Consider green building products that deliver maximum impact when retrofitting structures.

As the sustainable design movement continues to grow rapidly throughout the U.S., construction business owners face the challenges of keeping up with stringent environmental regulations amid a quickly changing landscape of new "green" materials. These challenges bring great opportunity to the industry, with LEED construction projects on the rise and the overall green building market predicted to reach $96 to $140 billion by 2013, according to Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) registrars, such as and

In addition to planning new LEED-certified construction projects, retrofitting older buildings for energy efficiency can be a lucrative way to bring sustainable design to existing construction. More than 80 percent of commercial buildings in the U.S. are at least 10 years old. The global trend toward a decrease in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has led to numerous incentives for buildings to increase their energy efficiency. In many cases, buildings that make energy-efficiency improvements may be eligible for tax credits and utility rebates. A construction business owner must evaluate criteria of retrofitting building products. For example, does the product:

  • Offer efficiencies in more than one category?
  • Take full advantage of government incentives?
  • Bring third-party evidence that it is good for the environment?

Consider Green Building Products with the Biggest Impact

When it comes to your buildings, understanding retrofitting options is critical. In looking at ways to retrofit existing buildings, consider products that will have the greatest impact on improving environmental sustainability. Choosing to retrofit with an energy-saving product will often improve the subsequent system updates that follow. For example, improving the windows of a structure offers one of the best opportunities for a solid bottom-line return on investment for energy savings. Solar energy enters through windows and causes heat to build up inside the building, leading to uncomfortable hotspots and an increased need for air conditioning. The solar gain associated with windows makes them an attractive target for efficiency improvements. Retrofitting with window film will bring the following green benefits to existing construction:

  • Energy savings: With proven heat-rejection properties, solar control window films help buildings consume up to 30 percent less energy for cooling by keeping interior temperatures lower and more stable. This reduces the need for air conditioning while moderating peak usage and allowing your cooling system to operate more efficiently.
  • LEED benefits: Window films can help buildings achieve points toward LEED certification in categories including energy efficiency, light pollution reduction, glare control, day lighting and thermal-comfort improvement.
  • Systematic 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.


Consider Your Cost

In addition to the environmental benefits of a retrofitting building improvement product, consider cost savings. Will the product reduce operating costs associated with utilities like electricity, heating and cooling? Is the product cost prohibitive to your customers? Even the most environmentally friendly products will be useless to all if costs are too high. One of the U.S. Department of Energy's laboratories, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) at the University of California, confirms that window film is the most cost-effective way to upgrade a building's windows. These cost saving benefits include:

  • Peak Load Reduction: In commercial buildings, window film helps balance peak energy usage with climate control and interior comfort.
  • A cost-effective alternative: On average, professionally installed window film costs just $6.00 to $14.00 per square foot-considerably less than replacement glass. LBNL found that window film tops the ROI list when competing with window replacements, blinds, awnings, shade trees and reflective roofs. Window film Carbon footprint of 1 square Approximate cost of 1 square
  • Improve the ROI of other energy-saving products: Window film multiplies the return on investment of other technologies such as HVAC and refrigeration. For LEED certification, window film can be applied toward six distinct credit categories.

Plan Ahead for Future Green Building Products

Buildings are a significant source of CO2 emissions. In the U.S., buildings produce 39 percent of the total CO2 emissions (2236 million metric tons). According to the U.S. Green Building Council, over the next 25 years, CO2 emissions from buildings are projected to grow faster than any other sector. In light of this, and the increasing awareness of environmental sustainability, stricter rules governing carbon emissions are almost inevitable. To be ahead of this trend, understand exactly what green claims a building products manufacturer is making.

Many companies claim to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions without providing transparency into the environmental cost of the raw materials, manufacturing process, distribution, disposal or recycling associated with their product. Look for building products that have undergone a life cycle analysis (LCA) and have formally published a third-party reviewed document known as a Climate Declaration, reporting the greenhouse gas emissions associated with a product. Or look for products with a full Environmental Product Declaration (EPD), a report which provides the full environmental impact of a product. More information on products with Climate Declarations and EPDs can be found on the following EPD registrar sites: The Green Standard ( or The International EPD Consortium (

By combining window film with other energy-saving improvements, buildings can achieve even greater energy efficiency. An energy improvement plan that includes window film will often require smaller HVAC capacity than a plan without window film. Likewise, lighting requirements may be altered, compensated for with more natural day lighting. Installing window film can boost energy savings and reduce the overall payback period across multiple technologies.

Jami Fry Wong is the global product marketing manager for Architectural Film at Bekaert Specialty Films (BSF) in San Diego. Jami brings over 14 years of global marketing experience to her role at BSF and holds an MBA in International Management from Thunderbird School of Global Management. Wong leads Solar Gard's Architectural team in developing and deploying global, environmentally focused marketing plans and educational outreach.

Construction Business Owner, December 2010