Window Replacement Solutions for Commercial and Institutional Buildings

Modernizing existing buildings with new manufactured windows to improve energy efficiency, lower maintenance, and enhance design.
This course is no longer active
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Sponsored by Pella and EFCO
Peter J. Arsenault, AIA, NCARB, LEED-AP

Learning Objectives:

  1. Define the historic significance of existing windows in buildings.
  2. Differentiate between different historic standards & guidelines for window rehabilitation.
  3. Design a window rehabilitation plan for buildings.
  4. Evaluate window replacement options for existing commercial and institutional buildings.




We often think of building projects as new construction. However, the reality is that in any given year, there are typically more building renovation and rehabilitation projects undertaken by owners than there are new construction projects. Only a relatively small percentage of these existing building projects fall in the category of "historic" with the associated public programs and design restrictions that go along with that designation. The majority are motivated by changing owner needs, energy concerns, maintenance considerations, and general modernization or upgrade requirements. In all of these cases, windows are often a topic of interest and concern. Should they be replaced or can they be repaired? If they are replaced, what are the options? Which option is best for a particular situation? Understanding how to answer these questions gives architects the ability to work with their clients to make informed decisions and improve the overall outcome of projects.

What Determines the Historic Significance of Buildings?

The usual first question to ask regarding an existing building of some age and character is whether or not it has been listed by the U.S. Department of the Interior or the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). Individual buildings can be listed as a certified Historic Structure on the National Register of Historic Places and be subject to rehabilitation standards and guidelines issued by the US Secretary of the Interior and administered by the US National Park Service (NPS). However, even if a building isn't yet listed, the fact that it is eligible may suggest compliance with the standards if the owner would like to eventually see it listed. Further, a building located in aregistered historic district & certified by the NPS as contributing to the historic significance of that district will also be subject to applicable provisions of the standards. The incentive for the owner to comply with these standards comes most often in the form of Federal income tax credits of 10 - 20% on rehabilitation work done to the buildings. Eligibility of these tax credits will be subject to a NPS or SHPO review and certification process to demonstrate compliance with the standards.

Riverfront Lofts, Pawtucket, RI

Photo courtesy of EFCO, a Pella Company


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Originally published in Architectural Record