Green Friendly: Straight talk is beautiful

Green building professionals, LEED designers and conservationists look to a number of factors to determine what makes a green friendly window. Fiberglass is becoming a leading window material of choice for building green. Its proven environmentally friendly aspects contribute to achieving LEED credits and status. What exactly makes Fiberglass windows green?

A LEED Material of Choice

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ encourages and accelerates global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices through the creation and implementation of universally understood and accepted tools and performance criteria. Fiberglass windows are among the approved materials to develop structures that meet this criteria to achive LEED certification.

Energy Use

Most experts and consumer advisory groups agree: energy use is considered to be the most important environmental factor to consider. That’s why consumers are encouraged to look at ENERGY STAR, the National Fenestration Ratings Council and Energy Rating values as proven indicators of high-performance windows. It is also proven the energy efficiency of fiberglass is the highest of all frame materials compared to PVC, aluminum and metal-clad wood.

Longevity

Fiberglass windows have an outstanding life expectancy. Dubbed “the first 50-year window”, the combined long life and efficiency of fiberglass windows significantly reduces then need for purchased energy, which means that their impacts on resource depletion and embodied energy is also limited.

Materials Used

The raw material for fiberglass is natural. Fiberglass for window frames is made from 65% - 85% silica sand. Silica sand is melted and spun into glass fibers, with minimal waste. The excess is recycled into other products.

Resource Depletion

The raw material reserves for silica sand are plentiful. In addition to minimal waste, the remainder is reused and re blended for other products such as asphalt. The amount of petroleum is relatively small and contributes to a durable product that has a long life and energy efficiency not available from other window frame materials.

Emissions During Manufacturing

Glass fiber production is a closed process, with few emissions escaping to the environment. Resin manufacture is also a closed process, with very few emissions. Fiberglass pultrusion has the lowest embodied energy consumption compared to other frame material, with very little energy used to manufacture the product.

Ozone Depletion

There are no ozone-depleting chemicals used in the manufacture of fiberglass windows.

Expert Assessment Example:

The environmental impacts of windows were studied as a part of the design process for the Waterloo Region Green Home. Engineers considered eight environmental factors when the decision was made to install Accurate Dorwin fiberglass windows. A comparison to metal clad wood and vinyl high-performance windows considered:

Materials Used
Resource Depletion
Manufacturing Emissions
Embodied Energy
Energy Used During Life
Ozone Depletion
Emission During Life
Disposal

From this standpoint, fiberglass windows have the lowest overall environmental impact.