Secrets to Well-Designed Windows

Focus on simple, not easy
Jon Hauberg
March 6, 2019
FEATURE ARTICLE | Markets & Trends

Color technology has advanced significantly, enabling darker color window frames that avoid limitations such as heat buildup. (All images courtesy of the author.)

As a fenestration professional, I’ve spent a quarter of a century looking at and evaluating windows, from the lineals and seals to the profiles. I’ve also learned to step back and take a consumer’s view by looking through windows. The change in perspective is palpable and insightful.

It reminds me of the common design question, form or function? The unequivocal answer is “yes”—a high-performing window with top-notch design integrates form and function. It’s a simple answer, but not an easy one to perfect. Following are my hard-won secrets to designing high-performance windows that sell. 

Sealing the deal

Where dealiers fit into the mix of top-selling products 

The most well-designed and produced product is empty potential without the ability to sell its features. Enter the dealer network, a crucial part of any product’s market strategy. In Deceuninck’s fabricator base, we see great success when the necessary education and training is provided to dealers. It involves developing a practical understanding of the window’s features to communicate them and seal the deal.

For example, engineers and designers will wax philosophical on the intricacies of thermodynamics and sound transmission rates to explain a window’s performance. But it makes more sense for dealers to demonstrate heat conduction to consumers—allow them to physically feel window reinforcements that are half-buried in ice-cold water, for example, to feel whether the reinforcement is cold or not. It’s a powerful yet simple demonstration to explain heat conduction. On the sound front, I have seen showroom floors that highlight noise-reducing characteristics by pumping in noise and opening or closing a window. 

LOOKING THROUGH A WELL-DESIGNED WINDOW

Let’s start at the intersection of sleek black smartphones and consumers’ window preferences. Subtle, broader consumer design and color trends influence interior and exterior home designs, and windows and doors.

Take, for instance, a homeowner who was building a single-family residence in Indianapolis. The owner wanted a home with a modern design and clean sightlines. A designer by trade, the owner loved the idea of black laminate interior and exterior windows for the two-story home.

Collectively, the more than 40 windows for the house had to provide unobstructed views and a large amount of natural light indoors. Functionally, the window and door systems needed to feature high thermal performance and low sound transmission rates to create a comfortable, urban sanctuary. Collaborating with Lindsay Windows and Liberty Exterior Supply, we were able to deliver a finished product that exceeded the owner’s expectations in form and function.

Deceuninck best design

Material advancements in structural reinforcements make it easier to carry the weight of multiple-pane windows across longer expanses.

 

LOOKING AT A WELL-DESIGNED WINDOW

A window professional sees a different truth when looking at the finished product. A well-designed window combines a purposeful mix of reliability, consistency, packaging, easy installation and lifetime performance. Good design begins with the final purpose in mind and connects the dots to achieve that goal.

Top-selling windows possess two key components, in my experience. First is consistency/reliability of the product we deliver to fabricators. This consistency extends to streamlined design that enables assembly of the window profile in a straightforward and dependable manner.

Second is ease of installation. If the finished product is something an installer must wrestle with, the window will not be a successful seller. Rather, aim to create products that can be efficiently installed. This takes the many steps along the process into account, including shipping methods and package designs that protect hardware.

Ultimately, focusing on reducing variability across the supply chain will make the process more convenient for customers. An example that succinctly ties together this approach is designing regionally specific window frames. 

A frame designed for the Midwest is inherently different than one designed for the Southwest. Rather than repurpose a Midwest window for another region through bolt-on solutions, we go to the destination market, understand the needs and design a solution that integrates those features. This market-informed approach provides a foundational knowledge to create windows that are purposefully designed for use in that region. This, of course, creates a better-selling window.

AUTOMATION OF THE MANUFACTURING PROCESS

Automation is something we consider more and more in the design of products. Fabricators are increasingly looking for more automation, so machine process must be considered in design. To accommodate this, we might revisit, redesign and simplify the fabrication requirements of various window components so they are more readily able to be manipulated by machine assembly. We may also reimagine a multi-step process to eliminate steps. 

Reducing complexity creates several benefits, including increased consistency, uptime and reliability. Applying this concept across product lines to create commonalities makes it easier to train people and eliminate variability on the manufacturing floor.

CONSISTENCY IS KEY

A window is not a smartphone. But that doesn’t limit us from designing a window that is just as sleek to look at while being a pleasure to look through. In my experience, the secret to creating well-designed windows that successfully sell is consistency and ease of installation. 

Jon Hauberg is director of product research and development for Deceuninck North America.