The DOE Building Technology Office’s 188-page Multi-Year Program Plan 2016-2020 was just released last week. That’s a lot of reading, so I’m going to break down the key points that are most important to you as a fenestration professional – some of which might be disturbing to some viewers.

This is the third multi-year plan released since I started tracking DOE’s Building Technologies Office activities and, although the dates have shifted, the targets are virtually unchanged for residential windows. However, it is clear that the DOE has learned a great deal about costs and technology hurdles, and this plan reflects the challenges we all face introducing new technologies, including:

• Lack of high-performing materials for windows;
• High manufacturing costs for windows;
• Costly installation of windows, and;
• Lack of ability to simulate windows or building envelope.

We’re all familiar with these challenges; but consumers are also applying their own pressure. They are more aware of cost paybacks and are seeking shorter returns from energy-saving upgrades. The DOE is responding by looking for ways to target paybacks in as little as two years. Two years. How is that possible?

How is the DOE is responding to challenges?

1. They are looking to develop low-cost, next-generation window technologies, including highly insulating windows, dynamic windows, and window film and visible light redirection technologies, with focus on low-cost materials and manufacturing processes to reduce the total installed cost.

2. They are looking to improve the accuracy of testing and modeling capabilities, including window design tools.

3. And finally, they are starting to look at alternatives to window replacements, such as attachments and films that can be installed with far less labor cost.

Regarding the third point, if you read the section on windows and building envelopes (see page 93), you will probably find it upsetting. However, The View from Here is as it’s always been. It is better to be informed than surprised.

The upside might be that the DOE comes up with new low-cost materials for windows that help manufacturers develop practical products to meet these challenges. Time will tell.

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