Wooden windows – a missed opportunity?
Wink Sutton, New Zealand Tree Grower August 2012.
Our house in Rotorua was built in 1969. It has single pane glass windows in wooden frames. Although winter condensation is only a minor problem, when it does occur it is confined to the glass. Our holiday home was built in 2009. It has aluminium frame windows with, by regulation, double glazing. There is still the occasional winter condensation but, in contrast to our Rotorua home, it now occurs on the window frames and not the glass.
Compared with wood, aluminium easily transfers heat and cold but eliminates the need to repaint or re-stain. Aluminium is also less likely to distort in later life. If wood could be permanently finished, and this eliminated the need to repaint or re-stain, the market for wood, especially for clears from our pruned radiata, could be enhanced.
In the mid 1990s I visited a factory in Sweden making impressive wooden framed triple glazed windows. The market for these windows was high-rise buildings. The windows were expensive but were well designed and were of a very high quality. They were very flexible as they could be opened both vertically and horizontally, obviously not at the same time.
Most impressive of all was that the windows were guaranteed for at least 50 years. All the wooden components were painted with what looked like an epoxy finish. Understandably I was not told what was used but I was informed that it contained a hardener and that the finish must be applied within one hour of mixing. A condition of the 50 year warranty was that the seal on the wooden window frames must remain unbroken. The window was supplied with a clamping structure so that the window could be permanently fixed in place without the need for any nails or screws.
I have long thought that New Zealand has missed a wonderful opportunity. We should concentrate on wood’s advantages, such as its low thermal conductivity, and develop ways to overcome any disadvantage, such as a permanent finish which eliminates the need to repaint or re-stain.
Such a development requires innovative thinking, a focussed and intensive research effort, excellent design, a great deal of capital and a major global marketing campaign. However, the financial rewards could be impressive. Is such thinking now beyond us? What other opportunities have we missed?
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