The whole idea of environmental responsibility has turned into a cultural bloodbath between two perspectives, particularly; today vs. tomorrow, save vs. invest, science vs. faith, personal wealth vs. community well-being, or some other set of flash points. I must state here that my feelings fall with the tomorrow, invest, science, and community sides of the arguments. If your feelings are closer to mine than not, continue, if not, have a nice day.
Windows and Doors Affect the Environment
As is relates to windows and doors, it is important to look at the environmental impact on the making of the product and separately on the use or function of the product. I don’t believe that if you can care about one that you can ignore the other. Mindfulness of the making and use of products is important to understand the total environmental impact.
OK, let’s take the make side first. In window making we usually think about the use side first. We ask what is the “U” value or thermal conductivity of the system to evaluate the impact of energy loss which equals heating and cooling energy costs. This in turn means natural resource consumption to make us comfortable.
Reduce Energy Consumption
Well insulated frames and glass can help to mitigate this environmental cost. It can also be offset by using renewable energy sources like solar and wind. Either way, the impact of “product in-service” needs to be considered and balanced in a responsible manner. As a designer and manufacturer of 2Fold® steel windows and doors, I have made our products great thermal insulators so that the “use” condition will reduce non-renewable consumption or reduce the load on renewable ones. Both methods of mitigation are well served with a responsibly designed product.
The other side of the environmental coin is the “manufacturing” side of the product that helps in the “use” side responsibility. You can serve two masters when they serve the same goal. The manufacturing side has two divisions to it: the materials environmental impact and the manufacturing process to make the window or door.
How Do You Make an Environmentally Responsible Window/Door?
Windows and doors are principally framing and glass. The glass is an important decision because it makes up to 90% of the surface area and it lets in light, warms helpfully in winter, and prevents unbearable heat in summer. Shading and coatings are available from every manufacturer to help you make a responsible decision. Framing is where there is a lot of difference from one maker to another.
Insulated Frames Help
Framing falls into three categories: metal, wood, and plastic (vinyl and pultrusion). Here is the skinny on each. Plastic is a petrochemical which means it comes from oil or gas meaning there is an environmental cost in depletion.
Wood is renewable, but not all woods are created equally. Hardwoods come from rainforests typically and take a long time to grow. Their increased use is not sustainable forever. Softer woods are more easily replenished, therefore, having less long-term negative impact.
Metals like aluminum require a huge amount of energy to separate from their ore, but their recyclability offset some of that. Aluminum also requires a thermal brake which is made from plastic to meet the “use” requirements of responsibility which is a negative. Steel has the least impact on the environment because it is almost all made from recycled material; it also has a lower thermal conductivity, about half that of aluminum. Except in extreme northern climates, a thermal break is not often used.
Who Puts Environmental Responsibility First?
Having spent over 40 years designing and manufacturing windows and doors, I set out to make the ultimate product. In-use all 2Fold® products have superior insulation over even thermally broken steel and aluminum products using the steel+glass+Accoya® design philosophy. In material selection, steel is recycled and has little negative impact environmentally. The Accoya® used on all interiors of both sashes and frames is the most environmentally responsible wood around. It is harvested in 12-year growth cycles, treated with natural vinegar process called acetylation, and is guaranteed against rot for 25 years even if submerged in water.
The environment is very important to 2Fold®. We do everything we can to support environmental responsibility so that we can have a long future at peace with Mother Nature.