Volume 9, Issue 9 - October 2008


Selling a Greener Window
What Motivates Green Home Improvement?

Rising energy costs and fears of global warming are leading cities, states and consumers toward energy-efficient construction practices. According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), greenbuilt homes will account for up to 10 percent of new construction by 2010, and two-thirds of all home builders expect to be involved in green building to some degree by the end of 2008. Factors such as state regulations, tax rebates, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) credits and personal expression are also driving consumers to greener living spaces.

States are encouraging (or in some cases requiring) new construction to be friendlier to the environment. According to USA Today (August 7, 2008), nearly three times as many cities and counties approved green-building policies last year as did four years ago.

On July 17, California became the first state to enact a green building code (see story on page 26). Aspiring to increase energy efficiency and reduce water consumption, the new energy standards increase the stringency of former statewide standards by 20 percent.

Examples of California’s mandatory requirements for windows include:
• Air Leakage – Rates must not exceed 0.3 cfm/ft.2 of window area;
• U-factor – Must be rated in accordance with National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) 100; • Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) – Will be rated in accordance with NFRC 200 or NFRC 100 for site-built fenestration; and • Labeling – Fenestration products must have a temporary label listing the certified U-factor, SHGC and air leakage requirements and must not be removed before inspection of the enforcement agency.

Tax rebates are proving to be a significant incentive in driving the demand for environmentally friendly homes. A few programs offering financial incentives for homeowners to go green and get some “green” back include:
• San Francisco offers homeowners rebates up to $6,000 for installing solar panels;
• Cincinnati residents are eligible for 15-year (new construction) and 10-year (renovated) 100-percent tax abatement for buildings valued up to $500,000 that are constructed to LEED standards; and
• President Bush extended some of the tax credits provided by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (www.energytaxincentives.org).

Homeowners aren’t the only ones reaping the benefits of sustainable homes. Commercial property owners are starting to see “green” as well. A 2007 study by the CoStar Group and the University of San Diego confirms that LEED certified buildings outperform peers not only in energy use, but in the building’s ROI as well.

How do windows fit into the LEED equation? First, a home must qualify for ENERGY STAR® by either achieving a specific home energy rating-score or having a combination of features that meet specific performance levels. Once ENERGY STAR qualifications are met, there are two ways a home can gain LEED points:

1. A home energy rating score showing it exceeds the minimum performance of an ENERGY STAR home. Windows influence this score through variables such as U-factor, SHGC, orientation and size; and

2. Individual home features (insulation, windows, water heater, etc.) that exceed ENERGY STAR performance levels. Windows can contribute two or three points if their NFRC-rated energy performance values meet specifications.

Apart from regulations, tax incentives and LEED credits, some homeowners also see going green as a way to express their personalities and lifestyles. Windows can play a part in this self expression.


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