Whether its clerestory windows typical in mid-century modern typologies or walls of glass like in the wildly influential Glass House by Phillip Johnson, embracing indoor-outdoor connection and ushering in natural light through the use of windows is one of the key aspects of modern architectural design. But in many ways, the fenestration industry had to catch up. Early window-centric modern home designs posed challenges to those living in them like wild temperature fluctuations (after all, the Glass House’s glazing cracked under thermal stress) and noise pollution.
Thankfully the industry has risen to the occasion, spearheaded by companies like Western Window Systems. In its 60 years, the Phoenix-based company has been an industry leader, helping pioneer technological advances and challenging norms by giving people access to products that remove boundaries and expand their space. Western Window Systems products can be found in a wide-ranging, impressive portfolio of residential, prefab, remodel and commercial projects, and it is a preferred choice for many of the industry’s top architects, designers, builders and remodelers. We talked to WWS Vice President of Custom Sales, Jeremy Flynn, to get an update on the fenestration industry and what Coloradans should consider when buying windows.
We’ve seen tremendous advancements in energy efficiency, such as advanced thermal break technology for aluminum framing and high-performing low-e coatings for glass. Advanced thermal break technology allows aluminum frames to offer thermal performance close to other materials, like vinyl, fiberglass and wood. But aluminum offers such an advantage in structural performance that there’s an additional payoff in terms of allowing larger sizes and increased daylight due to aluminum’s strength. Likewise, the high-performing low-e coatings that are possible now have increased visibility with lower heat gain. All this allows for more glass without as much concern toward energy bills.
Western Window Systems has embraced the design capabilities of aluminum and what it allows us to do. With aluminum’s strength, we can have massive sizes and narrow sightlines, allowing designers to maximize views and daylighting without compromising durability or performance. We see aluminum as offering the best of both worlds.
We were among the first to offer moving glass walls, and that’s due to the high-quality materials we’ve chosen. Creating strong, durable, beautiful glass doors that can open up and create an indoor-outdoor living environment allows for modern design, but it also offers improved functionality when it comes to ease of accessing the outdoors. We believe the rise of biophilic design, and the benefits of connecting to the outdoors and nature, mean that the modern design focus on windows and doors is going to be a lasting trend.
The purpose of our simulated steel line is to replicate the aesthetics of true steel windows—the sightlines and the sharp, angular grids—while greatly improving the thermal efficiency of this style. Western Window Systems simulated steel line is also much more cost effective and lower maintenance when compared to steel windows, so it’s a great way to get the look without the drawbacks associated with the old style.
Climate is a huge part of how different trends are adapted to different regions. For example, in the Eastern United States, more traditional architectural preferences and configurations might favor the passive solar gain that’s an advantage in cold weather climates. But as some trends, like the modern farmhouse, for example, start in the West and head East, we see adaptations in how we design to fit the needs of the region – like looking at U-values as a leading energy efficiency indicator, instead of solar gain.
Aside from the architectural and design considerations, like reconsidering direct exposures or adding exterior shading, the windows themselves can offer a lot in terms of high performance solar control. Low-e coatings have advanced our capabilities here. It used to be that coated windows had a very noticeable tint to them, but today’s low-e coatings allow for a beautiful view and do a tremendous job controlling heat gain without tinted glass.