Author Archive

Another Vinyl Tirade

Posted on: October 23rd, 2007 by Barbara Campagna 2 Comments

 

I have been mulling over Patrice’s vinyl sadness since last week which probably explains the violence with which I responded to a Building & Grounds Manager from one of our 29 historic sites today when he called to ask if I would approve “vinyl replacement” windows in one of our rental houses (I am the Director of Architecture for the National Trust’s 29 historic sites). “No vinyl” I said. “But vinyl lasts longer and doesn’t need any maintenance,” he responded. Why does this misperception continue in the general public and bleed over into those of us who should know better? As Mike Jackson (Chief Architect of the Illinois SHPO’s office) says, “No Maintenance required” really means “can’t be repaired” - so they end up in the landfill much sooner than say a wood window which can be repaired and repaired and repaired, or recycled. Vinyl can’t be repaired, and it can’t be recycled. So, maybe you don’t need to repaint it every 10 years, but within 20 years you will need to buy new windows yet again, and the heavy imprint on the environment starts all over.

To quote my colleague Patrice’s recent "White Paper on Sustainability": There is a common perception that windows are a major source of heat loss and gain. Yet retaining historic windows is often more environmentally friendly than replacement with new thermally resistant windows. Government data suggests that windows are responsible for only 10% of air infiltration in the average home. Furthermore, a 1996 study finds that the performance of updated historic windows is in fact comparable to new windows. Window retention also preserves embodied energy, and reduces demand for environmentally costly new windows, typically constructed of vinyl or aluminum… There is the widespread perception that air leakage through windows is responsible for the majority of heat gain or loss in historic buildings. Yet information from the U.S. Department of Energy indicates that windows are responsible for only 10% of air escape in the average American home. Floors, ceiling and walls are responsible for 31% of heat loss and gain, while ducts and fireplaces are each responsible for about 15% of heat loss and gain.

Now this assumption is only true for traditional windows, typically in buildings built before 1920. All the tables are turned when looking at buildings built after World War II, or even earlier International Style or mid-century modern buildings. Many of these windows and/or curtain wall systems were experimental, and most of the energy loss in these buildings is attributed to the curtain wall system.

So, what sage advice did I give our Building and Grounds Manager after I stopped hyperventilating? First, absolutely no vinyl. It doesn’t matter that this building is not the National Historic Landmark that the site is known for. It’s the vinyl in all the good sound background buildings that are contributing to the problems in our environment. Second, maybe the perceived energy loss is not from the windows (or the windows alone), so let’s get an energy audit first before we jump to conclusions. And third, get me options for repairing the windows or replacing with new wood. Yes, they will probably be more expensive than the vinyl, in the short term. But as stewards for the site we need to always be looking at the long term and the big picture. And so that means, NO VINYL!!

UPDATE, November 15th, 2007: The Building and Grounds Manager from the offending site called me yesterday to tell me he got prices for new wood windows that match the badly deteriorated ones, as well as prices for vinyl and clad windows. Guess what, the difference was pretty minimal, so he thanked me for the recommendation and now we'll be staying away from the vinyl!!

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Barbara Campagna

Barbara A. Campagna, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C was formerly the Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust in the Stewardship of Historic Sites office. She is currently a sustainability consultant to the National Trust and can be reached at bcampagna@bcampagna.com.

Reducing Water Consumption in Historic Buildings

Posted on: October 16th, 2007 by Barbara Campagna

 

  1. Plant Only Native Plants - Naturescaping
    Native plantings typically reduce maintenance costs over their lifetime by minimizing inputs of fertilizers, pesticides and water. Whenever you are planting flowers or vegetation in non-historic landscapes, utilize native plantings - this is called “naturescaping”. Contact your local nursery or go to www.plantnative.org. Have you heard about Xeriscaping? It’s a comprehensive approach to planting and gardening. See www.xeriscape.org.
  2. Evaluate Your Irrigation System
    Install low-volume micro-irrigation for gardens, trees and shrubs. Micro-irrigation includes drip (also known as trickle), micro spray jets, micro-sprinklers, or bubbler irrigation to irrigate slowly and minimize evaporation, runoff, and overspray. Ensure that there are no leaks in your irrigation equipment.
  3. Evaluate Your Fountains
    Do not install or use ornamental water features unless they recycle the water. Use signs to show the public that water is recycled. Do not operate during a drought.
    ... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Barbara Campagna

Barbara A. Campagna, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C was formerly the Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust in the Stewardship of Historic Sites office. She is currently a sustainability consultant to the National Trust and can be reached at bcampagna@bcampagna.com.

Minimize Energy Use in Historic Buildings

Posted on: July 19th, 2007 by Barbara Campagna

 

  1. Change All Your Light Bulbs to CFLs
    Replacing just one regular incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb will save 150 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. Imagine how much carbon dioxide changing ALL your light bulbs will save. CFLs are significantly more expensive than incandescent up front, but they can last up to 10x longer. Lowe's has one of the best in-store collections of cfls but you can also buy them online at websites such as http://www.energyfederation.org/consumer/default.php/cPath/25_44.
  2. Use Less Hot Water
    It takes a lot of energy (coal, electricity, etc) to heat water. Install low flow showerheads, and do your wash in cold or warm water instead of hot water. Think twice the next time you go to turn on the hot water.
  3. Adjust Thermostats
    In any building or space where you do not have carefully monitored temperatures for collections (etc), move the thermostat down just 2 degrees in the winter and up 2 degrees in the summer. You can save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year per building with this simple adjustment.
    ... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Barbara Campagna

Barbara A. Campagna, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C was formerly the Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust in the Stewardship of Historic Sites office. She is currently a sustainability consultant to the National Trust and can be reached at bcampagna@bcampagna.com.

Conserve Resources in Historic Buildings

Posted on: July 16th, 2007 by Barbara Campagna

 

  1. Seal the Cracks, Block the Openings
    Every degree of difference in the temperature between the inside and outside of a building can add as much as 10% to your heating and cooling bills. You can cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1,000 pounds per year per building by making sure that gaps at windows and doors are properly caulked, fit dampers to fireplaces, block unnecessary vents, and weatherstrip all seams.
  2. Buy Laptops, Not Desktops
    As your computers need to be updated, buy laptops instead of desktops which can save up to 90% energy per unit! And make sure you recycle your old computers.
  3. Buy FSC Certified Timber
    Wood is a perfect renewable and sustainable resource, provided it isn’t being clearcut or harvested in an unsustainable fashion. To ensure the wood you are buying has come from a forest managed according to internationally agreed-upon ethical, social and environmental standards, look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified timber label.
    ... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Barbara Campagna

Barbara A. Campagna, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C was formerly the Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust in the Stewardship of Historic Sites office. She is currently a sustainability consultant to the National Trust and can be reached at bcampagna@bcampagna.com.