Skip to main content

Why Fenestration is a Crucial Part of a Sustainable Future

The statistics can be alarming. Earth’s average surface temperature increased by 1.1 degrees Celsius since 1900, caused in part by trapped greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. And as CO2 levels continue to rise, the planet is warming at an alarming rate. Now more than ever, bold leadership, innovation, and change are needed to combat the climate crisis.

As of 2021, 24 states and the District of Columbia have set greenhouse gas emissions’ reduction targets through legislation or executive orders from the state’s governor, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. To meet these goals, the building industry must be a partner.

Buildings generate nearly 40 percent of the annual global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to the World Green Building Council. This figure includes energy used to heat, cool and light buildings as well as embodied carbon from building materials and construction processes. This is where the National Fenestration Rating Council can help reduce carbon emissions from homes and office buildings, particularly as more communities adopt building energy codes.

It is estimated that more than 774k gigawatt hours of energy has been saved, resulting in 547 million metric tons of CO2 emissions avoided since NFRC’s inception in 1989. Research suggests that by 2049 an estimated 522k gigawatt hours of energy could be saved, preventing 369 million metric tons of CO2 emissions. These findings demonstrate the importance of energy-efficient fenestration products. But the action can’t end there.

This is an opportunity for the fenestration industry to unite around this common goal, share resources, best practices and encourage manufacturing and supply changes. With more than 300 members and 600 participants in NFRC’s signature Product Certification Program, the potential to reduce the impact of not only the fenestration industry, but also the building industry, is limitless. Fenestration must be part of any building performance standard.

A more sustainable future

Because of this, NFRC is uniquely positioned to lead the charge to reduce the carbon footprint of the built environment through the collective efforts of our members and stakeholders. Ideally, we’ll bring together the best brains in fenestration to focus on creating a more sustainable industry. We don’t hold the keys to all the good ideas, so we want experts from national labs, research institutions and universities, and federal agencies to provide strategic guidance, education and resources. And we need window and door manufacturers, components suppliers, architects, testing labs, inspection agencies and others to be part of the solution.

We have a strategy to inspire action and establish NFRC in the green building movement from the inside out through our newly formed Sustainability Network, which aims to engage the sustainability departments of our members and stakeholders to drive innovation and change to rapidly transform the fenestration industry. This includes offering more high-performance windows for homes. At the same time, we want to encourage sustainable manufacturing and supply chain practices to reduce the carbon footprint of the fenestration industry.

We can’t do this alone. There are countless funding opportunities and resources available from the U.S. Department of Energy through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill passed last year allocated funding to states to offer revolving loans and provide grants for commercial and residential energy audits, energy upgrades and retrofits of building infrastructure.

NFRC’s Sustainability Network is hosting two free webinars in April to celebrate Earth Day. The first webinar took place April 12 with the New Buildings Institute. (View the webinar.) In this session, participants:

  • Understood why designers are re-evaluating the amount of concrete, steel, aluminum and other high embodied carbon products in their projects.
  • Learned about the carbon reduction solutions designers are making for and the documentation they will be seeking.
  • Heard about current and pending regulations aimed at reducing carbon embedded in construction products, quickening the need for widespread embodied carbon education

Then on April 28, join experts from DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office in a webinar highlighting no-cost efficiency and sustainability tools and resources. Learn about:

If we work together, we can foster real change and create a more sustainable fenestration industry. It’s going to require participation at all levels from members and participants to federal partners and green building groups. But the time is now to lead the way and be part of the solution to build a sustainable future.  


Michelle Blackston NFRC

Michelle Blackston

Michelle Blackston is senior director, development and engagement for the National Fenestration Rating Council.