Reply To: Irish say no to PVC windows

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What a positive move. I know it is percieved as snobbery to criticise PVC, but in historic buildings it is totally unacceptable.

But by far the worst use of the material, where it is so damaging, is in the small, unassuming vernacular buildings that line the county’s small town streets. Simple classical architecture is destroyed with bulky profiles, shiny finishes and the lack of depth in the plastic grid designs. And as for when they are opened, hinged from the top, they are just woeful. Windows are the primary feature, not to mention the eyes of these buildings, and sashes are being ripped out by the hundred. And because they’re on streets with shops, where no one supposedly looks above 12 feet, local authorities completely ignore what’s going on – as long as there’s a window box with pretty flowers infront they’re grand.

And PVC is now used in a whopping 80% of new houses, and comprises some 90% of the replacement market (surprising it’s not higher)
Someone I know was considering having PVC installed for replacement windows (but wood was still a contender) and so called out the country’s leading PVC company (let’s just say the one with the annoying jingle). I was asked to sit in on the visit apparently ‘being into that sort of thing’, but the ignorance of the rep was truly extraordinary, trying to compose a window unit with opening parts that fitted the standard tall rectangle (sash shape) opening – amongst other things he proposed that the aperture be split in two with a vertical bar, then a crossbar be placed across mid-way, and then one of those feckity 70s picture window openings be popped up in the corner!
His whole attitude was ‘well that’s what everyone else is doing’, over and over again, with no consideration whatsoever to the house or the individual circumstance. Nor did he propose that matching windows have co-ordinating opening parts – ‘oh I suppose yeah’

It is no wonder that window design has literally gone out the window in this country, with bulky, standardised, awkward lumps being shoved into every opening concievable.

Not all PVC is bad, it can work well in offices, or plain white with casements in homes with pebbledashed facades. But the majority looks terrible, esp what can only be described as that diarrhoea coloured stuff that’s supposed to look like beech, or the lastest trick – wood-effect front doors in ‘the shade of your choice’, which ironically cost more than a top-quality hardwood version.
The sales brochure for the PVC company was the most repulsive yoke I have ever seen – nearly had a nervous breakdown with the pictures of one-off ‘executive’ piles plastered in the stuff, mock-Palladian lumps with conservatories tacked on the side, and as for the sales pitch for their beautiful ‘Regency’ stained glass doors!

Nonetheless, I don’t accept the usual arguement put forward against PVC by the wood ‘n sash lobby – that the material is toxic to make, damages the environment, and is short lasting. The material is recyclable, emmission controls are enforced, and should continue to lessen with technology (I think the EU PVC lobby has set next year as a date for 40% of windows to be recycled), and considering the amount of paint or varnish, and putty needed to maintain wood for 200 years, not to mention the PVC tubs and metal cans the stuff comes in, as well as the amount of brushes and tools required over the years, the resources and energy consumed soon piles up for wood too.

Quality, visually appealing windows are desperately needed now, most of our buildings depend on them as their primary feature of interest and deserve better treatment.

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