There are so many things in life that we take for granted, and windows in older buildings are probably high on that list. Most towns and cities in the U.S. have areas where homes from the Victorian era still exist, and we probably all have driven by them and been struck by the ornate features employed in their construction. But how many of us have actually stopped and wondered why? Most of us probably just assume it was a decorative touch and left it at that.
I believe there was a designed purpose that went beyond simple ornamentation. The decoration above and around these windows was very functional. It was there to move the water away from the top and sides. Door and window penetrations in buildings are some of the most difficult details in buildings to moisture-proof. By creating architectural details that moved water away from the top and sides of windows and doors, architects and builders of 19th Century buildings created structures that were more sustainable. Why haven’t we continued with this practice on a much greater scale?
Many modern buildings have made it too easy for moisture to enter the building envelope. There are too many windows and doors that have little above them to keep water from running into the opening where it can more easily penetrate the seams at the top and sides of the opening. Also, overhangs have disappeared or been diminished allowing water to run directly down the building facade until it finds a crack or seam to penetrate and enter the building envelope. If we aren’t going to protect the exterior of a building from moisture penetration, we had better equip the building envelope with tools to get the penetrating moisture out quickly! Drainage planes and weeps, if correctly selected and correctly installed, will do this.
Take a look at the accompanying photos and notice the details used in an earlier time that have allowed these structures to have a long life. In the near future I will be presenting more information on a product that goes inside the building envelope but functions like the details above the windows in these photos. Those are my thoughts, I welcome yours!
Filed under: 1, Daily Dose of Masonry, Moisture Management | Tagged: building envelope, doors, drainage plane, green building, rainscreen, sustainability, Victorian Architecture, weep system, windows | Leave a comment »