The latest news on New York architecture.

  • The Economics of Saving Old Windows

    The Economics of Saving Old Windows

    A common mistake when performing repairs on historic properties has been to replace the original windows with modern windows. Because of this, it is rare to find properties that still have their original windows. When someone goes to purchase a property and they see that the windows are replaced, it takes away from the beauty and character of the historic building. Many buyers looking to buy these properties want the original windows still in place and are willing to pay more for it.

    They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To

    Historic windows were made differently than the windows found in stores today. The width and visual weight of sash components, depth and thickness of the frames and sills, even the color and the pattern of light reflecting off the glass was different than any windows manufactured today. Older windows tend to be larger and rounded unlike modern windows. Most were custom-built and did not respect standardized sizes as they do today, which can even change the amount of natural lighting inside the building. Choosing to repair and retrofit preserves integrity by keeping as much of the old window as possible.

    Historic Windows Were Built to Last

    When buildings were built long ago every component including the windows were built with great attention to detail. Builders did not do their work based on what would be the fastest and cheapest way to accomplish their goal. They made sure to use quality materials. Prior to 1940 wood windows were usually made from old growth wood. Old growth wood is stable and mills well. It holds paint and stains well. Insects are less attracted to old growth wood and it has a natural resistance to rot. Most of the time the wood was harvested locally, making it best suited for the local climate conditions.

    Modern windows typically have a warranty life of about 8-10 years. Because they are not designed to last longer than this, they are usually just replaced instead of repaired. Most historic residential windows have a proven longevity of over 100 years before needing repair and, when repaired, can be used for another 100 years.

    Historic Windows Can Be Repaired

    The replacement of these beautiful historic windows is often caused by peeling paint, broken glass or missing glazing putty. When these areas show signs of damage the windows tend to lose much of their beauty and eventually the window is often replaced. But with repair, and regular maintenance, these old windows will hold and last for years to come.

    When overseeing the restoration of a historic building or house, it is always better to repair the windows that are already in place. By repairing them, the original character and beauty of the building is maintained. Replacing them with modern windows, even for more energy efficient ones will, in a sense, decrease the value.

    A Common Misconception

    There is a common misconception when it comes to historic windows that they need to be replaced to help with energy saving. Even though replacing the original windows with more "energy efficient" windows may help save on expenses, it rarely makes a difference in the long run.

    The argument that modern windows are more energy efficient than older windows fails to consider the conservation of embodied energy and reduction of environmental cost. Although smart windows may seem very eco-friendly, even manufacturing new windows has a cost on the environment and leaves an old usable window to waste.

    Fittings ought to be used for as long as they are in working order, especially in these times when we are facing challenges of global warming. Most historic windows are made of durable material that can last for as long as the building itself with mere maintenance. Replacing the original windows in a historic building should always be a last resort.

    For more information on the restoration of historic windows contact Scott Henson Architect, where we specialize in the preservation and restoration of historic buildings.

  • Holding Buildings Accountable for Their Sins

    Holding Buildings Accountable for Their Sins

    New York City is at the forefront of the movement to build green communities and New Yorkers are proud of their efforts to build smarter, more sustainable neighborhoods. As part of ongoing efforts, a group of progressive and far-reaching bills, designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, has been passed in early April of 2019.

    This group of ten bills is collectively called the Climate Mobilization Act. It is a radical re-imagining of how a great city can deal with climate change into the future. One of the most important goals of the bills is to meet the carbon emissions standards set in the Paris Climate Agreement.

    Carbon Emissions

    The Act will put limits on carbon emissions regulated by the Office of Building Energy Performance. The patrons, lobbyists, and city leaders responsible for the new legislation say this is a step in the right direction to build sustainable communities. The new legislation will attempt to account for the 70 percent of the city's carbon emissions which comes from large buildings. It's also an expansion of the current retro-commissioning standards already in place. Pete Sikora, senior adviser says, "this is really a new day for New York City."

    The bill’s proposal for a combination of changes to foster further renewable energy production and changed local building standards while retrofitting older buildings hopes to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030. The city expects to meet the Paris Climate Agreement standards set for the world, and to bring new green construction jobs to the city.

    Building Retrofits

    The buildings that are included in the requirements for retrofitting are those over 25,000 square feet and built before New York City had current building standards and materials that could protect the building envelope from energy leaks. These buildings are only 2% of the current buildings in New York City, but they are responsible for 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions. Buildings over 25,000 feet will be sanctioned with fines if they do not follow the limits and buildings under 25,000 feet are on the new agenda for decreased emissions.

    Legislators hope to curb increased rent or burdensome requirements for building owners and landlords with the passing of this act. Those required to carry out retrofits to current standards for energy savings will be provided with low-interest rate loans to accomplish the work. With immediate energy savings anticipated after the retrofitting, and the low interest rate loans, proponents of the bills believe that building owners will see an overall savings rather quickly.

    Landlords with be required to slash emissions by 2030 and double those efforts by 2050. Some of the requirements will include new windows, new insulation, and green roofs. Some exclusions include buildings with rent control, those under four stories, and some nonprofits and religious spaces.

    Passive House design and retro-fitting, which originated in Germany in the 1990s, is one of the most effective ways to limit or entirely remove building carbon emissions. It also produces a more comfortable living environment and healthier air. Although they are more common in Europe, there are still less than 2000 certified Passive House buildings in the United States. The new bill will certainly increase their popularity here and their already almost exponential growth.

    Green Roofs

    One of the most significant new requirements will be green roofs on new and retrofitted buildings. New York City has had the materials and processes for adding green roofs to buildings for some time, and these new green roofs can filter water and air, add green spaces, provide wind and solar energy, and provide superior climate control for the building.

    Leading by Example

    With the new green initiative, New York City hopes that other cities will follow its efforts. Scott Henson Architect is a Certified Passive House Design firm. We are a NYC-based firm with over 20 years of experience in building retrofits and can design your retrofit and sustainability plan to meet or go above and beyond the Climate Mobilization Act.

    Please contact us today.