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Jim Heuer

Hawken makes a great point that to really achieve progress in energy conservation we have to concentrate on improving the existing building stock. But while he's right in pointing out "we don't really need that many new buildings" to convert entirely to low-consumption technologies, he fails to note that destroying existing buildings to replace them with new, wastes an enormous amount of embodied energy and consumes still more in the production of materials to build anew -- often with the result that the energy savings payback is negligible.

The "greenest" building is one that doesn't need to be torn down and replaced.

I must disagree with an important point buried in the interview, however. That is his assumption that windows must be replaced in order to achieve greater energy efficiency. In some instances that may be true. 1970's aluminum windows with single pane glass tend to be very energy inefficient because of the heat loss through the aluminum and the rarity of any kind of "storm window" accessories.

On the other hand, traditional wood windows typically found in buildings built prior to 1950, can be made to be highly energy efficient when properly maintained and rehabilitated -- without the great energy waste of replacement with new materials. Unfortunately many home owners are unaware of this, and waste both money and energy in replacing perfectly good wood windows -- and at the same time losing a lot of the historic and aesthetic character of their homes.

Portland has, at conservative estimate, over 60,000 homes built prior to World War II -- a great many of which are in need of window rehabilitation -- not replacement. This is a big deal in this city. Recent programs by the Architectural Heritage Center and others have focused on the many, currently available technologies and approaches to achieve energy efficient rehabilitation of wood windows. It would be great if in some future post you might cover this important contribution to a Greener Portland.

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