7 Value Engineering Tips for Window and Door Design

Have you or your clients had significant sticker shock when the window and door bids are provided? It is pretty common… but there are ways to reduce cost without sacrificing much and often while improving performance.   By Value Engineering (VE), you’ll help save money with your project and there are several concepts to consider to make it happen.  

Value Engineering is often an untapped resource in projects that can save costs on a project without necessarily compromising quality and often while improving performance. Experts in Value Engineering can help identify opportunities to create a more efficient setup, especially when it comes to windows. Since we, at AE Building Systems, are always concerned about energy efficiency, we are proponents of anything that improves performance first and foremost. 

Considering performance vs. cost savings, in the window world, they often go together.  Whether you’re looking at many window manufacturers or options within the same manufacturer, there are a number of VE options that can actually save you a ton of money, and improve energy efficiency at the same time. The homeowners will pay less at the front end while saving money down the road in energy costs. That’s why we’re big fans of Value Engineering around here. 

Worried you might be spending too much on windows and doors? You might consider some of these options:

  • Consider the location/region: The best way you can design effective opening is to design for the homeowner’s climate zone. The product someone needs in San Francisco (e.g. double, triple or quad-pane) are going to be drastically different than what you would want in Anchorage, Alaska. The best way to think through this is to look at the glass performance and how many panes and what type of gas-fill you’re needing. In Colorado, the front range (climate zone 5) can generally use a different glazing package than some of the colder mountain locations (often climate zones 6 and 7).
  • Note the purpose of the space: What is the opening used for? Windows for a kitchen or bedroom are going to need higher performance compared to that of an unconditioned garage or three-season porch. You can get by with lower performance windows in some spaces. If the garage is conditioned which is often the case in mountain areas of Colorado, this might not apply.
  • Selected fixed units where you can: Any time you have operable windows, you increase costs compared to fixed windows. They’re just more complex than a fixed window and fixed or picture windows also perform better – not only do they perform better thermally, they are tighter – reducing air infiltration. If it’s feasible that the homeowner is never going to open the window – go fixed. On the performance side… sliding or hung windows also open you up to greater air infiltration through the unit over casements, awnings and tilt/turns. Comparing hungs and sliders to fixed or casement units is a night and day difference. If you don’t need an operable unit in the space, opt for the fixed unit and save your money now and in the future. If you need an operable – try to go casement, awning or tilt/turn rather than hung or sliding due to the air infiltration rates. 
  •  Overlooked the materials: The materials your units are made from can make a huge impact. Wood and aluminum are often more costly than vinyl and fiberglass. If wood is the look you need, different species of wood can vary in price. Keep this in mind as you determine what material you really need.
  • Use fewer IGUs if you can: Consider various diagrams of the unit and how many Insulated Glazing Units (IGUs) you really need. In the high-performance arena, frames are a known culprit of energy performance. If you can consolidate windows within an assembly, you’ll get better performance and lower initial cost simply because you have less frame material and less labor.  The second window below is one IGU with simulated divided lights (SDLs) where the first unit below has 6 IGU’s. The price difference on these two units is significant and using 6 IGU’s can more than double the price of a window assembly.  
  • Be mindful of the hardware (generally door hardware): We often think about the framed unit itself, but hardware costs can add up quickly too. Decide if you really need to go fancy with your hardware. If you really need something custom, be willing to pay for it. Otherwise, the standard fixtures can save you greatly! Keep in mind that painted finishes on hardware can often cost much less than metal finishes. Also, custom door hardware can be very expensive. Depending on the look you’re going for, these simple choices can help you save quite a bit! 
  • Mind the threshold as well: Don’t stop at windows; consider how your door design can benefit your budget. With doors, consider that a balcony threshold can be beneficial compared to a traditional swing door with a low-threshold. Adding multi-point locking on doors can be helpful for performance (air-tightness), but often adds costs. Other considerations for doors include a basic one-panel swing vs french vs sliding vs lift-sliding vs bifold and others that all impact the price and the performance in different ways. Don’t forget to chat about both price and performance with your suppliers. Check out this threshold example from our Instagram feed. 

On any project, budget is generally a difficult discussion and an important one. We want our clients to be happy about the investment they’ve made, but we also want to deliver high-performing products for them. Value Engineering is a simple way to make smart decisions to maximize performance while reducing costs. We know that windows and doors are often zones in a home where lots of money is spent and we want to see it spent wisely. If you, or your clients, have specific questions about how they can best maximize their opening design for a more efficient home, our team would love to talk. We’ve seen a lot and would love to help you design a happier, more efficient space.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *