Trouble with Windows

No, not the type of windows you see when you boot up your computer.  Perhaps the windows you look through every day in your office and home?  ‘Window technology’ is not something often discussed in relation to sustainability but improvements in these overlooked areas can highlight ways we can bring big improvements to our environment.

Recently, a report was published announcing that the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is making great strides towards being a sustainable bank.  One shouldn’t detract from the efforts this organisation is making.  After all, transparent reporting and forward thinking is something a lot of companies could adopt, but just how much difference could this approach make?  Would more straight forward and simple efforts yield as much benefit?

Let’s turn the clock back 100 years…  Huge changes were sweeping across the western world. Mass migration flooded the already overcrowded and chaotic cities at a prodigious rate. Industries sprang up to exploit this rapid influx of people and provide jobs.  In some cases whole towns were centred around these industries.  These urban factories, homes and ancillary buildings were often quickly and simply constructed, albeit very sturdily, but one factor which wasn’t really considered was energy efficiency.  It simply wasn’t an issue when industrialisation took hold.  Recent thermal imaging surveys shamed London’s Houses of Parliament but very little can be done about these grand edifices.  Poorly insulated building are extremely difficult to heat and a lot of these building are still around today.

Do RBS have plans to modernise their banking buildings, many of which are over 100 years old, and insulate these structures? A big problem they would face is that these elegant old banks are historically very important and difficult to modernise while retaining their character. One option to consider is double (and sometimes triple) glazing. The downside is often resorting to uPVC frames which are not only ugly, but the process in producing them is hugely damaging to the environment. Traditionally, the Nordic countries have overcome a lot of these issues already. Cold winters are a stark reminder that being well insulated is important! Has anyone found a successful way of reusing old PVC which inevitably ends up in landfill sites?

Are there any new technologies around to reduce the heat which escapes through old windows without negatively impacting the character of these imposing and historical structures? Maybe it is time for sustainability and forward-thinking to take precedence over sentimentality in this regard.


One Comment

  1. Malin Håkansson
    Posted December 23, 2010 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Wooden window frames, of course with triple glazing (while double is okay), are by far the best alternative. They have a life expectancy of about 2-300 years while the plastic ones will be long dead after only 50.

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