- By Kent Davis
- December 1st, 2011
Window improvement projects are often challenging to facility managers as they are expensive, time consuming and disruptive to students and faculty. Instead of replacing windows, facility managers can choose to retrofit existing windows with window film. This choice is a more environmentally responsible decision when considering the waste materials removed (window frames, glass, etc.) and resources expended during the replacement process. Retrofitting
with window film is also a more cost-
effective option than installing new windows. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy’s laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), says that
window film is the most cost-effective way to upgrade a building’s windows. In addition to providing energy savings, UV protection and enhanced safety and security, retrofitting with solar control window film brings many sustainability benefits, an increasingly important consideration for school facility managers.
Solar control window film provides the following benefits to schools.
Windows have a dramatic effect on the energy performance of a school facility. When solar energy penetrates glass, it causes heat to build up inside the building, leading to uncomfortable hotspots and an increased need for air conditioning. The solar heat gain associated with windows makes them an ideal target for efficiency improvements. A big challenge in school facility management is balancing peak energy usage with climate control and interior comfort. Some solar control window films reject up to 79 percent of solar energy, helping to regulate heat absorption that cuts air conditioning use and results in energy cost savings.
Another quandary that school facility managers face when assessing windows is balancing the desired amount of incoming light with the risk of UV exposure. Although natural daylighting is a desired quality in school design, allowing the sun to stream in through windows can expose students, faculty and fixtures to dangerous UV rays. Less than 30 percent of architectural glass manufactured today in North America provides sufficient UV protection. Prolonged UV exposure is increasingly linked to skin cancer. It also causes fading of carpets, library books and facility furnishings.
Window films block 99 percent of the sun’s damaging UVA and UVB rays. Because window film can offer UV protection without sacrificing views or compromising the benefits of natural light, window film is an ideal solution for school facility managers in need of a product for UV protection. Facility managers can choose a darker shade to block more incoming light and enhance privacy, or a clear, barely detectable film and still achieve the same UV benefits.
Improved Building Safety
The safety of students and faculty is often the most pressing concern for school facility managers. Window film can also improve the safety of a building. Specifically designed to hold shattered glass together, safety window film prevents shards of glass from becoming dangerous shrapnel in the event of window breakage during severe weather, earthquake, accident and even bomb blast. Safety film can also provide a deterrent barrier against burglary and common smash and grab crimes by slowing down perpetrator entry. Specialized facilities like schools, government buildings and hospitals often use safety window films that provide both solar control and safety benefits.
Sustainable Design Benefits
The overarching trend of sustainable design and decreased energy consumption continues to apply to both old and new school construction. When retrofitting older schools for greater sustainability, an understanding of retrofitting options is critical for a facility manager. Choosing to retrofit with an energy-saving product will often improve the subsequent system updates that follow. Retrofitting with window film can bring the following sustainability benefits to existing construction.
Peak Load Reduction: Window film helps balance peak energy usage with climate control and interior comfort. Window films reject up to 79 percent of solar energy to regulate heat absorption and cut air conditioning and cooling costs up to 30 percent.
- LEED Benefits: Window films can help buildings achieve points toward LEED certification in categories including energy efficiency, light pollution reduction, glare control, daylighting and thermal comfort improvement.
- System Benefits: According to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, improving window performance will reduce the load on the HVAC system, and in many cases, allow buildings to downsize their HVAC equipment. Another benefit comes from harnessing natural daylight. Unlike other window treatments, window film can allow for visible light, allowing facilities to benefit from daylighting.
Installing window film can boost energy savings and reduce the overall payback period across multiple technologies, important factors for facility managers to consider when planning environmentally sustainable renovations. The versatility and numerous benefits of window film make an attractive option for the school facility manager looking to cost-effectively address the multiple challenges faced when improving their windows.
Kent Davis is Global Marketing Communications manager with Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics.