Building Envelopes: the Next Trend in Energy Efficiency

Building Envelopes: the Next Trend in Energy Efficiency

High performance building envelopes are the next trend in energy efficiency for commercial buildings. When you consider key dynamics of the building design and construction market and the benefits provided, I think you’ll agree – and also see the growing opportunity this trend generates for innovation and sales growth for building envelope product manufacturers.

Market Dynamics

Key trends and dynamics in the building design and construction market continue to shape and drive both interest and actions to increase commercial building energy efficiency. After all, commercial buildings alone account for 18% of all primary energy use in the USA. Furthermore, building envelopes are estimated to account for 30% of that energy use, and envelope air leaks alone can waste 20% of the energy used to heat and cool a building. Interest continues to be driven by cost savings, sustainable building initiatives such as Architecture 2030 and LEED, and energy efficiency incentive programs implemented by utility companies to meet goals set by their regulators. Efforts to optimize HVAC and lighting systems have made substantial strides in them becoming more energy efficient, so as additional energy efficiency gains in commercial buildings are sought, high performance envelopes are the next building system to be considered. Project design teams and contractors are increasingly approaching building envelopes as an integrated system as opposed to a series of individual components, and the increased focus and discipline provided by Building Envelope Commissioning (BECx) is beginning to take off. General contractors are also advancing the practice of a better built building envelope, motivated by their interest in reducing warranty call back costs after the building is occupied.


The Department of Energy estimates that high performance envelopes can save 5.4 quads of energy by 2030. Energy efficiency gains are driven by:

  • Reducing heat loss/gain through more efficient windows
  • Reducing heat loss/gain through opaque sections of exterior walls via increased insulation, air barriers, and reduced thermal bridging
  • Reducing air leaks by sealing all joints and gaps

Beyond increased energy efficiency, high performance envelopes also provide non-energy benefits:

  • Less water infiltration due to reduced air leaks
  • Improved indoor air quality (less mold potential and infiltration of outside air contaminants)
  • Increased building materials durability (less moisture damage)
  • Lower cost HVAC equipment (smaller equipment needed)

Opportunities for Manufacturers

All of this will lead to the increasing use of high performance commercial building envelopes. Building envelope product manufacturers have a definite opportunity to leverage this new market trend to grow their business through:

  • Developing a deep understanding of their customers’ pain points and needs in this still developing trend of high performance building envelopes
  • Best positioning their current products to meet these customer needs/pain points with easy to understand, relevant messaging that is benefit focused
  • Identifying opportunities for new product innovation and getting those products to market
  • Providing tools and resources to make it easy for architects, engineers, and contractors to specify their products

To find out more, or to discuss how you can better position your business to leverage this trend in building envelopes contact Bill Shadid at

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