Veritas Viridis – 5 – In the Market for Windows?

Windows are critical components of blueandyellow’s comfortable and energy efficient buildings. Daylight and views of nature have undisputed beneficial effects on building occupants, and south-facing windows with properly designed overhangs provide much appreciated passive solar heating in late fall, winter and early spring.

We are fortunate to have glass technology on our side. Although a single layer of glass is quite a bit like having a hole in the wall, without much thermal benefit, sealed double or triple glazed units reduce winter heat loss considerably. Today there are well-formulated high performance glass options available for northern climates that combine warm edge spacers, low-e coatings and Argon gas fill that magically admit winter solar gain and keep heat inside, reject summer solar gain and keep ‘coolth’ (word missing from English vocabulary) inside, yet are visibly clear and bright.

The story of window frames is somewhat similar, with a variety of options that are thermally efficient and durable, such as fibreglass and wood hybrid. Over the last few decades, Quebec architects and builders have benefitted from some determined and progressive window manufacturers who have elevated the state of the art of wood window frame design and construction. We have always favoured their products because they are local/regional (jobs, smaller transportation carbon footprint), feature a renewable resource (wood) look good, perform well thermally and are durable (with an exterior aluminum jacket).

Imagine our shock when two days after the window supply contract was signed for a current project, we learned that the respected and long term manufacturer suddenly shut their doors due to an inability to pay their creditors. Our immediate attention focussed on securing an alternate supplier and completing the tedious but necessary effort of re-verifying all the dimensions and technical details for the new order. When we met to review the requirements with the new installer, he happened to mention in passing that yet another Quebec wood window manufacturer, in business since 1935, also just closed their doors. Our attention soon shifted to, “Hey, what’s going on?”

Why are wood window manufacturers disappearing? Because the market for wood windows is shrinking. Because of recession? Partly, but mainly because the market wants PVC windows! Why? Because they’re “cheap”? Yes, they’re cheap, but they cost a lot. Here’s why:

As is often the case, it boils down to a question of sustainability. It’s time that we, ‘the market’, voted with our conscience, and with our pocketbooks, by choosing products that are made closer to home, with renewable materials and not with toxic chemicals. If you’re building a 50 year plus building, pick stuff that doesn’t poison our ecology, looks good and will last – like wood windows. Our grandchildren will appreciate our foresight and good sense. And wood-related industries would appreciate the invisible hand supporting them instead of choking them.


About Peter Clark

An international leader in sustainable development and green design, Peter Clark brings a wealth of experience in resort, institutional and commercial development, renovations, property management and operations in Canada and Mexico.

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