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Unlocking the Potential of Energy-Efficient Facades

Harnessing Climate Technologies: The Crucial Role of Facade Retrofits in Sustainability

INOVUES panel event on facade retrofits

In times of economic uncertainty, businesses tend to seek out measures to actively improve efficiency, reduce operating costs, and strengthen their assets. Today, large-scale facade retrofits that involve significant capital expenditure, are gaining attention thanks to their ability to generate significant energy savings, occupant comfort, and building value.

A recent gathering of commercial real estate leaders representing Con Edison, JB&B, JLL, NYC Accelerator, and REDIST/Commonplace, among others, sparked a compelling conversation around energy-efficient facade retrofits. Organized by INOVUES, the event aimed to challenge existing perceptions and provide insights into the evolving landscape of incentives for building envelope improvements and new technologies that are increasing the viability of facade retrofits and making them more cost-effective than ever.

A detailed article on the event and key findings is available from The Real Deal.


In this post, we will explore main findings of the panel, such as the need to:

  1. challenge long-held perceptions

  2. break down silos in decision-making

  3. take advantage of the largest utility incentives in history

  4. recognize the role of efficient facades in facilitating other climate technologies

We will also highlight climate-tech solutions offered by INOVUES and their unique ability to tackle both operational and embodied carbon.

Installation of INOVUES window retrofit panel
INOVUES installer adding a lite of low-e glass from the exterior of the building.

Shifting Long-Held Perceptions

Data from the US Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and the Department of Energy reveal that commercial buildings lose around $57 billion annually due to preventable energy losses primarily caused by inadequate thermal insulation. Inefficient facades and windows account for up to 40% of these energy losses.

While many buildings have implemented low-cost energy conservation measures, such as LED lighting, the most effective upgrades, such as building envelope retrofits, have remained financially unattractive. The perception of high costs, lengthy project timelines, and disruption to building occupants have discouraged decision-makers in the commercial real estate (CRE) sector from pursuing these improvements.

However, a better and more holistic understanding of buildings’ energy needs and consumption, as well as access to more affordable facade retrofit solutions, such as weatherization services, interior / secondary window inserts, and other non-invasive retrofit technologies like INOVUES, are starting to shift long-held preconceptions.

Tom Burke said it perfectly: “Walking into a building, from an energy conservation standpoint, you would look at the facade first. This is the shift we are advocating for — to not automatically run to the mechanical rooms before assessing the performance of the envelope.”

From an energy conservation and economic perspective, prioritizing the performance of the facade, prior to investing in the mechanical systems, carries multiple benefits:

  • immediate double-digit energy savings

  • ability to right-size the building’s mechanical systems

  • mitigating the risk of structural deterioration

Building featuring INOVUES window retrofit system
Commercial office building featuring INOVUES’ non-invasive window retrofit.

Breaking Down Decision-Making Silos

One way to break down silos is to find shared Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that most of the stakeholders can align behind. For example, energy savings are a desirable and easily measurable improvement, but their impact varies for different key stakeholders, depending on their responsibility for the bills.

Building value, on the other hand, has a wide-reaching impact throughout the decision-making ecosystem. A well-run and efficient building could be a significant enhancement to the asset value and should be studied more closely and comprehensively citywide and across building types. The consensus among participants was that the actions taken in cities like New York would have a national impact, setting an example for other regions to follow.

Largest Utility Incentives in History

The panel agreed that the focus should shift from the mechanical systems to the assessment of the building facade performance as a critical component of energy conservation. To support the shift, local utility companies are now offering unprecedented incentives to reduce the cost of energy conservation measures for the building envelope.

Con Edison, New York City's utility provider, offers the most generous and extensive rebate program in the country. Its Commercial and Industrial (C&I) Energy Efficiency Program has paid out over $115 million in cash incentives to CRE building owners in the past three years alone. The program is now strategically focusing on building exteriors as a major investment opportunity, acknowledging the importance of facade efficiency projects to achieve electrification goals.

The Facade as an Enabler of Climate Technologies

The panel also highlighted how window and facade energy retrofits play a crucial role in enabling exciting climate technologies that are gaining traction today, such as electrified heat pump systems. Almost 60% of NYC buildings have inefficient single-glazed windows, and facade upgrades, particularly high-performance double-glazed windows, are essential for transitioning buildings from conventional gas-powered steam systems to heat pump technologies with lower operating temperatures.

Heat pumps are a significant innovation for buildings, as they can efficiently harness natural thermal energy from the air and convert it into hot water and space heating, but require a fairly efficient building envelope to work effectively and consistently.

According to Tom Burke, facades can also contribute to decarbonization and electrification efforts in the city by reducing peak load demand on the electric grid, or directly, by generating solar electricity through south-facing integrated transparent photovoltaic glazing and other smart glass innovations.

Facade Technologies Saving Both Operational & Embodied Carbon

While the panel discussion focused on operational energy efficiency and carbon savings, the audience expressed interest in addressing embodied carbon — the emissions associated with building materials and construction. From the audience, INOVUES’ Founder and CEO Anas Al Kassas jumped in to describe how non-invasive retrofit technologies can offer similar performance benefits as a full window or facade replacement while reducing material and labor requirements by 70%.

Here is a 40-second animation demonstrating how the INOVUES system works:

The patented system consists of:

  1. proprietary aluminum spacer frames that create a 0.63”-deep, desiccated and vapor-sealed airspace, and feature thermally-broken attachment for better insulation;

  2. new glass lites that together with the existing glass create the higher-performance double-or triple-glazed insulating glass units — a wide range of high-performance glazing and smart window technologies can be used, including dynamic tinting, energy harvesting, and vacuum insulated glass;

  3. multiple primary and secondary seals and desiccant components to maintain a dry, hermetically-sealed insulated air cavity for a longer service life.

The key benefits of this non-invasive, affordable window and facade retrofit technology include:

  • Energy savings of up to 40%

  • Measurable improvements to occupant thermal and acoustic comfort

  • GHG reduction

  • Compliance with carbon legislation, such as NYC’s Local Law 97 (LL97)

  • Ability to meet modern ESG standards

  • Up to 10x faster payback than traditional retrofit approaches

For more information on INOVUES' non-invasive facade retrofit solutions, please visit For information on upcoming events, please follow us on LinkedIn.


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