Replacing windows or doors is no small task. Just ask any building owner or manager who has faced the challenge. What may seem simple at first becomes increasingly complex, once all the factors involved are considered and construction starts. It goes beyond material costs, building codes, and contractors. You also must take into account who will be designing and managing the project. A bad installation can result in more problems than you started with. You need a collaborative approach, with everyone working together with the single goal of getting the job done right using the right products.
Building owners or managers will have to make many critical choices which will directly affect the success of the glazing replacement project.
Choosing the right time
Many people think the time to consider window replacement is when problems related to age and wear – wind and water leaks, paint, corrosion, mold and mildew problems, operating difficulties – become obvious. It might not be a good idea to wait that long, though, especially if your building is 20 years or older or more. Besides, the benefits of modern glazing systems show up in ways far beyond cosmetics. Consider that once popular single-pane aluminum slider windows have a heat loss rate approaching 50 percent even when properly installed.
The lessons learned from damage caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 provided the turning point for building codes and construction standards in US coastal areas and elsewhere throughout the nation. The experience may have been both painful and expensive, but today’s glazing systems are windborne debris resistant, energy efficient, and free from wind and water leaks. Plus, building codes continue to change and evolve in the 21st century as materials and technologies improve and provide even more risk mitigation.
It may be easy to feel good about such advances, but they still haven’t reached the vast majority of the nation’s commercial building environment still vulnerable to high winds and windborne debris. This deficit ensures it will take many years before a significant percentage of commercial buildings are protected, even if all new buildings are fully compliant. Changes in building codes and the benefits of new glazing systems should be incentive enough to begin investigating into upgrading your windows. The cost of a new glazing system may be high but the cost of an old glazing system which is not replaced until it finally fails during a storm could be astronomical.
Choosing the right system
“New windows” likely means more than just new glazing (glass), especially for older structures. New energy standards and impact resistance standards usually me
an replacing the glazing system – glass plus structural components, including frames and anchorage – that make up the entire window or door. Some older buildings may require upgrades to the adjoining structure so that windows and doors can be properly anchored. Improvements in building science and materials all must be taken into account during the design and planning phase to ensure the final product will continue to perform many years into the future.
Updating the glazing of older buildings to meet current code compliance often presents unique obstacles – even though construction stringently met every once-current standard. New window systems’ tight tolerances may make installation in old existing walls difficult to tie into the existing structure to make them air- and water-tight. Plus, architectural design and aesthetics are as important for reglazing as they were when the original building plans were first drafted. Some owners may be interested in modernizing their building with a new style while more often than not they would like to preserve the original design intent.
With all the recent advancements in engineering design and materials, the benefits of a new glazing system can add up quickly. Of course, the obvious advantages include being water-tight and energy efficient, plus the potential for increased resale value. But not all benefits are financial. Lower maintenance requirements, easier window use, and reduced exterior noise infiltration all contribute to owner satisfaction and comfort.
Choosing the right team
It takes the right team with the flexibility to adapt to and meet the challenges of glazing system replacement. They should be fully engaged collaborators from the start to completion, throughout the entire installation process. No matter how thorough planning may be, concealed conditions – wall and flashing leaks, for example – might not be known until the job begins. They should be excellent communicators and managers, providing the ideas and tools necessary for the smooth completion of the project.
Considering all the variables – known and unknown – in glazing system replacement, choosing the right contractor becomes critical. They must stand behind their work. Replacing a glazing system involves both exterior and interior work. For residential buildings, that means contractors will be working in somebody’s home. Not only are they obliged to keep the inconvenience and possible damage at a minimum, they must ensure the safety of the residents and workers alike. They need to be very flexible.
Choosing the right designer/manager/consultant is even more critical. You’re more likely to be satisfied and have fewer problems from start to finish when you select someone like GCI Consultants, LLC with deep experience and knowledge in all facets of glazing system replacement. Our unique skill set and expertise in all phases and aspects of glazing system installation have led us to serve as expert witnesses in courtroom litigation throughout the nation. We know which window systems and installation methods that can be relied on and the ones to avoid. Most importantly, we work closely with clients, combining innovation with building science insight to eliminate potential problems that could occur during the design and construction phase.
A large scale glazing replacement or retrofit project can be a daunting task. These properties wanted to get the job done right, so they contacted GCI Consultants, LLC:
* The Diplomat Resort & Spa, Hollywood, Florida
* Yacht Harbour Condominium, Coconut Grove, Florida
* Renaissance Jaragua Hotel, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
* The Alexander Hotel & Condominium, Miami Beach, Florida.
Let us know your glazing system challenges. We’re here to help from the very start.
By Jason Bondurant