Help Your Office Building Compete

An efficient fenestration system appeals to tenants and saves on operating costs.

Help Your Office Building Compete

Energy-efficient fenestration in an office building attracts satisfied tenants.


Rich Walker, American Architectural Manufacturer


As the construction deep-freeze thaws, as it eventually will, the competitive environment will make it more important than ever for new or remodeled commercial buildings to attract investors and prospective tenants. Determining the optimum combination of building performance and functionality to achieve such appeal depends heavily upon the building’s fenestration system, which involves careful attention to a number of design considerations. Many of these are of greater concern and consequence for commercial projects than for residential applications.

Green credentials

Today, green credentials demonstrably move projects to the top of the desirability pecking order. The 2008 Green Building Survey, conducted by National Real Estate Investor, New York, states that corporate respondents are willing to pay an average of 4% more for LEED-certified buildings; developer respondents say they can charge an average of 3% higher rents for green properties. This fact is not lost on developers and owners. According to New York-based Turner Construction Co.’s Green Building Barometer, 75% of commercial real estate developers, rental building owners, brokers, and others say the credit crunch will not discourage them from building green. A full 84% of respondents said their green buildings have resulted in lower energy costs, with 68% reporting lower overall operating costs.

For these reasons, green building is one of the growing bright spots for the U.S. economy. Verifying the trend, New York-based McGraw-Hill Construction’s Green Outlook 2009 report states that the value of green building construction starts increased five-fold from 2005 to 2008 and could triple by 2013.

For fenestration products, green building encompasses a variety of design considerations. Energy efficiency is the key element, together with beneficial daylighting to supplant electric lighting, and an emphasis on products with minimal environmental impact throughout their lifecycles.

The building’s location determines outdoor design temperatures (winter lows and summer highs), which dictate the windows’ required level of heat-transfer coefficient (measured by U-value), as well as solar heat gain (measured by the solar heat gain coefficient, or SHGC). Because energy use in commercial buildings is typically dominated by cooling loads, a lower SHGC is often desirable. However, buildings in northern climes can benefit from higher SHGCs as a means to offset thermal transmittance losses. These values are optimized as needed by the use of insulating glass units (IGU) with inert gas infill, and warm edge spacers separating the inner and outer lites (panes), framing with inherent or engineered integral thermal barriers, and glass with special coatings such as reflective glazing or high-performance low-e coatings.

AAMA (American Architectural Manufacturers Association, Schaumburg, IL) is developing a point-system-based green certification program for scoring the green credentials of window and door products. The program is intended to help designers and specifiers select products that will maximally contribute to whole-building green rating systems such as the LEED program, and the Green Globes assessment and rating system for commercial buildings.

Structural considerations

Windows must meet certain basic requirements for structural performance. The International Building Code (IBC) requires that windows meet the performance requirements of AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2/A440-08, NAFS-North American Fenestration Standard/Specification for Windows, Doors, and Skylights or a referenced predecessor. These standards define minimum structural performance requirements, as well as the window’s ability to resist air infiltration and water penetration due to wind-driven rain. For a product to gain entry to one of these performance classes, it must be tested to withstand progressively higher minimum design pressures derived from the maximum wind velocity likely to be experienced at a given geographical location. Several different performance classes are defined by their minimum design pressure, water penetration resistance, and air-leakage resistance requirements and identified according to their typical application: R, LC, CW, and AW. Windows for most office buildings, particularly multi-story ones, are likely to fall within the CW or AW classes.

Sound control

Studies indicate that office productivity increases when intrusive racket-from traffic, airplanes, mass transit systems, and other outside noise-is reduced. For noisy urban environments, products identified as acoustic windows should be chosen and tested for sound-transmission loss, and assigned a sound-transmission class (STC) and an outdoor-indoor transmission …

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How to Build an Eco House

Building an eco-house does not mean to renounce comfort or to take a step back in the past. A house made with respect for the environment means health, wellbeing, financial independence and durability. A natural home means protecting nature, health and future.

Advantages of eco houses

Currently, more and more people are looking to move in a home that is friendly with the environment, because of the obvious advantages compared with classical houses. An eco-house is partially or integrally made from recyclable or natural materials, from the structure to walls and finishing. Even since the project phase, you have to consider the land type where you are building, the position of the sun throughout the day or the wind direction.

The most common material used is wood, but just because you are building a wooden house does not mean you are building an eco-home. In the last centuries, people preferred the ‘modern materials’ such as concrete, glass and iron. In the past years, building concepts tend to go back to origins, people preferring original and energy-efficient houses. Moreover, these are sometimes more resistant than traditional buildings.

Principles to consider when building an eco-house

An eco-house should improve the quality of interior air by its design. It is an important aspect, as it comes with effects on our health and mood. A green home must ensure a humidity of 30%-50% throughout the year, enough for the air not to feel dry, but also to avoid extreme humidity that helps the creation of molds.

Materials for building can even be found around the house. It is possible to use straws, bamboo or special type of argyle bricks, reducing the costs. As we are talking about natural materials, you can be sure you are preserving the health of everyone living in the house.

  1. Efficiency and ergonomic

The walls made of natural materials come with a high coefficient of thermal insulation. Such a house is warm during the winter and cold during the summer. Temperature is constant for a longer period, meaning you can save up to 75% of the costs to heat or cool the house.

  1. Resistant

Natural materials, contrary to the beliefs of some ‘specialists’, are more resistant to earthquakes and fire. The majority of materials used are flexible, or they simply don’t burn. If you are able to choose an optimal combination of such materials (like walls made of straws and covered with argyle), we can have a house resistant to all the common known disasters and accidents.

  1. Eco-friendly appliances

A green house isn’t complete without putting thought into the home and kitchen appliances that it will house. What’s the point in building a eco-friendly home and then using energy inefficient appliances or appliances that have a high carbon footprint? This footprint could be during use or in the manufacturing process. Carefully review energy ratings and manuals to ensure you buy only certified low energy use appliances like microwaves, fridge, etc.

  1. Cheap

As a green house is made of durable materials, the costs of building are covered in the long term. If we are able to find construction materials in nature, those will be cheaper and easier to build. Using solar or wind energy will save more money on the long term. Plus, considering the interest of more and more families for these types of constructions, it will be a lot easier to sell your home for a good price after a while.



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Rehabbed Building Gets “Green” Doors

The Univ. of Washington School of Medicine’s medical research and development facility is housed in a former utility building that was gutted and remodeled with wood-veneer doors from VT Industries.


Approximately 225 five-ply, wood-veneer doors from VT Industries were used in the renovation of the utility building that houses the Univ. of Washington School of Medicine’s new medical research and development facility.

When the Univ. of Washington (U of W) School of Medicine, Seattle, needed an off-campus medical research and development facility, it chose to renovate the former Washington Natural Gas utility building, which was known by those in the area as “The Blue Flame Building.”

The U of W’s School of Medicine, which is the only medical school within a five-state region and one of the country’s leading research and training institutions, was designed to be environmentally sound. Although the utility building’s shell remained in place, the building was gutted and renovated from the ground up. Builders Hardware & Supply Co., Seattle, became involved with this project because the architect and contractor had worked with Holstein, IA-based VT Industries Inc.’s area sales representative on previous projects.

While Doug Gerbing at Builders Hardware worked on the hardware specifications, VT’s Norm Jost worked with the medical research and development facility on its wood-door specifications. Martha Tackett, contract consultant, Builders Hardware, and VT Industries also worked together with Mike Matter, project manager, Turner Construction, Seattle, on the project. Builders Hardware provided the hardware, architectural wood doors, hollow metal doors, and frames for the entire project. The specification was written around the university’s desire to have an environmentally friendly project.

The majority of the wood doors throughout the project were non-rated and 20-min. units made with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) SmartWood certified stave core lumber. SmartWood is a sustainable forestry program administered by the Rainforest Alliance, New York, an international conservation organization. The project also consisted of 60- and 90-min. singles and pairs, depending on their exact application within the building. “With this project, the university was very willing to be environmentally friendly with what they chose for the project,” Tackett reported. “It has never actually gone for LEED certification and, because of the building type, we probably would not have quite gotten there. Instead, it as all about using strong principles and doing what everyone thought was the right thing,” Matter said.

All of the approximately 225 doors used in the project are five-ply, wood-veneer construction. For the building’s common areas, the veneer is plain sliced American Cherry with a clear factory finish. The majority of doors are installed in laboratory areas and are plain sliced White Maple veneer with a custom factory finish.

“My role as the wood door consultant was to estimate, detail, and manage the wood door part of the project,” Tackett explained. The project involved several architectural changes, finish, and size approvals that needed to be met.…

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New School Concepts Produce Building Prospects

When the Wynn Resort opened on the Las Vegas strip in 2005, it had a tremendous impact on the demand for classrooms in Clark County. Every one of those 2,698 hotel rooms created 3.5 new jobs, from blackjack dealers to clerks at the local supermarket. Jobs are bringing people to Las Vegas in droves, making it one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. With these job seekers come children-lots of them. Currently student enrollment is about 255,000 and is increasing at a rate of 12,000 to 14,000 students a year.

Tremendous population growth in areas such as Las Vegas; loss of population due to suburban migration in cities such as Portland, OR; and the need to replace buildings that are no longer functional are factors that are creating new markets for architects and builders. Photos courtesy Andersen Windows Inc., Bayport, MN.


While Clark County’s enrollment growth is atypical, many school districts across the country are faced with a growing enrollment. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Washington, U.S. public school enrollment rose 20% between 1985 and 2001. The fastest growing segment is elementary schools. During that period, elementary enrollment soared from 27 million to 33.6 million students, a 24% increase.


This growth in student enrollment is overcrowding many schools. Another NCES survey found that 22% of the nation’s public schools were overcrowded. Overcrowding is defined as having a student population that exceeds a building’s capacity by at least 5%. Nearly 10% of the nation’s schools are operating at 125% of capacity.


However, not every school is overcrowded. According to NCES, about 52% of the nation’s schools are under-enrolled. In Portland, OR, enrollment has dropped from 52,091 to 47,140 during the past five years due to an ongoing migration to suburbia. Only one in four Portland city households have children. In 2005, one school was converted to a special-education-program facility and another was closed. In 2006, the district is considering closing more schools, selling or leasing its two administration buildings, and moving administrators to school sites.


Even with declining enrollment, districts such as Portland need to replace antiquated facilities. The average Portland school building is 61 years old. The city’s high schools are an amazing 70 years old.


Nationally, the average school building is 42 years old. During the 50s, 60s, and 70s, schools were built as quickly and cheaply as possible to meet the needs of baby boomers. Most of those buildings are no longer serviceable. The NCES reports that most U.S. school districts have at least one inadequate building. New Jersey, for example, is funding new schools in 30 districts with facilities deemed substandard in a 1997 court decision.


All of this comes at a time when districts need to improve test scores, increase accountability, control energy costs, and work with reduced operating and capital budgets. Most districts finance construction through bonds or more creative methods, such as temporarily increasing the local sales tax. No matter what the funding method, new-school construction only happens if the district’s voters approve the new construction. Hence, the aging buildings.


One bright spot is that many of the fast-growing districts are resisting the temptation to slap together large, cookie-cutter schools. Instead, they are building smaller, higher-quality schools. From a timing standpoint it takes no longer to build three small schools than it does one large school. Also, small schools can solve the where-to-build problem, especially in cash-strapped urban areas where it is easier and less expensive to locate smaller amounts of land.


The small-school model also costs less per student and yields better results. Outcomes from a project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle, show the annual cost per student is 16.8% less than other schools in the same school districts. Additionally, almost every graduate to date has been accepted by a college.


The project began in 1999, when The Big Picture Co., Providence, RI, received a grant from the foundation to help create 12 small urban high schools across the country. In 2003, it provided additional funding for 44 more schools. Currently, 34 schools have been built, including the six schools that make up the Met Center in Providence, RI. Four more are …

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