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Marvin to Offer Passivhaus Windows

The Minnesota company would become the second U.S. supplier of certified windows, increasing options for North American builders

Posted on May 14 2013 by Scott Gibson

Minnesota-based Marvin Windows and Doors expects to win certification shortly for a line of high-performance windows from both the Passive HouseA residential building construction standard requiring very low levels of air leakage, very high levels of insulation, and windows with a very low U-factor. Developed in the early 1990s by Bo Adamson and Wolfgang Feist, the standard is now promoted by the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt, Germany. To meet the standard, a home must have an infiltration rate no greater than 0.60 AC/H @ 50 pascals, a maximum annual heating energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (4,755 Btu per square foot), a maximum annual cooling energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (1.39 kWh per square foot), and maximum source energy use for all purposes of 120 kWh per square meter (11.1 kWh per square foot). The standard recommends, but does not require, a maximum design heating load of 10 W per square meter and windows with a maximum U-factor of 0.14. The Passivhaus standard was developed for buildings in central and northern Europe; efforts are underway to clarify the best techniques to achieve the standard for buildings in hot climates. Institute US (PHIUS) and the Passivhaus Institut in Europe, allowing builders here to cut lead times for certified windows to as little as six weeks.

Marvin would join Alpen High Performance Products of Boulder, Colo., as the only U.S.-based suppliers of certified windows. Alpen, which announced completion of its certification process in April, makes its window frames from fiberglass and reports U-factors as low as 0.128.

There are a number of European manufacturers, but windows are expensive and lead times can be long.

Marvin, a Warroad, Minn., company, announced it would offer a "wide range" of wood windows made in the U.S. that would come with the Passive House stamp of approval. The windows will obtain the necessary low U-factors by the use of two glass panes and multiple plastic films. The windows will incorporate both imported and domestic hardware.

"Marvin's R&D and manufacturing teams have achieved what had been considered impossible by many in the industry: delivering American-made windows that meet Passive Building standards while maintaining the highest levels of beauty, style and construction," the company said. "Passive Building certification from both U.S. and European bodies is pending."

Mike Laufman, senior manager of Marvin Signature Services, said "architects and homeowners will be able to specify any design feature — even large expanses of glass — using windows that look like our regular product lines yet meet the strictest standards of Passive Building."

"Because our products are built here, Marvin can offer builders a shorter lead time than international manufacturers," marketing director Christine Marvin said in a written statement. "And our extensive independent dealer network means we can support the project from the time it's drawn up until after installation."

Marvin says pricing on its certified windows would be competitive with European units.

Windows will use Heat Mirror glazing

Marvin's Passive Building windows will use quad-glazing Heat Mirror products. The high-performance assemblies consist of thin films suspended between panes of glass along with inert gas fills to achieve very low U-factors. The glazing will include three separate insulating cavities with insulating gas-fill options.

Unrelated specifically to Passivhaus, window performance is tested by the National Fenestration Rating Council, which posts results at its web site. The U-factor and the solar heat gain coefficient(SHGC) The fraction of solar gain admitted through a window, expressed as a number between 0 and 1. (SHGCSolar heat gain coefficient. The fraction of solar gain admitted through a window, expressed as a number between 0 and 1.) of windows are among the results that designers check before specifying windows.

Marvin says testing on windows using Heat Mirror glazing isn't finished, so results are incomplete. One unit with Heat Mirror glazing, however, has a U-factor of 0.18 and a SHGC of between 0.14 and 0.24, which Marvin says makes it suitable for Passivhaus construction in the South where low solar heat gain is preferable.

Using certified windows easier for builders

As GreenBuildingAdvisor Martin Holladay explains in a blog on the topic, builders trying to meet the Passivhaus performance standard can use any window they like. But using certified windows makes it easier for builders to obtain crucial data used in energy modeling software called Passive House Planning Package (PHPP).

Until now, no North American manufacturer had made the effort to seek Passivhaus certification, and as a result European windows have taken on a "mystical aura," Holladay writes.

"German and Austrian windows cost an arm and a leg; but they have hefty triple glazing and triple weatherstripping, and they close like a bank vault," he wrote.

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  1. Marvin Windows and Doors

May 14, 2013 11:06 AM ET

would just like to point out
by mike eliason

would just like to point out that there is a certified window MFR in North America - northwin in Vancouver

is there a market for quad glazing w/ less performance, higher cost than 3pane wood windows from poland or lithuania?!?

May 14, 2013 1:58 PM ET

by Mark Attard

In high performance buildings, "tuning" becomes an integral part of heat gain management. Most window manufactures that meet Passivhaus have a wide range of SHGC options that help facilitate "tuning". Typically we see a range from 0.14 to 0.62. Is there any indication that the Marvin Passivhaus window will have a wider SHGC range than what is indicated above?

May 15, 2013 1:10 AM ET

Is GBA selling infomercials?
by Bronwyn Barry

While I'm thrilled to hear that Marvin has submitted a profile for Passive House certification, it strikes me as premature to crow about it before the stamp is issued.

There happen to be a number of US window manufacturers currently 'in process' for Passive House certification. That story would be interesting. Another decent story would be an investigation into why there are two Passive House window certifications on the US market? You allude to this story, but don't elaborate. How can two separate entities issue the same certification and are these certifications indeed the same?

Come on GBA editors... Enough with the sloppy infomercials. How about some investigative journalism, instead of this clearly regurgitated press release?

May 15, 2013 6:02 AM ET

Edited May 15, 2013 1:21 PM ET.

Response to Bronwyn Barry
by Martin Holladay

1. I'm glad that you are thrilled to hear the news reported on this page.

2. GBA does not produce or sell infomercials.

3. It's good news that other U.S. window manufacturers (besides Marvin and Alpen) are also in the process of obtaining Passivaus certification for their windows.

4. Your suggestion that GBA write a story on why there are two Passivhaus window certification procedures in the U.S. is a good one. We've written about a dozen articles already on the PHI-PHIUS divorce, but the topic seems to be evergreen and always of interest to the Passivhaus-gossip crowd (and GBA readers).

May 15, 2013 12:56 PM ET

i don't think bronwyn's been
by mike eliason

i don't think bronwyn's been at quantum for some time, now...

May 15, 2013 1:22 PM ET

Response to Mike Eliason
by Martin Holladay

Thanks for the info. I have edited my comment for accuracy.

May 23, 2013 1:05 PM ET

Glass make up
by Thomas Nedelsky

I understand that Marvin is offering an insulated glass unit with 4 cavities.

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