With their improved aesthetics, energy efficiency, and durability, replacement windows and doors can add significant value to a renovation project.

March 30, 2012


Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Mich., completed a $3.1 window renovation last year on its First-Year Center, a freshman residential hall that dates back to the 1960s. More than 675 operable, high-performance windows were installed.

Energy conservation and improved aesthetics were the primary goals, says architect Sandra Laux, AIA, of Detroit-based Hamilton Anderson Associates (www.hamilton-anderson.com). To replace the single-pane glazed windows with insulated units, Laux selected Wausau low-profile windows. Their aluminum frames have a copper anodized finish to contrast with the blond brick exterior. The low-maintenance, durable finish is expected to maintain its color over time without forming a patina.

The renovation also included replacement of the exterior doors and curtain wall system. “The stair towers had single-glazed curtain wall from the 1960s, which was failing,” says Hamilton Anderson’s Michael Decoster.

Decoster specified EFCO curtain wall and storefront framing systems for the stair towers and entry canopy. The existing concrete canopy rested on small steel columns and was “a really heavy mass” hanging over the entry. “We took that all off the structure and reclad the canopy in curtain wall framing, so on each side of the entry are two-foot-tall pieces of glass that are structurally glazed,” he says. The frosted glass is backlit at night.


In 2008, the Oregon State Hospital (OSH) campus, in Salem, was granted national historic landmark status. A complete structural renovation wasn’t an option, but J Building, an 1883-vintage four-story structure designed in the Kirkbride style of psychiatric facilities—and made famous as the setting of the film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”—was restored and refurbished.

To bring the building up to 21st-century standards and seismic requirements, workers removed asbestos and lead paint, added steel rebar, layers of sprayed concrete, and new wood beams, and restored the original cupola.

But the grandest undertaking was the replacement of more than 500 windows on the street side of the building. “It was important to preserve as many historic features as possible,” says Patricia Feeny, communications manager for the OSH Replacement Project. “At the same time, we had to meet state-mandated energy and safety requirements.”

Wausau fabricated windows with sash muntins to match the originals in material and design. The psychiatric-grade windows were drop-tested for interior human impacts of up to 2,000 foot-pounds of energy. The aluminum frames have a resin-based coating that resists humidity, color change, chalking, gloss loss, and chemicals.

5 TIPS for a successful door and window retrofit

1. Analyze products on a level playing field using American Architectural Manufacturers Association and National Fenestration Rating Council (www.nfrc.org) standards and test sites. As you’re calculating ROI, be sure to factor in the savings that may come from being able to downsize the HVAC system, cut repair and maintenance costs, and trim energy costs due to better insulating value and more natural light.

2. Work with the manufacturer’s local architectural representative in the early stages of the project. Trained reps can help with site inspection, drawings, field measurements and testing, energy modeling, mockups, budgeting, detail support, and specification support.

3. Take advantage of AAMA publications on door and window selection criteria, design considerations, window and exterior door types, performance requirements and testing, and accessory items and special features: http://www.aamanet.org/general/1/45/publication-store.

4. Select an installer who will ensure a safe, hassle-free installation while minimizing disruptions to building occupants.  Your manufacturer can assist you in finding the right installer.

5. Use moderate door heights and widths, especially when using insulated or specialty glass. Large entrances also have increased size and weight, which places additional strain on hinging hardware and can shorten the door’s longevity.


Mitchell Hall, one of the oldest classroom buildings at the University of New Mexico, was built in 1954. While not a registered historic landmark, the building is noteworthy for its design by John Gaw Meem IV (1894-1983), one of the Southwest’s most influential architects.

In tackling the renovation, Albuquerque-based Hartman + Majewski Design Group (designgroupnm.com) sought to preserve the building’s historic integrity while improving its environmental sustainability. The original single-pane, steel-framed windows had narrow sightlines and were stacked vertically with one-inch widths between glazings.

“Part of the goal was to maintain the exterior feel of the project so that the university could, in the future, pursue putting [the building] on the historic registry,” says principal architect Jeff Zellner, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C.

Hartman + Majewski analyzed the existing window systems and performed energy modeling as part of the LEED certification process. “We looked at improvements that would give us the biggest bang for the buck,” says Zellner.

The team considered a number of options, including true historic steel windows, storefront framing, and aluminum, but ultimately chose Pella fiberglass windows. “We were not familiar with fiberglass windows in commercial applications, but Pella did a pretty good sell on the performance characteristics as well as maintenance,” he says.

With the combined benefit of the new windows, a more efficient mechanical system, and enhanced lighting controls, Mitchell Hall is expected to earn LEED Silver.


Peabody Hall, the oldest building at the St. Louis Zoo, was completed in 1917. The Renaissance Revival structure, designed by architect George Barnett, served for eight decades as the Elephant House. In 2009, Peabody Hall was renovated to house temporary exhibits in celebration of the zoo’s 100th anniversary. The project was a joint venture of two St. Louis-based design firms, Ottolino Winters Huebner (www.owh-inc.com) and the JCO LLC (www.thejco.com).

According to OWH, the original Elephant House’s masonry, stone, and terra cotta exterior had held up quite nicely over 95-plus years, but the windows and doors were well past their usable life—especially the ornate quatrefoil window in the attic. Finding durable, easy-to-use replacement products that allowed the necessary customization to replicate the form and appearance of the originals became the challenge.

Marvin Windows and Doors fabricated five large transoms, two sets of stationary awning windows, and seven commercial doors (three operating, four fixed) for the renovation. All windows and doors were glazed with black spandrel insulating glass that emulates the look of field-painted glass. To replicate the quatrefoil window, Marvin used five pieces of glass, with true divided lites in the rectangular center section and simulated divided lites surrounding the rectangle. +


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