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Reframing Windows

November 01, 2010
November/December 2010
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2010 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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Artisan and craftsman David Clark considers himself to be a green and sustainable Window Wright. He is a specialist in restoring wood sash windows in older and historic homes, with a particular fondness for saving the old wavy glass—Clark has a saying, “A Victorian or period home without its wavy glass is like a Lady without her diamonds—and he takes special care to weather-strip both casement and double-hung sash windows to a high degree of performance. Often old windows are the first to go when a homeowner thinks of improving the home’s energy efficiency. While Clark acknowledges there is a time and place to change out windows, he says that current building science shows that addressing the greatest energy losses, through the building shell or its thermal barrier, is generally the most cost-effective step. Simply repairing and weather-stripping existing windows is often a better choice than replacing them. For anyone with an appreciation of older homes, this is the way to go.

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In 1979, America was in the throes of the second oil embargo, and Clark was a senior Urban Studies major at San Francisco State University. In October, he saw a Dan Rather/CBS special on energy. On this program, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Art Rosenfeld presented his House Doctor Project to the nation. The following day, Clark signed up with Rosenfeld’s research team to be a “gofer” to complete his senior internship requirements. He learned about applying building science to the building and retrofitting of homes and began to see the house as a system.

As an urban studies student, Clark was concerned with the wholesale demolition of historic and period structures and the loss of old growth forests. Clark’s uncle taught him how to repair sash windows when he was boy. When he added to this his new-found knowledge on how to apply building science to save existing homes, he started his 30-year apprenticeship in becoming a Window Wright. The benefits of a properly refitted wood sash window include energy and materials efficiency and architectural integrity. With the renewed appreciation of the connection between green building and historic preservation, home performance businesses would do well to hire the next generation of specially trained Window Wrights.

Leslie Jackson is associate editor for Home Energy.

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