.

When Mother Nature dishes it out, a new generation of impact- and wind-resistant products can take it. Many WDMA members have products that meet or exceed building codes. These products are far from wimpy. In fact, products are tested to impact levels in accordance with ASTM standards. Large and small missiles that can be carried by the wind are assigned missile levels. For example, Missile Level C products can be used in 110 mph zones and non-coastal areas in the 120 mph zones. Missile Level D is required for 120 mph coastal areas and all areas in the 130, 140 and 150 mph zones. The zones and the requirements for impact-rated windows are established by the International Building Code. The mph wind speeds actually exceed these numbers during a hurricane; they are average wind speeds that are met during a hurricane for specific areas or regions. The large missile used during impact testing is a nine-pound 2-by-4 shot at 35 mph or 50 feet per second for Missile Level D. 

But it’s more than windows that meet impact-resistant requirements of the codes. French doors as well as other glass door units, skylights and entry door systems are also available, tested to the same requirements as their window counterparts. 

Selecting doors, windows and skylights is a critical component in your next project. Windows can make an artistic design or signature statement. Find out what these products have to offer by making them the focal point. y

Jeffrey F. Lowinski serves as acting president of the Window and Door Manufacturers Association based in Des Plaines, Ill. 

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