Gordon Bock imageGordon Bock is co-author of The Vintage House: A Guide to Successful Renovations and Additions. As an architectural historian and former editor-in-chief of Old House Journal, Gordon is an expert on how people can preserve what is essential in their vintage home while making it work for the needs and demands of modern life.

We interviewed him for a two-part Q & A in advance of a Window Hero Webinar he will be doing with Indow on December 3. All registrants will receive a recording of the presentation, so sign up even if you cannot attend!

>> Click here to sign up

Q What is the biggest mistake people make when they buy a vintage house?

Making changes right away. It’s counterintuitive but I encourage people to put the brakes on and live in the building for a while, even up to a year. Look at the building, understand it better, especially if it’s more than 50 years old. If it has additions, some of that work may be good while some parts may be failing. You get to realize why it was built the way it was, as well as how it performs in summer and winter.

If it’s 100 years old or older, it’s probably been almost two or three buildings over time. Previous owners have added on or changed features on the exterior. You might say, “This back door on the building looks a little funny. Why did they build it that way?” With mechanical issues, you may assume you need a new boiler but maybe it’s fine. Maybe your radiators just need to be adjusted.

Q In the book you write that, “We seem to prefer things that look brand new.” Can you talk more about that?

There’s always been a sort of movement – especially in our lifetime – towards “new.” The idea that new is better, that bigger is better. The old house or historic building movement isn’t to counter that but to simply give another perspective: that there’s value both culturally and even environmentally to preserving existing buildings that are well built.

Q Can you explain why it’s good for the environment to preserve existing buildings?

We can’t just keep building new buildings forever and ever. Many of the buildings built in the past were made to last 100 or 200 years and longer. If we take care of them and invest in rehabilitating them, we’re basically recycling them instead of throwing them in a landfill. It’s a sustainable building practice. Often these buildings are designed with features that predate our cheap energy environment like deep eaves that shield the solar gain in the summer and permit solar gain in the winter.

Q How has society’s appreciation for vintage houses changed?

Once upon a time – going back to the 1960s and 70s – the idea of owning a historic house or a vintage house and especially investing effort into it to restore and rehabilitate it, was almost an eccentric practice. It was a lot of work. You did it all yourself since there wasn’t a base of craftspeople to give you a hand. Banks didn’t want to loan money for it.

More recently, the media has helped change that. And the other thing that’s happened is that there’s a new appreciation for sustainable neighborhoods and walkability and so people have started to appreciate close-in neighborhoods. These are where the old houses are. All of a sudden these houses have greater assets: they’re often in mature neighborhoods with nice trees as well as near transit lines.

Q You’ve mentioned that it’s important to save the windows in a vintage house. Why is that?

There are two reasons. One is for aesthetic, architectural reasons: windows represent important character defining features. People covet their wavy glass more than ever before. The appreciation of historic windows is growing among old house devotees.

The second is sustainability. If you jump to the conclusion you need to replace the windows in your house, you’re throwing away windows that have probably lasted 50-100 years. Are your new window going to last that long? We know with historic windows that the wood is old growth wood and with simple maintenance, they can last for generations. There are simple techniques for making them efficient. Putting storm windows on outside or inside can improve their energy performance and costs less than replacing them. So it’s an architectural, cultural thing and it’s a dollars and cents environmental thing.

Q How did you come to appreciate old houses and vintage windows?

I had two seminal experiences as a young person. The first was that we had family property in Pennsylvania where my grandmother grew up. We spent summers there with the rest of my relatives. We chipped in and tried to keep the farmhouse patched together. I got to do work on the building and so I learned how houses worked. And then when I was a teenager, I had the good fortune to have a summer job on the coast of Maine working for folks who had a lovely seashore house near Boothbay Harbor – a classic Maine seaside coastal building. I got to appreciate and see first hand a lot of historic architecture.

People are interested in vintage houses or historic architecture for different reasons. Some appreciate the antiquity of it, “Oh, this is 200 years old” or “It’s the first in the town.” For a lot of people, though, the specific age has nothing to do with it. These aren’t fossils. They like the details and the house fits their lifestyle and view of the world and is something with a unique personality. It’s not a tract house where everything is the same.

600x460_Bowdoin_7When it comes to historic buildings, the past is always right in front of us. Whether it’s a worn parquet floor or heavy molding or wavy leaded-glass windows, the past decisions of craftspeople and homeowners whose lives and daily rhythms shaped the space they lived in affect how we move through and perceive our own world today. No organization understands this better than the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which is holding its annual preservation conference next week in Savannah, Georgia. PastForward will feature those involved in saving places across the nation. We’re proud to be a sponsor.  

Threats to historic buildings run the gamut – from people who haven’t learned to appreciate them to a lack of resources for maintaining them. But the NTHP also recognizes climate change and the threat of rising seas as a danger. So while people will be attending sessions such as “Breathing Life into Legacy Cities”  there will also be a couple sessions on “Innovative Approaches to Climate Change” and “All You Need to Know (and Need to Share) about Climate Change.”

That’s something Indow deeply cares about and consequently works hard to make the built environment more energy efficient. In doing so, we’re saving historic windows, which are crucial to preserving the character and history of homes and buildings.

At PastFoward next week, we’re interested to hear  more about innovations taking place across the country. Like what’s happening with the nonprofit Southface in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1978, it helps make buildings throughout the Southeast more sustainable.

One of its newest ventures is EarthCraft Sustainable Preservation, a third-party green building certification program for historic structures. It identifies what’s inherently sustainable about historic buildings and gives property owners guidance on how to make them more energy efficient. A major goal is to keep people from tearing down and building anew.

“The program grew out of the recognition that renovating existing buildings is inherently more sustainable than tearing them down and replacing them with new buildings. The goal of the program is to maintain historic integrity while making historic buildings more energy and water efficient, thus reducing the cost of operating the building,” said Leigh Varley, communications project manager.

That’s just one example of the dynamic, creative forces at PastForward. We look forward to learning about more!

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When Nom Nom Paleo was working the night shift she installed Blackout Grade inserts so she could sleep during the day.

Most Americans are familiar with sleep deprivation. It’s not unusual for people to work long hours and heap on the extracurriculars in our go-go society, treating sleep as a luxury and reveling in that extra hour they get when Daylight Savings Time ends. (Which it does this Sunday at 2 a.m.!) For shift workers, though, it’s an even greater challenge to get adequate sleep and some suffer from Shift Work Disorder.

Try having a schedule at odds with those of family and friends and returning home to sleep just as the world around you is waking up. Garbage trucks rumble by, dogs bark and people talk. Nurses, police officers and others working alternate shifts will tell you: it’s not easy.  

More than 21 million wage and salary workers or 17.7 percent usually work a shift that falls at least partially outside of daytime work hours, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported.

Early morning shifts, night shifts or rotating shifts, can all throw off a person’s circadian rhythms, which disrupts sleep patterns.  

“With shift work disorder, you have a hard time sleeping when sleep is desired, needed or expected,” according to the National Sleep Foundation. It’s a chronic condition and it’s directly related to a person’s work schedule.

It’s such a problem that the NSF launched a Shift Work Disorder website to educate the public about it. It estimates roughly 10 percent of night and rotating shift workers have the disorder. Approximately 25-30 percent of shift workers experience excessive sleepiness or insomnia.

The site has so much good advice including tips for sleeping during the day, a couple of which Indow can help with.

  1. Wear sunglasses on the drive home to limit the light, which makes people more alert and influences their internal clock. (Indow doesn’t sell sunglasses but we can help out with the next two!)
  2. Darken your bedroom (Learn more about Indow’s Blackout Grade window inserts, which block all light coming through your bedroom windows. Bestselling New York Times cookbook author Nom Nom Paleo installed them when she was still working a night shift, which she wrote about in this post on Surviving the Night Shift.)
  3. Make your bedroom quiet (Learn more about Indow’s Acoustic Grade, which dampens up to 70 percent of sound coming through your windows)
  4. Keep people informed that you need to sleep undisturbed
  5. Keep your home cool
  6. Limit your caffeine consumption
  7. Avoid alcohol before bed
  8. Maintain good sleep habits

 

Those suffering from Shift Work Disorder aren’t the only ones who can benefit from making their bedrooms quiet and dark. Do you live in a vibrant city? Are you near a busy street or freeway? We give comfort to all!

 

 

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Is there anything more comforting than viewing the world through the slightly rippled glass of an old window? Something about it gives a sense of continuity and permanence – a warp that signifies a time when each pane of glass could be only unique. But all too often people look at their drafty single-panes and think “Those have got to go.” Windows made of old-growth wood get torn out and frequently replaced with vinyl or other inferior materials.

“It creates just so much extra waste in the landfill that’s completely unnecessary,” said Scott Sidler of Austin Home Restorations and The Craftsman Blog in a recent Window Hero webinar held by Indow. “You’re removing a superior product even if it’s worn and beaten by the weather and years. It’s absolutely insane if you ask me – the idea that we’re taking out these windows that with a little care and maintenance can last centuries – and almost indefinitely if they’re cared for properly – to get a product in there that will not function as well or last nearly as long.”

A slide from John Leeke's talk on window preservation

A slide from John Leeke’s talk on window preservation

Indow wants to save as many historic windows as possible and to that end has started a Window Hero Webinar Series. For the inaugural webinar Scott spoke as did John Leeke, a well-known preservationist and author of Save America’s Windows: Caring for Older and Historic Wood Windows. It’s people like this, as well as institutions like the National Trust for Historic Preservation, who are ensuring America values and preserves its historic structures and windows.

In the Window Hero webinar, John Leeke gives a fascinating history of how we got to today: people replacing irreplaceable wood windows with inferior plastic ones. He teaches wood window preservation techniques across the country to skilled craftspeople to ensure the art continues.

“Consumer marketing had bamboozled most of the American people into believing that they could live like the rich and famous by buying disposable products and that their houses were maintenance free and needed air conditioning,” he explains in the Webinar of what happened in the 1980s. “So little maintenance was done, many windows were painted shut, sealed up and forgotten to slowly rot and crumble away.”

He then gives detailed examples of methods for restoring and repairing wood windows. Learn more about John’s upcoming workshops and seminars and why he is a true Window Hero! Stay tuned for our next webinar in the Window Hero series. Check out the most recent one here. 

Resized Marla YorstenHave a painting you love that gets light from your windows?

Marla Yorston did. She hung it prominently over the fireplace in her living room with its arched windows that extend into a vaulted ceiling. Here, the light makes the painting a focal point of the room in her Hickory Creek home outside Dallas. But then she noticed something: that light was also beginning to damage the artwork and Marla detected a light smokiness to the paint along the bottom of the canvas.

“It doesn’t have the same pop,” she said of the sun damage. 

The windows, a main reason she bought the home, weren’t just destroying her painting. They also threatened her leather furniture, which she didn’t want to crack prematurely.

So Marla took action. Not one for window tinting, she considered honeycombed blinds and a decorative metal grill with a sunscreen. But then she realized her family would no longer be able to see the stars and moon through those windows at night.

“I don’t want the sun to massacre my stuff,” she said. “But I want my windows just the way they are.”

Then a friend told Marla about Indow Windows. She called Daylight Rangers in Plano who laser-measured the living room windows for Museum Grade to block the UV light damaging her painting. With Indow’s proprietary laser-measuring system, it’s possible to handcraft inserts that precisely fit special geometries like Marla’s arched windows. She bought Acoustic Grade to quiet the bedrooms.

“They look beautiful,” she said. It’s most noticeable at night, but the Museum Grade inserts improve the windows’ appearance by covering the interior metal frame and making them seem as if they’re trimmed in wood.

Not only did Marla protect her painting protected, but quieted her house. She can’t hear traffic and if a motorcycle rumbles by on Interstate 35 it’s so muffled, it doesn’t wake her.

Go Marla!

 

photo (23)Maybe it’s oxymoronic, but “Less is more,” first written by Robert Browning, can’t be said enough. Less bought at the store or online means less in the landfill. Less driving means more stability for the climate. The less energy used, the more there is to go around.  The Pacific Northwest has implicitly understood the latter for some time. Take the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance: since 1997, the energy saved through NEEA initiatives is enough to power 700,000 Northwest homes annually!

It’s important to develop renewable energy sources but the cheapest, easiest way to get more energy now is for all of us to do our best to use less of it. And that includes everything from turning off lights to making homes more energy efficient. Clean Energy Works in Oregon, which helps homeowners make their dwellings more energy efficient, states that 10 houses upgraded for energy efficiency means another three houses can be powered from the savings gained.

Wondering what you can do to conserve energy at home?

You’re in luck since October is Energy Action Month! Back in 2012 President Obama declared it so, proclaiming, “A secure energy future is vital to an economy built to last . . . As demand for energy increases worldwide, our Nation must continue to lead the world in a rapidly evolving energy market by pursuing safe and responsible domestic energy production, promoting efficiency, and developing clean energy and renewable fuels.”

Increasing the energy efficiency of the built environment is what Indow is all about. During the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Action Month, find suggestions for ways to make your life more energy efficient today, this month and this year.

A few things you can do right now:

  1. Turn down the temperature of your water to the warm setting (120°F) Review additional strategies to reduce your water heating bills. Water heating can account for 14-25% of the energy consumed in your home. 
  2. Since heating can account for nearly half of the average family’s winter energy bill, call a furnace or heat pump professional to service it each year.
  3. Clean or replace filters in your furnace, air conditioner, and heat pump.

 

A few larger projects to tackle this year:

  1. Seal up the largest air leaks in your house
  2. Insulate
  3. Upgrade leaky windows. (Indow inserts are made to do just that so your home is more comfortable and energy efficient this winter. Learn more about what they can do for you!)

 

This continues a series of profiles we started last year on Indow employees . . . 

Myo resizedMyo cuts tubing on the Indow factory floor, a job that requires precision and patience.

He reads the laser measurements of people’s window frames sent from around the country and cuts the silicone compression tube so that each insert fits snugly inside its respective window.

He is more than qualified, having received a B.S. in physics at Rangoon University in Burma as well as a machine tools vocational degree.

His path to Portland and Indow is long and involved.

Myo worked for an international engineering company – Cosmo Engineering – straight out of university making punches and dies, chutes and cams. But he fled his home country in 2002 for his company’s Malaysian branch after the military government began investigating his involvement in the 1988 university student protests.

“We need democracy and freedom,” he explained. “The students need to protest.”

It wasn’t safe for him in Malaysia either. In 2012, the United States granted his family refugee status and he moved with his wife and two children to Texas. There he worked and saved until his family could move to Portland to be closer to friends and take advantage of a good public transportation system. He takes TriMet from his home near SE Division and 82nd to work on North Interstate every day.

“Everyone works together and cooperates – we give each other a helping hand,” he said of his new job.  “I want to grow Indow.”

He plans to study at Portland Community College to improve his English. Through a program with the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization that matched his savings, he was able to buy a used car. When asked what he misses about Burma, he said, “everything”: his friends, his family, the noodle dish Moke-hin-khar, the British-style buildings from when Burma was a British colony.

But certain things remind him of Burma like the conifers in Portland, which he had in his hometown, Kalaw.

What does he like best about the U.S.?

“Everyone has human rights,” he said. “If you’re not satisfied, you can tell the government, ‘You’re wrong.’ In Burma you can go to jail.”

Freedom of expression is something we’re thinking a lot about right now. Indow helped create greater public access at Alcatraz for the groundbreaking Ai Weiwei exhibit on human rights by lining the broken gun gallery windows of the New Industries Building with inserts.  

We are happy working at Indow has helped Myo establish new roots in the United States.

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@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz in the New York Times

Ai Weiwei used more than 1 million Legos to build his portraits of political exiles and prisoners of conscience in the New Industries Building of Alcatraz for his exhibit opening today. The media leading up to the opening of @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz has been sustained and glowing. The New York Times wrote, “The Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei is taking his vision to one of the most infamous prisons, using it as an inspiration for a monumental installation.”

We are so honored to be a part of it! Indow inserts line the broken gun gallery windows of the New Industries Building where guards pointed their weapons at the prisoners working below doing laundry or making clothes and brushes. Organizers of @Large had to shield visitors from the broken glass and protect the windows from overzealous souvenir seekers. Since Alcatraz is a National Historic Landmark there couldn’t be a nail hole or mark so the  FOR-SITE foundation turned to Indow for a solution.

Of the seven projects in the @Large exhibit, three are in the New Industries Building where Indow inserts are installed: Trace (the Lego portraits), With Wind (A large dragon kite and others) and Refraction (A giant metal bird wing).

The exhibit runs through April 26. Learn more about it here. If you go, be sure to send pictures to carrie@indowwindows.com!

 

iframe-slider2-simple-350x215Oregon BEST is the best! The nonprofit research center invests in partnerships that transform new ideas into world-changing clean tech companies and was tremendously helpful setting Indow on a path to success, Sam told the Oregon BESTFEST crowd in Portland today.

It was an Oregon BEST grant that paid for a study early on proving the energy efficiency of Indow inserts.

Portland State’s Green Building Research Laboratory studied four Portland area homes that installed Indow inserts. That study initially predicted that Indow inserts would save homeowners 10 percent on their heating bills. But it found it actually saved them almost 20 percent! And here’s why: a person feels warmer standing next to acrylic than a single-pane of glass even if the room temperature is the same in both cases. And that in turn makes that person less likely to turn up the thermostat.

Those results were backed up by a U.S. Department of Energy study released earlier this year that found Indow inserts led to a more than 20 percent reduction in heating, ventilating and air-conditioning use in a Seattle home.

We’re grateful to Oregon BEST for believing in Indow as we seek to make the built environment more energy efficient!

 

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A comfortable family is a happy family!

Summer isn’t quite over yet, but think back to last winter. Was it a multiple-sweater-can’t-drink-enough-hot-tea-my-house-is-freezing kind of season? Then you might be thinking about home weatherization.

Where to start? A home performance contractor can help you assess the energy efficiency of your house and provide strategies for increasing it, but there are also DIY resources for the handier types. Whatever direction you take, keep in mind the four myths below and you’ll be sure to save money and create greater comfort and happiness in the long run.

Myth #1: Replace your windows.

This will cost a small fortune and is unnecessary for home weatherization! Whether you have double-pane or single-pane windows, Indow thermal inserts will instantly block drafts and make your home more energy efficient and comfortable. Don’t just save money, save your existing windows.

Myth #2: First weather strip and caulk doors and windows.

This will help stop drafts a bit but won’t get at the real culprits: big leaks are usually in attics, crawlspaces and basements. Read this great Energy Star DIY Guide to sealing and insulating.

Myth #3: Insulate your attic first.

First air seal your attic, then insulate it. Otherwise, air holes in your attic can lead to moisture and mold in your insulation.

Myth #4: Saving energy means sacrificing comfort.

Actually, if you feel comfortable you’re less likely to turn up the thermostat. That’s one reason it’s important to tackle drafty windows in a home weatherization project. A study by Portland State’s Green Building Research Laboratory found that because the interior of an Indow thermal insert is warmer than the inner surface of a pane of glass, a person will feel warmer standing next to an Indow than a single pane of glass – even if the room temperature is the same in both cases.

For more advice on weatherizing, check out this home weatherization website from Energy Star.

>> Check out our videos and case studies for more about Indow thermal window inserts.