HERITAGE GOES GREEN
Upgrading Windows in Heritage Buildings
Conserve Energy & Heritage at the Same Time
Climate change action is something everyone is concerned with today. The BC government has pledged to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption. A new BC Green Building Code is coming that will require higher energy efficiency standards for both new construction and rehabilitation projects. Can heritage buildings measure up to these new demands without sacrificing the very qualities that we value in them?
Many energy upgrades (such as installing energy star appliances) do no harm to vintage buildings. Some, however, such as window replacement, can have a significant negative impact:
“We tend to take windows for granted. Yet we recognize that heritage buildings whose windows have been replaced have been diminished. The depth and thickness of frames and sills, the width and visual weight of sash components, the materials, the colour and the pattern of light reflecting off the glass—all complement and elaborate the architectural style, texture and age of a building. Much of this character is lost when windows are replaced with modern versions that lack these features.”
— Craig Sims and Andrew Powter: Repair or Replace: Windows in Historic Buildings - Arriving at a Sustainable Solution
The BC Heritage Branch recently hired a University of Victoria Engineering student to research and design window energy conservation solutions that would not harm heritage character. Here are some of her suggestions:
National Resources Canada (NRC) also offers these tips on repair, draft proofing and insulation to improve window energy efficiency:
NRC provides specific advice on caulking and weatherstripping:
Ongoing maintenance is a very important part of the building use and care, and good window conservation is no exception. Windows in historic buildings have usually been in service for a long time – often 100 years or more – proving their durability, functionality and worth. A good overhaul and retrofit will ensure their longevity and upgrade their functionality for another 100 years. This is more likely to provide long term solutions than inserting a replacement window and throwing out the original frame, sash and glass. Most of today’s manufactured replacement windows carry warranties of about 8-10 years and failures are usually not repairable. Maintenance and conservation are very green behaviors.
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BY JENNIFER IREDALE, BC HERITAGE BRANCH
Maintenance and conservation of heritage windows are very green behaviors.