Windows and doors rank right up there on any list of big-ticket items when it comes to multifamily projects, whether they're newly constructed apartment buildings or renovated projects. The up-front costs are bound to take up a big chunk of any budget. And then there are the very real sound, energy, and maintenance issues that kick in down the line, especially when it comes to windows.

Developer Preston Snyder, president of Atlanta-based Braden Fellman, kept all that in mind when his company renovated a 1920s building in the city's Virginia Highlands neighborhood. "We struggled with whether we would refurbish the existing Craftsman-style windows or replace them," says Snyder. "We ended up maintaining the original trim and putting in new windows, which provided much better energy efficiency and sound attenuation. We more than doubled our window budget, but it put us in a better competitive position. We got everything back and more."

BLOCK THAT PASS: Solar Block Plus windows help reduce solar heat gain, making the windows more energy efficient than regular glass or acrylic block. Hy-Lite's all-acrylic blocks are ideal for applications that include traditional low-E windows, or where building codes require a lower solar heat gain coefficient. Where a building is located often dictates the kinds of windows that are used. "It's really important that windows be insulated," says Manny Gonzalez, a principal at KTGY Group, an Irvine, Calif.-based architecture and planning firm that does a lot of multifamily work in toasty Las Vegas.

"There are only two areas where the heat and cold escapes: either through the roof, which is fairly easy to insulate, or through the windows," Gonzalez says. "The weatherproofing will just kill you on the energy costs, especially out West."

In other parts of the country, hurricanes are the big concern. In the years since Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida, manufacturers have ratcheted up their production of impact-resistant windows and doors. The glass used in the best of these storm-resistant products is actually three layers, including an inner layer made of polyvinyl butyral–a plastic–that's sandwiched between two layers of glass. It acts much like a car's windshield; the glass will shatter, but it won't break off into tiny pieces.

–Kathleen Stanley is a freelance writer in Washington.

For more information, call 877-712-4013 or visit

FOLDAWAY DOORS: Jeld-Wen's new IWP folding door system operates accordion style, with door sections that slide on an overhead track and fold up against one another. The system, available in a maximum width of 54 inches, combines the look of French doors with the ease of a sliding door.

For more information, call 800-877-9482 or visit

STRONG SHOWING: What's twice as strong as steel and eight times stronger than vinyl? Ultrex, a pultruded fiberglass material by Integrity from Marvin Windows and Doors. Its newest All Ultrex Series windows exceed Energy Star requirements, stay square and true to simplify installation, and have a tough finish that requires little maintenance.

For more information, call 888-537-8263 or visit

HIGH-STYLE APPEAL: A two-panel plank door resembles the classic Shaker style, yet it's versatile enough to complement a broad range of decors. CMI's new Corvado door is made from molded, high-density fiberboard to resist shrinking, cracking, and joint separation. It's available in a variety of pre-stained colors, with a smooth or textured wood-grain surface.

For more information, call 800-405-2233 or visit

BEAUTY AND BRAWN: Weather Shield's premium series of LifeGuard aluminum-clad doors blend beauty, brawn, and design flexibility. The new impact-resistant radius-top French doors pass impact testing at a generous 10-foot-by-6-foot size.

For more information, call 800-477-6808 or visit

EASY ELEGANCE: A typical sliding patio door can require as much as 20 pounds of force to operate. The new EuroGlide system from Great Lakes Window allows sliding glass doors to be moved with a mere eight pounds of force–the push of a finger. It is available in two-, three-, or four-panel styles up to 8 feet high.

For more information, call 800-666-0000 or visit

Hot Product of the Month

BOLLYWOOD BEAUTIES: Sparkly embellishments are all the rage with women's clothing; who says they can't be used to dress up your property's lobby furniture? Made in India, Atlas Homewares' beaded hardware is woven by hand on silver or brass knobs and comes in lime green, raspberry, aquamarine, sapphire, and bronze. Just think how they might jazz up a building's common spaces.

For more information, call 800-799-6755 or visit

Q: What are the challenges of combining grocery stores and apartments in a mixed-use project?

A: Accommodating a 45,000- to 80,000-square-foot grocery store with all of its loading, parking, mechanical, and venting needs with apartments is not for the faint of heart. Each element must work together while providing a certain degree of separation. The retailer needs to present its own face to the public, have protected parking for its customers, and supply the store through traditional loading docks. The residential portion demands the same separate treatment; no one wants to come home at night and find a retail customer loading his car in the same parking lot, or even on the same parking level.

The building elements must operate as separately as possible to ensure that the negative impacts of each use don't interfere with the other. The residential utilities, for example, cannot run amok through the retail level. The costs associated with separate but integrated structures, utilities, life safety, loading, parking, presence, and different hours of operation can be enormous, but the benefits can outweigh these costs.