In a previous post, we discussed some of the advantages of using aluminum to manufacture our products here at Monumental Windows and Doors. In this post, we’ll explore why aluminum is considered the safest—and “greenest”—building material on the market. Homeowners interested in eco-friendly windows and doors should consider the entire lifecycle of the product, further examining its overarching effects on the environment. This includes observing the manufacturing process, up through its serviceable life, and into what happens to it when it is removed from our homes.
Let’s take a closer look at three dominant window materials and examine their eco-friendly properties.
Wood is the only naturally renewable building material in the world. But does that mean that wood windows are good for the environment? Not quite. The largest factor to consider is the concern of deforestation and illegal logging. In a perfect world, a good “green” wood window manufacturer would harvest their materials from certifiably sustainable sources and manage their forests responsibly. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Experts estimate that farmed trees make up only 8% of all wood window and door products.
Wood is biodegradable but wood window manufacturers treat their products with chemical sealants and fungicides. Insects—especially termites—tend to attack and inhibit untreated wood. If possible, we recommend replacing your existing wood windows with non-toxic, energy-efficient aluminum windows, as these have been proven to be less harmful to the environment. Nonetheless, high quality wood windows are a big investment, and should be properly maintained over time for optimum efficiency.
Vinyl is a highly toxic petroleum-based product. It is made with PVC (polyvinyl chloride). From an environmental health perspective, this particular plastic is one of the most hazardous consumer materials produced. Among the most important by-products of the PVC life cycle is dioxin—a known toxin and a potent carcinogen.
The production of vinyl windows releases dangerous pollutants into the air. In the U.S. alone, vinyl window manufacturing releases a reported 35,000 pounds of mercury into the environment every year. Further, in the event of an accidental building fire, those same toxic fumes pose a health risk to firefighters and nearby building occupants. Some communities prohibit the use of vinyl window products completely.
Finally, consider the impact on the world’s landfills with vinyl waste. It takes generations for vinyl products to degrade in a landfill, while simultaneously polluting nearby sediment and streams. As previously mentioned, burning vinyl (vs. aluminum) windows releases toxins into the atmosphere, further suggesting that vinyl is not the “greenest” option. Yet, this still happens in landfills all over the U.S. Did you know that an estimated 8,000 accidental landfill fires occur each year? The U.S. Green Building Council concluded, “When we add end of life with accidental landfill fires and backyard burning, the additional risk of dioxin emissions puts PVC consistently among the worst materials for human health impacts.” Furthermore, only a small amount of vinyl windows actually get recycled every year, while more than 14 billion pounds are produced annually.
Simply put: aluminum is non-toxic, inflammable, non-magnetic and non-sparking. We don’t cut down trees or use petroleum products to produce the best choice for your aluminum window and door needs. Aluminum is the third most abundant element in the earth’s crust. It is important to note that this material is one of the most recycled products on our planet. Recycling aluminum takes just 5% of the energy required to make new aluminum. As a result, nearly 75% of all aluminum produced in the U.S. is still in use today. How’s that for “green” windows and doors?
At Monumental Windows & Doors, we are one of the few California companies that strives to uphold our environmental responsibility. To do our part, we recycle 100% of our aluminum scrap. Read Part 1 of our All About Aluminum Series for more on the Aluminum Advantage.
Monumental Windows and Doors offers a wide range of products—like our very own energy-saving sliding glass doors—for luxury home buyers and builders. Find out more about your options for the eco-friendly windows and doors in our 2021 Brochure.