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How AEC Professionals Choose Windows and Doors

May 05, 2011 |

Window and door systems need to perform. Period. Over and over again, respondents to Building Design+Construction’s annual window and door survey overwhelmingly
reported that performance, weather resistance, durability, and quality were key reasons a particular window or door was specified.

Respondents also offered opinions on materials choices (aluminum is tops for windows, wood for doors), glazing options (no clear favorites), daylighting (somewhat
of a concern), and use of BIM in window and door selection (not a concern). 

Here’s what a representative sample of your peers told us about why and how they choose the windows and doors they use.

(Download a PDF of the full survey report below)

What Factors Influence Selection?

•  Respondents overwhelmingly said the top factors influencing their window/window system choices are energy/thermal performance (87%), durability/reliability (73%), and weather resistance (70%). Aesthetics ranked high as well, with 62% of respondents listing it as an important factor. Tax credits, rebates, and other incentives proved not to be significant purchasing factors.

•  Performance is also a significant factor for door/door system choices. The top factors influencing door/door system choices—energy/thermal performance (76%), durability/reliability (75%), and weather resistance (65%)—are the same ones respondents cited as influencing their window decisions. Here, aesthetics ranked slightly higher than it did for windows, with 64% of respondents saying it’s a significant influencer. The majority of respondents (58%) choose the door hardware for most projects.

•  When it comes to interior door selection, aesthetics ranked highest, with 72% of respondents saying it was their main influence. Other top factors in selection: performance (67%), initial costs (54%), and acoustical performance (43%).

•  When asked about specific concerns with window and door products overall, quality/performance was at the top, with 58% of respondents voting it their gravest concern. Second on their list: leaks or failures—very closely related to quality and performance—with 51% expressing concern. Forty-four percent of respondents listed government requirements as their least important concern with window and door projects.

•  Several respondents who provided written feedback noted concern about proper installation and the skill levels of contractors who install windows or doors. However, when ranking concerns, only 28% listed installation problems as a major concern.

•  The types of projects our respondents undertook greatly influenced window and door selection. Office buildings (56%) and multifamily housing (46%) were most often cited as the project types respondents undertook during the past couple of years. Retail/entertainment (32%) and government/military (29%) projects also ranked high.

Product Selection: A Mix of Materials

•  Aluminum (51%) and wood (40%) are the window framing materials most often specified by respondents. Aluminum-clad wood (35%) and vinyl-clad wood (33%) also ranked high as framing materials.

•  Wood doors are a favorite for 72% of respondents, while steel doors are also popular, with 58% of respondents specifying them. Aluminum doors and glass doors also fared well, with 39% of respondents specifying aluminum and 38% specifying glass. 

•  Standard window and door products are an overwhelming favorite of respondents, with 73% saying they specify standard units compared with only 27% who specify custom units.

•  Daylighting does play a role in our respondents’ window selections, with 59% saying it was an important or significant factor, while 41% said daylighting was only an average-rated factor to not being a factor at all.

•  Although code requirements are a factor in any product decision, when it comes to daylighting, 68% of respondents said code requirements are an important or very important factor. Only 13% said that codes almost never or never factor into daylighting decisions.

Product Types

•  When it came to glazing types used in projects during the last couple of years, no particular type stood out above others. Respondents indicated that each specialty type—fire-rated/safety, impact-resistant, laminated, and tinted—were used equally, and in each case in just a few projects.

•  One relatively new glazing type, electrochromic glass, was used extensively by only 1% of respondents; 83% reported no use of the technology. Similarly, only 2% reported extensive use of movable glass wall systems, while 72% reported never having used them. Clearly, new technologies like these take some time to gain adoption by AEC professionals.

•  Operable windows were used in a significant number of projects, according to respondents who used them extensively (47%), in at least half their projects (21%), or in a few projects (22%). Only 10% reported no use of operable windows.

•  Half the respondents reported using skylights and roof windows in just a few projects; 25% reported never having used them. Only 10% reported using them extensively, and 15% reported using them in an average number of projects.

BIM Usage Not Quite a Factor  

•  Building information modeling doesn’t currently play a major role in our respondents’ window- and door-related projects, with 64% saying they haven’t used BIM in this capacity. Only 11% report extensive use of BIM in making window and door selections. It might be a few more years before BIM usage cranks up for window and door projects because only 15% of respondents expect to use BIM in this capacity in the next couple years. Almost half (48%) said they don’t expect to use BIM in this capacity at all over the next couple years.


The survey was emailed to a representative sample of BD+C’s subscriber list. No incentive was offered; 451 qualified returns were obtained. The majority of responses (45%) came from architects and designers, a group that represents half of BD+C’s subscriber base. However, respondents were spread across the professions, and included 22% from contractors and 12% from the engineering fields. 

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