26 April 2012

Energy-efficient windows for historic buildings

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An international team of European experts is looking to improve the energy efficiency of historic buildings.

Window refurbishments stand out as a viable approach to dramatically reduce energy loss. As their first case of study, the project’s researchers chose to upgrade the windows of the ‘Waaghaus’ (Public Weighing House), a building located in Bolzano, Italy, that is over seven-century-old. From a conservationist’s perspective, the researchers realised that the previous renovation of the windows in comparatively ancient buildings was neither aesthetically nor historically accurate. For this project, the building’s curator Waltraud Kofler-Engl and the expert window designer Franz Freundorfer had carte blanche to conceive of a new energy efficient window design that integrated well into the building’s historic façade.

Alexandra Troi, Vice Head of the Institute for Renewable Energy at the European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano (EURAC) and Scientific Coordinator of 3ENCULT, overlooked the development of the innovative ‘SmartWin Historic Window’. “With our window, we believe we have a solution for all historic buildings. The SmartWin Historic Window is not only a very good insulated window that fits perfectly in historic buildings, it’s also affordable.”

The first prototype of the ‘SmartWin Historic Window’ was installed in the Waaghaus in February 2012. “We will now measure and analyse different parameters of this prototype and compare it to one of the old windows from the 1950s,” says Troi. “Having a prototype installed now, which can be touched and examined, is a good starting point for multidisciplinary discussions.”

In terms of its aesthetics, curator Kofler-Engl is optimistic. “The narrow frame and the two [sash bars] of the double-winged window look very good. But in my opinion the triple glazing doesn’t fit the look of the building. And I think the antique styling of the glass used for the outer windowpane is a bit exaggerated. Perhaps a double glazing inside and a simple, single glass layer on the outside might be enough.”

The 3ENCULT team will continue to refine its next prototype, which as to meet criteria of feasibility and cost-efficiency. Troi concludes: “With the SmartWin Window we have a practical solution which covers these aspects.”

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