If you’ve been in the construction industry for long, you are no stranger to attending a convention. It seems like most associations that have a significant presence will assemble the loyal following once a year to learn more about surviving in the industry.

I have been to large conventions like AIA, CSI, IWF and NAHB as well as smaller niche gatherings like state or national preservation conferences. They are often a good source of education and entertainment as well as an excellent opportunity to network with others.

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So with that as a backdrop, I attended the Window Preservation Standards Collaborative (WPSC) Summit last this month to speak on the topic of the business of window preservation. The summit hosted 50-60 preservationists to the Campbell Centerin Mount Carroll, Illinois for four days of seminars on the science of window restoration. Although this assembly pales by comparison to the thousands that attend an AIA convention, it amazes me what can happen when a small group of passionate people connect.

The members of the WPSC remind me of Martin Luther King’s following as they marched across the bridge in Selma, Alabama. Here is a small group of craftsmen and artisans who have assembled to conduct battle with the mega-corporations of the window industry. Instead of using massive advertising budgets to promote the message of window restoration, this collection of skilled preservationists rely on a grassroots effort of educating the industry on the economics and common sense of restoring historic windows.

On one end of the bridge you have this small group of craftsmen armed with the proven science of historic window construction. On the other end you have the massive juggernaut of the window industry promulgating the illusory economics of window replacement. When one takes the time to study the facts, the truth of restoration prevails.

This assembly was more like Woodstock than a national convention, and like Woodstock there were some of the best practitioners of the trade represented. During the four days, attendees were exposed to the finer details of wood and steel window restoration, storm window manufacturing, business practices, and testing of restored windows.

After spending four days at the program one would definitely come to the conclusion that window restoration makes sense because historic wood and steel windows are built to last for centuries. The evidence proves that the act of replacing a window with an expected lifespan of 300 years with a 20-year replacement is irresponsible behavior. Since replacement windows are not designed to be repaired, the collaborative has aptly renamed them “disposable” windows.

What amazed me the most about the summit was the subtle message that many of our construction practices of the past have undisputed validity in modern means and methods. The construction industry is constantly being tempted by new technologies that promise performance and no maintenance, only to prove to have spurious lifespans and overstated performance.

Disasters such as EIFS, aluminum wiring, plastic plumbing pipes, synthetic slate roofs, and Chinese drywall are just a few examples of failed products that were once paraded as technological breakthroughs. Maybe we just need to pay more attention to the proven methods of the past and accept the fact that the simplicity tested over time may be the most revolutionary solution for current construction challenges.

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