Do windows have to be tiny to be green? No. City Hall East proves it

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At last week’s presidential debate, President Trump asserted that supporters of the Green New Deal “want to knock down buildings and build new buildings with little tiny, small windows and many other things.” 

Trump was also apparently referring to Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan. This plan and the Green New Deal both reference upgrading or weatherizing windows for greater energy efficiency. 

But the idea that windows should be smaller as a result is outdated.

These days it is possible for a building to be entirely clad in glass and still get top marks for environmental sustainability.

An example is the new City Hall East in Santa Monica, which is being touted as one of the greenest municipal buildings in the country. It’s intended to meet “living building” standards, which are higher than LEED ratings.

Architects from the firm Frederick Fisher and Partners, along with engineers from the company Buro Happold, designed City Hall East.  Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction built it. 

The building is walled in glass, which would seem to conduct heat well. 

But this glass comes with Low-E, or low-emissivity, coatings to limit the amount of infrared and ultraviolet light that penetrates it. There’s also a “fritted,” or patterned, ceramic coating. The glass has “phase change material” that passively heats and cools the building. 

Interestingly, some people express the opposite concern of Trump’s, namely that there’s too much window these days. 

Many residential and office towers going up today are pretty much all glass, which feels emotionally cold to some people.  But it’s definitely not too cold — or too hot — energywise.