Changing Appearances

The Heritage Panel met for the second time in November and discussed providing advice on conservation and energy saving through a series of advisory articles. The panel considered requests for new doors and windows in properties and the erection of a conservatory, and it offered comments on size, design and materials. All decisions are based on practical considerations, bearing in mind the wish of individual owners to improve their property, whilst ensuring that the integrity and heritage of the built environment within developments is maintained. Where possible the panel looks for ways of granting permission or providing advice on how plans might be improved.

Richard Morton, who designed many English Courtyard schemes, writes about the merits of timber versus Upvc windows:

“Most Cognatum houses were built with timber windows and some will now be 35 years old. Some of these windows need repair or replacement and while there is a common perception that changing to Upvc will save long-term maintenance, caution is needed.

“Many Georgian and Victorian houses still have their beautiful original timber windows in good working order; new windows, well made out of good timber and regularly painted, should last for a very long time. If something goes wrong a carpenter can replace some of the timber or fit new ironmongery. Upvc frames need no decoration but are not immune from failure and discolouration. White Upvc yellows over time while the stained effect available for some Upvc windows never matches real timber staining. The specialist ironmongery on which they rely tends to go wrong and it is often impossible to get identical replacements, meaning the only option is to replace the entire window. Studies show that while there is a maintenance saving with Upvc over the first 10-15 years, it is more expensive in the long run. In developments designed to give a harmonious and unified appearance it is important to avoid jarring changes. New timber frames merge with the old but Upvc frames that are factory made to standard patterns cannot match a window that is in any way unusual. The windows at Hayes End Manor, one of the first schemes I worked on, were specially designed to tuck behind the stone outer frames and I would be astonished if any Upvc supplier could come close to matching these. A final concern is that unless Upvc replacements have trickle ventilators, they can trigger condensation. So please, remember the advertised cost savings of Upvc are only a small part of the story.”