Types of Windows for Commercial Buildings

By Michael Birnberg

Windows on an office building can reflect sunlight and trim cooling costs.
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The type of windows you choose for your commercial property can have a major impact on utility costs and curb appeal. Potential tenants and the neighborhood at large will judge the exterior, while factors such as heat and noise insulation will affect the quality of the interior space. Most of all, building codes and environmental factors will determine the type of window that you choose. Having a clear understanding of all these factors will help you make the right choice.


Tempered glass is the most widely used commercial glass and is often required by law. It is stronger than residential glass by four to six times, and is also designed to shatter in small harmless pieces when broken, as opposed to residential glass which breaks into large sharp pieces. Laminated glass consists of a piece of thick plastic glued between two panes of glass. This increases protection in the event of a natural or manmade disaster by making the window stronger and causing broken glass to stick to the plastic center rather than shatter outwardly.


Glazing refers to the number of glass panes that make up the window. There are single, double, triple, and higher glazes. The greater the number of window panes, the more heat and noise insulation there will be. Manufacturers also produce multiple pane glazings that use a combination of glass and plastic. These windows may be less expensive and easier to install than all-glass windows.

Standard Tint

Tinted windows can create privacy, eliminate glare, and reduce the amount of heat absorbed from sunlight. Commonly used bronze and gray tints reduce glare but also decrease the illumination benefit of daylight and are less effective at blocking the sun's heat.

High-Performance Tint

Spectrally selective glazing is a high-performance tint that allows more illumination than standard tints but also blocks much of the heat absorption from the sun.

Reflective Coating

Reflective glass coating is common for large commercial windows in areas that have very sunny climates. It offers both privacy and heat reduction by reflecting like a mirror.

Low E Coating

Low E coated glass is the most efficient at blocking the sun's heat while allowing the most amount of light to pass into the room.


The window frame can come in metal, wood, plastic, fiberglass, or other material. Metal frames provide the least amount of insulation from heat and cold. For all windows, a thermal break can be used in the frame to add an extra layer of insulation.

Building Codes

Building codes vary from place to place. Much of what determines the code in your area is based on climate, energy efficiency, and natural disaster threat. Check with your municipality's government office of building safety for specific codes that affect you.