A diversity of windows on Boston’s Beacon Hill. Image credit: Kristina D.C. Hoeppner (CC BY-SA 2.0)
This is the first installment of a multiple-part discussion on historic buildings from ABA Senior Associate and Senior Technical Architect Ric Panciera. Ric guides ABA's quality control and assurance programs, and his deep expertise in building technology, materials, and construction systems shapes our studio's technical, preservation, and design approaches to historic buildings.
Historic preservation is an old topic, and I'm certainly not the first person to underscore the following preservation-related issues. But I'd like to present an inquiry into the obstacles that professionals, homeowners, and building owners face when forced to choose between maintaining original windows in historic buildings and the need to be responsible in terms of energy use and comfort. To say that these two issues are at odds with one another is an understatement. I have no immediate answers or long-term solutions, but I would like to open a discussion on the topic.
Many towns and cities have historic preservation boards, most of which are advisory, not regulatory. In addition, most local historic districts have guidelines that correspond to the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Preservation and Rehabilitation. These standards, written long ago, are the cornerstones of the preservation movement that began when people realized we were losing many of our cherished older buildings to new construction. Something had to be done.
As a member of a local historic preservation commission, I'm often conflicted between interpreting the standards, which appear quite clear, and my obligation to be a design professional, whose responsibilities may not be clear at all. People looking for relief from the requirement to preserve what they perceive as leaky, damaged relics from the distant past look to the wisdom of the board, the members of which may also have differing opinions from one another on this subject.
Single-hung window with 15-lite top sash, South Side Historic District, Corning, New York. Image credit: Stilfehler (CC-BY-SA-4.0)