WINDOWS IN HISTORIC BUILDINGS are often a source of tension between the historic preservation movement and people who want to increase the energy efficiency of older buildings by replacing wooden windows with vinyl ones. To support its case, the preservation movement argues, “The greenest building is the one that is already built.”

To clarify misconceptions and highlight the benefits of older wooden windows, international preservation organizations have created witty yet educational videos that poke fun at the issue. Tampa Preservation Inc.’s video makes the case for keeping wooden windows by showing a salesman repeatedly responding with pat answers to questions about wooden windows.

“Is it better to invest in high quality materials that have long lifecycles?” the building owner inquires.

“If you love the Earth, you’ll get vinyl windows,” the salesman responds.

By the end of the video the point is clear: Historic wooden windows might require maintenance, but they can outlast their vinyl counterparts by as much as 100 years.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation in the US created a video entitled Save the Windows that mimics a public service announcement. It shows different styles of windows adorned with melancholy painted faces, ending with a call to action: “Repairing old windows can be so easy, cost so much less, save energy and protect the character of your home, and it can give new hope to windows longing to be saved.”

Wooden windows contribute to a building’s character, while respecting the integrity of its design. Using existing wooden windows also means that energy is not spent manufacturing new vinyl ones. This savings can offset the energy lost with less efficient wooden windows. Think of the reduction in waste heading to landfills brought about by preserving what we have.

Find The Window Salesman video at, and Save the Windows by searching “preservation nation windows” on YouTube.

Windows are just the beginning. Search “Proof that the Greenest Building is the One Already Standing” for Lloyd Alter’s review of the new ground-breaking report.

Lindsay Benjamin and Kayla Jonas are heritage planners with the Heritage Resources Centre based out of the University of Waterloo.


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