10 on Tuesday

 

Windows are the most visible, yet most commonly underappreciated, components of older and historic homes and buildings.

In addition to adding beauty and character, original windows serve a great purpose -- they connect the outside of the building to the inside and, as an integral part of the architecture, offer invaluable clues to a building's history.

Despite this value, however, historic windows often get the blame for a building’s energy loss. Most often, people jump to replace their historic windows because a) companies promise that their replacement windows will save clients time and money, and b) it’s promoted as the "green" thing to do. In fact, a thriving industry has grown around this perceived need to replace rather than restore.

The latest report from our Preservation Green Lab in Seattle, Saving Windows, Saving Money: Evaluating the Energy Performance of Window Retrofit and Replacement, tackles this unfortunate perception head-on. The study examines multiple ways you can retrofit (read: modify) your historic windows for better performance, and outlines each option’s energy, carbon, and cost savings across a variety of climates.

The heartening result: Retrofits for historic windows perform comparably to new replacement windows, and almost every retrofit option offers a better return on investment (at a fraction of the cost).

For more facts and figures, we encourage you to read the full Preservation Green Lab report. In the meantime, check out the top 10 things you should know about retrofitting your historic windows.

1. Include retrofitting in your cost-benefit analysis.

As you’ll see throughout these tips, retrofitting historic or older windows has numerous, measurable benefits. Still, not every old window needs to be saved, so it can help property owners to ask these questions as part of their initial cost-benefit analysis:

  • Are my windows an important architectural or defining feature of my building?
  • Are there ways I can retrofit my windows to achieve greater energy efficiency?
  • Will replacement windows last as long as my originals?
  • Are there more cost-effective approaches available other than replacement windows?
  • Will replacement windows fit the character of my property or detract from it?

2. Tackle other energy-efficiency measures first.

Just as windows are a part of your whole house, so should they be part of a whole-house solution to cutting back on energy use. As we discussed in a previous 10 on Tuesday, first do an energy audit of your house, preferably with an experienced professional. They can help you evaluate energy-saving solutions, the proper order for implementing them, and estimated costs. Then consider what additional efficiency gains or energy savings retrofitting your windows can offer.

3. Retrofits have better returns on investments than replacement windows.

Window retrofits such as cellular shades, storm windows, and insulating shades can achieve energy savings comparable to replacements at a much lower cost. Interior storm windows also reduce potential exposure to lead-based paint, while exterior storm windows help extend the useful life of historic windows by offering protection from the elements.

In comparison, replacement windows may offer high energy performance improvement, but the upfront costs are substantial and are not rapidly recovered through savings in energy bills.

4. The range of energy performance for retrofit options varies significantly.

The highest performing retrofits include interior window panels, exterior storm windows, and combining insulating shades with exterior storm windows. The performance of these measures varies significantly depending on the climate in which they are installed (see next tip).

Weather stripping was found to have the lowest energy cost savings and a low average ROI relative to other window improvements. However, the study determined that when homeowners install the weather-stripping themselves, it produces a higher return than any of the other window options studied.

5. Take climate into consideration.

The best retrofit option for Phoenix may not be right for Chicago, given the difference in their heating and cooling needs. For example, in places like Chicago that rely more on heating, insulating cellular shades helped reduce heat loss (even more so if the window also had exterior storm windows).

Meanwhile, if you’re in a place that relies more on cooling systems, like Phoenix, consider whether exterior shading, such as overhangs, trees, or nearby buildings, is present. If these elements are already shading the windows -- or if windows are not oriented toward the sun -- the windows will receive minimal or no cooling benefit from a retrofit.

6. Take matters into your own hands.

Perform high-return, do-it-yourself installations first, where possible. Weather stripping (good for old, drafty windows) and interior surface film (good for homes with big cooling bills) generate immediate savings at a low cost and don’t prevent you from adding other cost-saving retrofits later.

Taking a phased approach to window upgrades -- focusing on the highest returns first and using savings to pay for future improvements -- can eventually lead to long-term savings of money, energy, and carbon emissions for older homes, even for households that are on a tight budget.

7. Saving existing windows is greener than producing new windows.

Keeping existing windows saves the energy and resources needed to create new windows. Like any product, the production of replacement windows requires materials, and these materials generate CO2 and other environmental hazards from the extraction, manufacture, transport, and disposal processes. Retrofit measures also require materials, but are often less materials-intensive and so impact the environment less than an entire window replacement.

8. Saving windows preserves a home’s character.

Historic windows were custom fit to their original openings and often have sizes and shapes not found today. Replacing them usually requires changing the size and/or shape of the opening. So while standard-sized new windows might save on operational costs, they’ll com¬promise the character and historic integrity of a home with smaller windows, less light, distorted proportions, and trim that doesn't match the opening.

Moreover, changing the opening’s size or shape decreases the chance that new stock replacement windows will fit well. The resulting gaps around the windows will be just as (if not more) drafty as the historic windows they’re replacing.

Tip: The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties and The Secretary of the Interior’s Illustrated Guidelines on Sustainability for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings can guide you on how best to approach the preservation of windows in historically designated homes, or homes that may be eligible for listing.

9. Older windows are built with high-quality materials.

Wood windows made prior to the 1940s are likely to be made from old growth wood -- a stable, dense wood that mills well, holds paint and stain well, is not as attractive to insects, and has natural rot resistance. Also, the wood was most likely harvested locally, making it better suited for local climate conditions.

10.    Older windows can be repaired.

Traditional windows are made from individual parts. Each piece -- the rails, stiles, muntins, stops, sill, stool, jamb, etc. -- can be individually repaired or replaced in kind. Vinyl, aluminum, fiberglass, and composite windows are manufactured as a unit, and the components generally cannot be repaired. When a part fails, or the insulated glass seal breaks, or the vinyl warps, the entire unit must be replaced.

Bonus benefit of older windows: Repairing and increasing the energy performance of existing wood windows is good for the local economy, as hiring a window repair specialist to refurbish windows creates skilled local jobs.

So, as you can see, historic windows have a lot going for them, and the more you understand what options are available for improving them, the better you can protect your building’s character -- and your wallet’s health. Read the Preservation Green Lab report to learn more.

For a more detailed report summary, check out Preservation Leadership Forum's post Old Windows Are Worth It.

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the associate director for digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

[10 on Tuesday] 10 Basic Principles for Rehabbing the Right Way

Posted on: September 25th, 2012 by Emily Potter

 

New feature: The 10 on Tuesday slideshow! Feel free to post it, link it, email it, embed it, and otherwise share it with the world.

A couple weeks ago we defined the preservation term rehabilitate as: “To repair a structure and make it usable again while preserving those portions or features of the property that are historically and culturally significant.”

To successfully rehabilitate a historic building, though, it’s important to know more than just the definition. So this week we’re bringing you 10 basic principles to keep in mind when undertaking a rehabilitation project.

Of course, every project is different and will have different needs and solutions. But this handy reference guide is a great way to get you started.

1. Make every effort to use the building for its original purpose, when possible. But, if you can’t, make sure the new use requires minimal change to the original historic features.

Tip: You might also want to think about ways to recognize, or memorialize, the building’s original function (ex. a special plaque, framed historic photographs, or a small informational sign).

2. Do not destroy distinctive original features. Identify those unique and historic elements that define the building’s character, and make every effort to preserve and protect them. Avoid removing or altering elements that are critical to maintaining the original historic fabric of the building.

3. Recognize all buildings are physical products of their own time and tell a unique story about the people, places, and things surrounding them when they were built. Avoid changes that may create a false sense of historical development.

4. Recognize and respect changes that have taken place over time. Like a patina that is acquired over time, historic properties may change in ways that add to their historic value. Respect and retain those changes to the property that have occurred over time and have gained historic significance in their own right.

5. Treat and preserve distinctive stylistic features or examples of skilled craft work sensitively. Carefully save and preserve the materials, features, finishes, and examples of craftsmanship that characterize the property.

6. Repair rather than replace worn architectural features, whenever possible. And when replacement is necessary, new materials should match the old in design, composition, and color.

Tip: When constructing a replacement, look for physical evidence in and around the property or research historical documents to find out what the original feature looked like.

7. Clean façades using the gentlest methods possible. Avoid sandblasting and other damaging methods. Be especially cautious when using chemical or physical treatments, and always test the materials first.

8. Protect and preserve archeological resources. Keep surrounding archeological areas intact; however, if an area must be disturbed, take every step necessary to mitigate any harm done.

9. Compatible contemporary alterations are acceptable if they do not destroy significant historical or architectural fabric. When making a significant alteration (like a new addition, exterior alteration, or other new construction), be aware of how it will impact the look and feel of the property.

Tip: Find a way to differentiate the new alteration from the old structure, while using compatible and historically accurate materials as much as possible.

10. Build new additions so they can be removed without impairing the underlying structure. This way, if they are removed in the future, the essential historic structure will remain intact.

This may seem like a long list, and trying to follow them all -- or even just a few -- a little (more than a little?) daunting, but they’re intended to help you rehabilitate a historic property in the most accurate and appropriate way possible.

Plus, there are many professionals available to assist you during every phase of your project, from architects and landscapers to researchers and librarians. You can also check with your local or state preservation office for more help.

Tell us about a rehabilitation project you’ve worked on. What were the toughest things to accomplish? How did you solve problems you came up against?

Bonus: For a more detailed list of recommendations, check out the Secretary of Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings.

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.

Emily Potter

Emily Potter is a copywriter at the National Trust. She enjoys writing about places of all kinds, the stories that make them special, and the people who love them enough to save them.

[10 on Tuesday] 10 Twitter Terms Explained, Preservation-Style

Posted on: September 18th, 2012 by Sarah Heffern

 

“I don’t read your tweets. Everything on Twitter looks like it’s written in some sort of code that only the cool kids understand.”

This statement, made not too long ago by my younger sister, is one I’ve heard echoed by many others, including many colleagues in preservation. Since I’ve spent a couple of weeks making lists of why social media is important to our work and how to find the time to do it, I thought a quick primer on Twitter might be a great next step.

Bonus: This is actually two lists of 10 wrapped into one. Each explanation comes with an example from a local preservationist or preservation organization that’s worth following on your own account!

1. Feed:  The main item you see when you’re logged into your Twitter account. The feed is made up of the latest tweets from the people you follow. The feed for @PresNation looks like this:

@PresNation Twitter Feed


2. Following:
The users whose tweets you have chosen to see. A good way to find new people or organizations is to look at who other preservationists are following; for example, check out who @FHLouisiana (Foundation for Historical Louisiana) tracks on Twitter. You don’t have to follow everyone, of course, but it’s a helpful way to discover like-minded folks.

3. Followers: The people who follow you. There is no requirement to follow everyone who follows you, but if someone looks interesting, by all means, follow them back! Here’s an example of a list of followers from our @PresNationLive account.

4. Tweet:  The message you send out. The maximum length is 140 characters, including links to websites or images. Twitter automatically shortens any link to 20 characters (no matter how long it is!) and you can upload photos from either the Twitter website or its mobile applications.


5. RT:
Short for retweet, which is the term used for sharing a tweet created by someone else. Retweets can be done two ways:

  • Using the retweet button, which sends the entire tweet in its original format to your followers.
  • Using the quote tweet option (alas, only available on mobile applications), which allows you to add a comment before or after before sending.

You may also see MT, rather than RT. This stands for modified tweet, and is used when editing someone else’s tweet: 

 6. @mention: Using someone’s Twitter handle in a tweet so it links back to their account.


7. @reply:
Replying to a person’s question/comment; others' @replies show up in your feed only if you follow both the sender and the receiver. If you'd like your @replies to be visible to all, add a period before the @.


8. #hashtag:
Using a “#” before a word makes it a clickable search term in Twitter. We often use #preservation, #savingplaces, #PresConf, and #builtheritage. If you’re planning a campaign that uses Twitter, such as #SavePrentice, it’s a great idea to come up with a hashtag in advance and do a quick search on Twitter to see if anyone else is using it.

If a hashtag or other term becomes wildly popular, it is said to be trending -- and appears in a box on your main page, to the left of the feed.

Additional note about hashtags: they are also often used to denote a side comment or sarcasm. So, if you see a hashtag like #nerdswithcameras, it’s not really meant to be a search term.

9. Direct message: Twitter’s non-public communication channel. It can be found via the envelope icon on most mobile apps or in the same drop-down menu as settings on the Twitter website. You can only send direct messages to people that follow you.

@PresNation direct message

10. Twitter chat/Tweet chat. A designated time for folks to discuss a topic, using a hashtag to gather all the conversation together. We host one monthly on the #builtheritage hashtag, and @JennWelborn, a public historian, has pulled together a list of other history-related chats on her blog.

Did I miss anything you find incomprehensible about Twitter? Let me know in the comments, and I'll follow up.

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.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.

[10 on Tuesday] 10 Common Preservation Terms Defined

Posted on: September 11th, 2012 by Emily Potter 7 Comments

 

As you delve into preservation projects (maybe our 10 on Tuesday posts have inspired you to green your home or use social media to promote your cause), you might find you need a little clarification on common -- and seemingly interchangeable -- preservation terms. We’ve pulled together 10 (surprise!) of the big ones for you here.

1. Preserve: To maintain a site’s existing form through careful maintenance and repair.

2. Conserve: To keep a place in a safe or sound state in such a way as to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect. This often refers to environmental and natural resources.

3. Cultural resource: Broadly, this is evidence of past human activity and includes places like buildings or old roads, battlefields, sacred landscapes, and historic artifacts or objects. They are generally considered non-renewable resources.

4. Reconstruct: To re-create an historic place that has been damaged or destroyed; to erect a new structure resembling the old by using historical, archaeological, or architectural documents.

5. Rehabilitate: To repair a structure and make it usable again while preserving those portions or features of the property that are historically and culturally significant.

6. Remodel: To change a building without regard to its distinctive features or style. This often involves changing the appearance of a structure by removing or covering original details and substituting new materials and forms.

7. Renovate: To repair a structure and make it usable again, without attempting to restore its historic appearance or duplicate original construction methods or materials.

8. Restore: To return a site to its original form and condition as represented by a specified period of time using materials that are as similar as possible to the original ones.

9. Stabilize: To protect a building from deterioration by making it structurally secure, while maintaining its current form.

10. Easement (as it relates to historic preservation): A voluntary legal agreement, typically in the form of a deed, which permanently protects a historic property.

Now it’s time for a pop quiz! Just kidding. We hope this glossary is a handy reference for you going forward.

If you’ve already familiarized yourself with these terms through personal experience, tell us about it -- have you rehabilitated an older home, reconstructed an old barn, or dealt with/put in place easements on a historic property? Also, any other terms you’d like to better understand?

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.

Emily Potter

Emily Potter is a copywriter at the National Trust. She enjoys writing about places of all kinds, the stories that make them special, and the people who love them enough to save them.

[10 on Tuesday] 10 Tips for Introducing the Public to Preservation

Posted on: September 4th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Written by Dana Saylor

This week's 10 on Tuesday toolkit comes from one busy lady -- Dana Saylor, an active preservationist, historian, genealogist, and artist in Buffalo, NY. We had the pleasure of working with Dana on Buffalo Unscripted in 2011 and have long been in awe of her passion and commitment. Read on to learn her tips for spreading the preservation love throughout your own community.


Dana Saylor (second from right, front) poses with fellow local preservationists at the Lyth Building in Buffalo, NY.

The word "preservation" induces a variety of responses, depending on who you're talking to. Some people feel all warm and fuzzy about saving historic places; others get the sense that a small group of cranky old people wants to obstruct all progress.

If you want to share the concept of preservation -- and get an enthusiastic "How can I help?" response -- you must first engage the public and show them the importance of preservation in our society.

As I plan the event CITY of NIGHT, which will take place September 8 at Buffalo's "Silo City" grain elevators, I have considered ways to encourage everyday citizens to get involved with history and saving our built environment. Here are the approaches I have found to be successful:

1. Start small. Rome wasn't built in a day! You have to start with a "small group of thoughtful, committed citizens" (thank you, Margaret Mead!), make sure they're all on the same page, then build your effort from there. Heck, starting with just yourself is ok, too; sometimes, all it takes is one person to leads the charge.

2. Speak the language. When speaking with potential supporters of your cause, address the aspects of the issue that they will identify with most. This means selecting universal themes that apply to most people. For example, if you are trying to convince your neighborhood to help prevent developers from tearing down historic landmarks that they allowed to become blighted, describe the injustice of uneven codes enforcement. Neighbors will think, "It IS unfair that some rich corporation doesn't get fined for long grass and broken windows, but if I let that happen, I'd be hauled into housing court!"

3. Be a light in the darkness. We live in an oft-times depressing world. Share the exciting and pleasant side of your preservation experiences with people, and they'll respond positively. Try turning negatives such as "This thoughtless company doesn't care about our waterfront history" to "Think about how exciting this place will be when we have tons of people and heritage tourism dollars pouring in!" A shift in your mindset will change the way the public responds to you.

4. Try, try again. If one approach to get the public engaged doesn't work, there's always another way. Maybe you need to reach a younger segment of your audience? Reach out to social media gurus. If your calls for action are falling on deaf ears, maybe you just need to adjust the message. Try a variety of techniques and modes of communication, and you'll reach many more willing supporters.

5. Assign homework. Show volunteers and potential supporters how important they are to you by giving them useful, meaningful tasks. No one wants to show up and realize they have no way to contribute. Make a list of your contacts' skill sets and experiences, and reach out -- even to those who haven't offered to help yet. If you tell them you need them, you'll be surprised at how quickly and ably they'll respond.

6. Celebrate successes. While much of the media demonizes preservation, we who are involved know how important our work is. Gather your crews of assistants, board members, volunteers, and supporters, and celebrate the wins, no matter how small. Group cohesion is essential in improving morale and gaining additional outside support. When new people to the effort learn that it's a fun bonding experience to work on preservation issues, they'll want to be a part of it.

7. Channel the Information Age. Everyone says that the key to a productive and happy life is a good education. And educating the public about current events, especially preservation-related ones, is hugely important. One-on-one communication with friends, neighbors, colleagues and even the media is necessary to gain understanding and support. Keep making small talk and gently share your views to ensure the people in your circles have a grasp on WHY we fight and WHAT we're fighting for.

8. Make it personal. We all share our hopes and dreams with friends and family. If you discuss preservation concepts through the same lens, sometimes it's much more effective at changing people's minds. Talk about what we've lost since you were a kid, what kind of place you envision living in, and what you want the world our children will inherit to look like. You'll immediately find common ground.

9. Pare it down. The complexities surrounding many preservation battles can be incredible. However, if you speak about all of these to a potential supporter, their eyes will glaze over and you could lose them. We all have busy lives. Think about the major points -- things that will really hit home -- and discuss those. Whether you're appearing on the news or talking to the person serving your coffee, this technique will serve you well.

10. Build a community. In Buffalo, there is a strong sense of unity among many in the preservation scene. While we all have our own methods and approaches, we understand that we're fighting for the same things in the long run. Those who find themselves (intentionally or not) in leadership roles must build consensus and community among their ranks. Reward volunteers with praise. Try hard to set aside your ego. And keep remembering the reasons why you do what you do. It will speak volumes to the public and they'll want to be a part of preserving our shared experience.

What have you learned about engaging and teaching others about preservation? Share your tips in the comments.

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.