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Hamilton Spectator: Historic Windows Tested for Energy Efficiency
Jeff Mahoney | July 1, 2017

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MAHONEY: Old windows part of the soul of our past

From Issue No. 259 | July 11, 2017

As Hamilton experiences a spike in building, renos and housing values, the age-old battle between tearing down/replacing and preserving existing vintage housing and housing features rages more hotly than ever. Shannon Kyles and her students at Mohawk built a special test house to compare the energy and heat loss efficiency of old heritage windows compared to replacement ones. The Heritage ones, restored (not replaced) properly, are even more efficient. A look at a special crusader for the preservation of our housing and architectual heritage. 

They say the eyes are the windows of the soul and so, correspondingly, the windows must be the eyes of the home. Or of any building.

As Hamilton steps into its own vision, in a time of excitement and forward growth, mingled with pride of past, including architectural heritage, we should take care of our eyes.

The windows are, of course, not just the eyes of a building; they're part of the lungs, maybe even the hypothalamus (the body's thermostat), regulating temperature.

Windows do all those things: they bring light in, like the eyes, bring in air like the lungs, seal in desired warmth and coolness. But apart from functional considerations, windows, again like the eyes, contribute to a sense of "beauty."

So why, asks Shannon Kyles, would you replace the windows in a beautiful old building? "It's like poking its eyes out," she says, of the common but horrifying expedient of replacing original windows with vinyl and other modern materials.

Old windows should be restored, not replaced, says Shannon, Mohawk College architecture professor, daughter of late Hamilton architect Lloyd Kyles. Now she has the studies and evidence to prove it.

Shannon doesn't just teach architecture, building heritage and restoration to her students. She evangelizes. It's about salvation, of buildings. She goes to every length. Four years ago, I wrote about how she disassembled a crumbling Regency-era cottage in Ancaster, preserving everything of character, stored it in her basement, and reassembled it as a historic bed-and-breakfast (The Gryphon) in Prince Edward County.

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