Window-shopping and eco-camps

Hyland Fisher’s tips on eco-friendly windows and Gateway’s summer camps

Local sustainable architect Hyland Fisher recommends the 2002 documentary film <i>Blue Vinyl</i>.

Local sustainable architect Hyland Fisher recommends the 2002 documentary film Blue Vinyl.

Buying new windows
Local sustainable architect Hyland Fisher, whose handy tips on air-sealing one’s house against the cold and selecting green products for the home appeared in the Jan. 17 and Feb. 21 installments, respectively, of The GreenHouse, recently sent me a piece on choosing windows for a home. Fisher’s sage advice will run in two parts.

Part 1: “There are a number of considerations when selecting windows for your new home or replacements for your existing home,” he says. “Windows are a long-term investment and a critical part of your house’s performance, quality and style. When purchasing windows, it is important not only to take cost into consideration, but also energy performance, potential toxicity, operation, and maintenance.

Window frames come in four material types: vinyl, composite, wood, and metal:

Vinyl windows are the popular choice for residential windows because of their low cost. They typically have good energy performance; however, vinyl manufacturing is toxic, and vinyl windows may off-gas chemicals in your home. The movie Blue Vinyl (2002) covers toxicity related to vinyl manufacturing, and is worth watching.

Composite windows include fiberglass with other materials (such as wood fiber and plastic). These are also chemically manufactured, but are generally less toxic than vinyl, require less maintenance, and have very high energy performance.

Wood windows are beautiful and have good energy performance. In general, they require more maintenance than other types of windows; however, they can be purchased with metal-clad exteriors which offer durability and require less maintenance. You can also select locally harvested wood (e.g., Sierra Pacific Windows) and FSC [Forest Stewardship Council]-certified sustainable wood (e.g., Loewen).

Metal windows are often selected for their modern or commercial style. They have poor energy performance, unless they are manufactured with a thermal break [thermal barrier] (though thermally broken metal windows are hard to find and expensive). Metal windows last a long time and are low maintenance.

“When considering energy performance, keep in mind that hinged-operation windows (e.g., casement, awning) offer a better seal, and allow less air infiltration, than gliding-operation windows (e.g., sliding, single-hung).”

Look for Part 2 of Fisher’s window-purchasing advice next week, which will cover window-glass options.

Yet more fun summer-camp options!
The Gateway Science Museum recently announced details about its June and July Gateway Discovery Camp sessions.

The Eco-Kids camp, for children going into the fourth and fifth grades, runs June 24 to 29, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. “Exercise environmental stewardship while exploring awesome hands-on activities such as solar cookers, renewable energy sources, composting, and making art with robots!” says the museum’s website about this camp session. Lunches and snacks will be provided. Cost is $175 per student.

Eco-Rangers camp, for kids entering sixth, seventh and eighth grades, takes place July 15 through 19, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and costs $185. The museum’s website describes it this way: “Investigate principles of environmental stewardship by delving deeper into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), while learning natural-resource management, building wind turbines, robotics programming and much more!” Lunches and snacks provided.

Camp registration is currently open; go to to download registration form. Call 898-4119 for more info.