Green Building  

A Pane No More - Retrofitted Windows for Old Buildings

New energy efficient windows save costs while maintaining historical integrity
 The Empire State Building is getting a modern energy re..

Check out this piece in our beautifully rendered February issue of Construction Digital - also available on our iPad app.

Written by Heather Rushworth

In today’s ultra-modern world, progressive building designs often compete against each other, creating a monotonous landscape of stainless steel skyscrapers, and concrete strip malls. Thus nothing refreshes the aesthetic-minded eye like some good old fashioned architectural nostalgia. Yet Historical buildings, while culturally adored for their old-timey splendor, often come with a slew of outdated and burdensome original fixtures.

Nothing is more troublesome to historic building owners than original windows. Primitive in construction, these windows were developed before designers thought about (or had solutions for) energy efficiency, noise issues or maintenance standards. Most historic prewar buildings before 1945 are fitted with windows made of monolithic glass or primitive insulating glass, and simply lack basic construction standards, making them risky and feeble, especially in weather stricken areas.

The Rockefeller Center is another project of Skyline's.jpg

Standards have changed in recent years, and modern windows are developed with energy efficiency and natural hazard safety in mind, in fact, the law mandates it. In February 2011, new codes were issued mandating that any historical building updating their windows, must also comply with the current energy codes. So old building enthusiasts had to find a way to bridge their love of preservation with the emerging energy sustainability movements, and many turned to the select group of retrofitters who manufacture historically accurate windows for antique buildings.

Steven Kraus, CEO of Skyline Windows, a company who primarily replaces antiquated windows in historical buildings, knows firsthand the efficiency of new retrofitted windows, “The biggest enemy of energy conservation is air exchange.  The more air that leaks, the more air you have to heat or cool. By limiting that exchange, you can dramatically reduce energy costs. Replacement windows today will reduce that exchange well in excess of 95 percent.”


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Check out the February issue of Construction Digital

However, while these new energy efficient windows are evolved, they also capture the original aesthetic design of the architecture, says Kraus, “At Rockefeller Center, it’s hard tell the new windows from the old, except the new window brings all of the energy improvements, as well as a tremendous reduction in future maintenance. It’s an all-encompassing package, and we’ve paid particular attention to the aesthetic considerations and again, with a big bend to historic profiling.”

Thankfully, it seems in the world of energy efficiency, technology has merged with nostalgia, and now technologically advanced manufacturers are making historically accurate windows for retrofitting. Such evolved retrofitting indeed offers structure owners the best of both worlds, by marrying the convenient efficiency of modern day innovation with the unadulterated simplicity of yesteryear’s culturally symbolic designs. 

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