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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.

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  • Breathing Life Back Into Your Historic Building Envelope

    Breathing Life Back Into Your Historic Building Envelope

    New York City's Facade Inspection Safety Program (FISP), formally known as Local Law 11, requires the facades of buildings of six or more stories to be inspected for safety every five years. This measure was a replacement for Local Law 10, originally enacted in the late 1990’s, which required inspections of only the front side of buildings. The latest inspection period, Cycle 8, started in February 2015 and ends in February 2020.

    Assessment

    When restoring a building, one of the first steps is giving the building an assessment of its current condition. The structure should be examined, which includes the roof, foundation, walls, gutters, windows and interior leaks. 

    Buildings in New York City typically have membrane roofing made of synthetic rubber, modified bitumen or thermoplastic. With flat roofs, it’s important to note any ponding water and other signs of damage. If the roof is slate, it’s important to look for damaged and missing material.

    As for the exterior walls, unsafe conditions include items such as loose or cracked bricks, cracked windows, missing mortar, improperly secured air conditioners, and any other conditions which may be dangerous to pedestrians below. Unsafe conditions must be dealt with immediately which involves installing a sidewalk shed within a 30-day period. Then an amended report must be filed confirming the repairs required. Extensions of up to 90 days may be granted if necessary.

    Design

    The SHA team is a full-service architectural firm. Our goal is to ensure that your building is both functional and beautiful, and we pay special attention to the historic details of the building exterior. In order to complete accurate repairs, we utilize the original materials or replicate them to achieve the appearance of the original design.

    Another option for exterior building restoration is adaptive reuse. Adaptive reuse projects maintain the historic envelope while updating the interior. Updating the existing interior rather than the construction of a new structure saves money and time. This option is also a means of preserving the history, identity and charm of a city. Adaptive reuse of buildings is also eco-friendly, as fewer building materials are being utilized. 

    If you find yourself in need of exterior building restoration or adaptive reuse design projects, contact Scott Henson Architect, located in New York City. Our approach is innovative, sustainable and respectful in order to preserve the integrity of historic structures.

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