Old Windows, LEED®, and Historic Character

We have storm windows on the outside of the original windows on our century-old house in Denver.  From inside our home, I get to enjoy the wavy character of the old glass and the beauty of the old wood.  I try to discourage neighbors and friends from window replacement, and encourage them to get storm windows instead.  LEED® encourages window replacement, but it shouldn’t.  Here’s why, taken straight from a publication by the National Institute of Building Sciences:

“LEED® fails to acknowledge that historic windows are important features and that their energy efficiency can be upgraded.  LEED® encourages the use of highly energy efficient windows, which often requires the removal of historic windows that are potentially reusable.  Moreover, original windows are character-defining features of historic buildings and their removal can significantly alter a structure’s integrity, thus conflicting with preservation goals and the Secretary’s Standards.

“With proper maintenance, windows built from old growth wood can function indefinitely and their performance can be substantially bolstered by using storm windows, caulk, and weather-stripping.  Studies have shown that these simple improvements can result in efficiency similar to that of new insulated glass windows.  Modern windows also have a relatively short lifespan and can be difficult, if not impossible, to repair.  Once modern windows fail, there are few ways they can be recycled, and they will likely end up in landfills.  This begins an environmentally insensitive cycle of removal and replacement.

“Therefore, the most responsible approach is to retain historic windows that last and retrofit them with increased effectiveness rather than install new windows that, without exception, will fail and cannot be repaired.  Regrettably, the replacement window industry is strong, and old windows are touted as poor performers, so the common practice of replacing windows in not likely to change much in the immediate future.  To combat this, LEED® should consider awarding points for the repair and continued use of old windows where significant improvements in energy efficiency are demonstrated, as well as where significant amounts of historic fabric are being retained and reused.”  –  National Institute of Building Sciences, Whole Building Design Guide, WBDG13 “Strategies for Sustainable Historic Preservation”

The bold text above highlights the important issue.  The most sustainable thing to use is what you already have, especially when it’s as precious as a historic window.

Rejection of Submittals

“The rejection of a submittal for good cause is not a cause for a delay claim on the part of the contractor.  The contractor should anticipate the potential need to resubmit incomplete or rejected submittals in the submittal schedule.”

My thought of the day, from The Project Resource Manual – CSI Manual of Practice.

We all know this, right?  Let’s practice it!

In Defense of MasterFormat 2004

As Don Short pointed out in his blog post today http://blog.tempestcompany.com/2011/08/08/masterformat-2004-a-solution-in-search-of-a-problem/comment-page-1/ , the most obvious upside of MasterFormat 2004 is that it makes writing specifications easier. 

In the 16 years since 1995, we in the construction industry have been introduced to many new technologies and materials.  We have outgrown MasterFormat 1995.  MasterFormat 1995 does not give architects, specifiers, and building product manufacturers enough direction about where to put the information we need to communicate to the contractor team.  MasterFormat 2004, along with its updates issued in 2010 and 2011, provides us with the framework to let us know exactly where to put our information.1    

MasterFormat 2004’s more fully developed framework, which the more compact MasterFormat 1995 did not provide, produces more consistency in construction documents across multiple construction projects, no matter who the architect and specifier are.   

Clear, concise, correct, and complete is the goal for construction communications.  MasterFormat 2004 can guide design professionals to that goal better than MasterFormat 1995 can.  When the design team’s documents are clear, concise, correct and complete, everyone, from the owner to the estimator to the constructor, benefits.  To use Don’s phrasing, “ease of writing” leads to “ease of use.” 



1.  In different projects which used MasterFormat 1995, I’ve seen the same information in different divisions – not just different sections, actually different divisions.  One example: water repellent products intended to be applied to exterior masonry assemblies.  When using MasterFormat 2004, we know where to locate the specification information for these products.  MasterFormat 2004 guides us to “07 19 00 Water Repellents” which is further broken down into different types of products.  On MasterFormat 1995 projects, I’ve seen these products specified in Division 4 (under “Masonry Assemblies”), in Division 9 (under “Paints and Coatings”) and, just as in MasterFormat 2004, in Division 7 (under “Dampproofing and Waterproofing”).  Inconsistencies from project to project lead to problems in construction.  MasterFormat 2004 is a solution to these problems.