High-performance windows aren’t just for R&R anymore. A new breed of homebuilders is emerging to appeal to a new breed of consumers who are environmentally conscious, energy-cost conscious and/or just want something different from what everyone else has. Like most businesses, homebuilders need to create points of differentiation to capture the interest of consumers – and improved energy efficiency may just be the key.

However, decades of thinking will not change overnight. It’s been a slow process, but builders are being given more and more reasons to rethink their definition of “builder-grade.” And door and window companies are smart to do the same.

Putting More Energy toward Zero Energy

As I mentioned in previous posts, including “Chasing the Next Low-E” and “In the Year 2020,” Part 1 and Part 2,” the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Building Technologies Office (BTO) is looking to cut heating and cooling loads by 50 percent over the next 20 years. A lot of effort and capital is going into making sure this happens.

Currently, the DOE is funding an initiative called Zero Energy Ready Homes – or ZERH. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy website, a ZERH home is defined as:

“DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes are verified by a qualified third party and are at least 40 to 50 percent more energy efficient than a typical new home. This generally corresponds to a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index Score in the low to mid-50s, depending on the size of the home and region in which it is built.

All DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes are so efficient a small renewable energy system can offset most or all annual energy consumption.”

While the market for ZERH is still incredibly small (~14,000 built) with approximately 251 participating builders, it may already be influencing consumer choices and opinions when it comes to energy-efficient homes. There are also other programs competing in this space, including LEED® for Homes, Passivehaus and ENERGY STAR® for Homes.

All of these programs have three important things in common:

  1. They all have marketing power to raise consumer awareness
  2. They all are asking builders to reduce energy consumption by 40 to 50 percent.
  3. They all require high-performance windows as part of the building envelope.

Expanding into New Markets

For high-performance window manufacturers, this shift in thinking is opening up new opportunities. Companies that have been entrenched in the R&R market now have a reason to take their products to participating homebuilders.

“The View from Here” is if you already have high-performance fenestration products that meet ENERGY STAR Version 6.0 requirements or Most Efficient 2015, you might want to talk to ZERH builders in your market area. It is usually easier to seize an opportunity than to fight a trend albeit slow and small today.

What’s your view? Leave a comment here or email me directly at eric.jackson@quanex.com.

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