October 14, 2019

Rethinking Commercial Framing as Codes Evolve

by Eric Thompson

By now you’ve likely heard about the battle for the wall—whether on this very blog or elsewhere. It’s an important topic in our industry these days, and it has manufacturers and glaziers grappling with increasingly stringent thermal performance in applications of all kinds.

Whether it’s Mayor Bill DeBlasio blasting glass skyscrapers in NYC or the California Energy Commission’s goal of all new commercial construction achieving net zero energy consumption by 2030, these conversations are happening coast to coast. And it’s the duty of the fenestration industry to make sure our products and services are delivering the kind of performance the future will require.

Within the commercial space, where glass is king in the latest and greatest architectural designs, it’s important that we’re deploying the right technologies for glass to perform at its best—warm-edge spacers, low-E coatings and beyond. More broadly across commercial space, there’s ongoing opportunity to enhance thermal performance by rethinking commercial framing materials.

And that leads to a question: Is the industry ready to move beyond metal?

While vinyl windows have long been king in the residential space, aluminum and other metallic framing have continued to reign supreme in the commercial space largely due to the materials’ significant structural benefits.

But metal transfers heat, leading to a huge loss of energy, and that could become a bigger concern as the code crunch inevitably continues. There have been advancements of course—thermal break (strut or pour and debridge) technologies are used to isolate the conditioned space from the outside environment. These strategies aren’t extraordinarily complex, but continuing to “level up” when it comes to energy performance could become increasingly challenging.

That road may lead to dual pour and debridge, multiple or wider struts, foam filling or other options, but all add complexity and cost to the finished unit. So why not look elsewhere? There have been recent breakthroughs in domestically produced vinyl framing technology that can provide the thermal efficiency and structural integrity required in a variety of commercial applications.

While not yet widely adopted, high-performance vinyl framing can offer a simplified, cost-effective solution to the thermal/structural challenge for most commercial punched-opening and window wall applications. Just five years ago, these technologies weren’t taken very seriously in commercial circles. But today, with the help of some basic reinforcement materials, they are getting increased attention as they can help maintain thermal performance, structural integrity and design simplicity where it matters most.

Along with the technologies we’re already using to make glass more efficient, vinyl framing made by trusted extruders can help commercial windows deliver thermal performance to match tomorrow’s demands. It’s worth increased exploration by manufacturers looking to succeed in the commercial space with new and differentiated products.

Questions or comments? Contact me directly at Eric.Thompson@Quanex.com.

For more information about Quanex visit www.quanex.com
Posted: October 14, 2019 by Eric Thompson Filed under: vinyl, windows