By Steven A. Watchorn, LEED AP BD+C
For our modern world, repair and restoration is a thing of the past. Our advances in technology are so fast and furious and our products so commercialized that it makes little sense to repair things like a damaged TV. Chances are you can replace that outdated TV with a flat-screen LCD model that consumes less energy for less money than to repair the obsolete model. These days TV repair shops are virtually extinct.
When it comes to failing buildings the story is usually the same. More often than not, building owners are convinced by building professionals and designers that it will cost less to replace their building, or its components, rather than restoring them.
Further fueling this trend are our building codes being constantly updated to require more energy efficient building systems and our society is finally embracing sustainability. Our initial impulse is to replace but, unlike TV repair, there are still many options to restore buildings and their components. There are ways to make them more energy efficient, and spend less money doing so at the same time.
Wood windows are a great example for how to make an older building more energy efficient. A window is made up of so many interacting parts and materials that it is inherently prone to failure over time. Window failures, such as deteriorated sealant and glazing compounds, loose joints, cracked glass, and expanding gaps, can have a dramatic effect on the interior environment of any space. Visual and operational failures also encourage Owners to consider replacement. These issues can be remedied with proper restoration techniques and use of high-performance products avoiding replacement. Single-pane glazing can often be replaced with insulating glass with low-e coating and argon gas by routing the sash to accommodate the thicker glass. There are still many skilled restoration specialists who can remove the windows, replace the glass & glazing, strengthen the joints, restore the wood and repaint, and reinstall the window with new balances and hardware so that it is like-new. But, like TV repair shops, their existence relies on the demand we have for them.
The cheaper options usually considered for a window replacement are aluminum windows that don’t compare in energy efficiency to high-performing wood windows and fall short of meeting the new energy codes. Owners should be made aware of the technological advances made in high-performing products, such as paint and glass, that can be used to enhance existing building components. Our impulse to replace should not get in the way of careful consideration of real restoration options when it comes to our buildings.