Window Film News 92

Consider Window Film First

Facility managers tend to look at window film as a last resort, when it should be one of the first options considered for saving money, reducing energy, and protecting occupants and interiors.

Like any renovation, retrofitting a commercial building envelope to be more efficient requires careful planning. Before the decision is made to go ahead with the project, it is important to clearly identify the areas that need improvement. The installation of window film can play a major role in achieving a high-performance building envelope. Window film can be an appealing retrofit option to increase a building’s overall efficiency due to its ease of implementation and relative low cost. Facility managers tend to look at window film as a last resort, when in fact, they should be looking at it as one of the first alternatives. No matter what the particular goals of a renovation may be —extending the life of furniture and furnishings, minimizing occupant disruption, saving energy and reducing demand, downsizing the HVAC system, interior comfort, or even just restoring some of the building’s architectural integrity — installing window film should be considered from the very beginning.

Lower Cost and Less Disruption

Once the decision has been made to upgrade the windows in a building, the cost of a full window replacement versus window film installation should be considered. At one-fifth to one-tenth the cost of replacement windows (depending on the application) window film offers a less expensive alternative. Installation of window film is also less time intensive, with start to finish of a given office completed in just a few hours, many times done during unoccupied timeframes such as in the evening. Replacing windows can shut down the use of a commercial building, room by room, section by section, as windows are replaced, since in many cases not just the window but the entire framed area must be replaced. Window film can be installed with minimal disruption, allowing tenants in occupied areas continued use of the space. From both an economic standpoint and the lack of inconvenience to clients and tenants alike, window film is a viable option.

Heating and Air Conditioning Capacity

If looking to change the heating and air conditioning capacity of a building, or overhaul a low-performing building’s systems, the potential benefits of window film should be considered before system replacement. 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 HVAC equipment or, in cases where more capacity rather than replacement is needed, avoiding a capital outlay altogether. Factoring the potential efficiency increases of window film installation into a renovation may reduce the load on a building’s HVAC system and lower overall capital and operating costs. A building’s air conditioning needs can be calculated with or without window film and the results may show that a capacity increase is either unnecessary or a smaller system than previously estimated may be sufficient, lowering overall capital and operating costs.

Reduce UV Exposure

In large commercial buildings, there is a great demand for large expanses of windows to create interiors with lots of natural light. Though structurally appealing, this can be detrimental to the furniture, draperies and carpet, from the resulting ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which is known to cause 40-60 percent of all fading and sun damage. Curtains and blinds can be used to block the sun, but they also block the natural light and may be subject to UV degradation over time themselves. Applying window film helps reduce the UV radiation from entering the room (up to 99 percent depending on the film) while still allowing the natural sunlight in. This can increase the length of a replacement cycle for the furniture and carpet and other window coverings, and even improve the life of the less expensive furniture in the room. In addition to protecting the furnishings in the building, window film also serves as UV protection for the tenants, aiding in their health.

General Comfort

Installing window film helps reduce glare from excess light, as well as helps with temperature regulation, making it more comfortable for people sitting in front of a window. This is especially true with large window arrays, where it can get hot or cold quickly. Initial instinct would be to put up shades or blinds, but, as mentioned above, these block the natural light. Limiting the natural light would mean that artificial light would need to be provided, thus increasing energy use and cost.

The denial of natural light to building occupants can also negatively impact their productivity and well-being. Studies conducted by the California Energy Commission demonstrate a relationship between low levels of natural light and less than optimum performance on the part of building occupants. People who spend significant time in artificially lit or generally dark spaces tend to feel less energized, get sick more often and be less productive than their counterparts that work and live in natural light. In addition, persons who have extreme skin or eye sensitivity to either intense light or UV are afforded better working environments.

Maintain Architectural Integrity

When working on a retrofit or remodel, the façade of the building needs to be considered. On original architectural plans, the aesthetic remains consistent across all the windows of the entire building. Many older buildings, constructed with clear or lightly tinted glass, begin to take on a different look as tenants moved in. For example, one person may put up curtains in his or her office, another, shutters, and one may have an array of plants. Because of the clear glass, everything is on display, and the original architectural integrity of the exterior of the building has been lost. If a window film with color or colored reflectants is used, then the windows look alike from the exterior view, thus restoring the original architectural integrity to the building and making what is happening inside the building irrelevant to its appearance.

Apart from potential cost and commissioning savings, from a green perspective, choosing window film has less of an environmental impact than creating a new window and disposing of the old one. Window film, both carbon- and cost-effective, reduces a building’s carbon footprint more effectively and for less money than new windows. When looking to renovate an existing structure to achieve a high-performance building envelope, window film installation should be included as an option among other retrofit choices.

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