Window Wall Failure Is Something That Is Not Talked About But, There Will Be Lots To Talk About When They Fail

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Virtually all condos since 2000 in Condoland feature Window Wall systems (floor-to-ceiling walls of glass, enclosing the entire “envelope” of the building, fundamentally making all of these condo buildings, cement structures with glass walls.

Realizing that glass carries almost “no thermal benefit” (homes are supposed to have a minimum “R20 Insulation Rating” whereas glass comes in at “around R3 – R4“.

It’s worth taking a second and reflecting on this, especially as we are in an era of energy conservation and efficiency!

When you live in a Window Wall home (remember that old saying “those who live in glass houses should not throw stones“) you are relying on a couple (or few depending) panes of glass separated by less than an inch of insulation space to separate you from the elements!

The only insulating factor behind these Window Walls is “gas sealed between the glass panels” frequently called “heavy gases” called Argon or Krypton.

The air is vacuumed out and the gas injected and the insulation pocket is then sealed.

Insulated glazing technology, most commonly referred to as “double glazing“, is the only connection these walls have to thermal efficiency.

It is the separation space containing the gases that represents any insulation value to these Window Walls.

The seals that trap the gas between the panes are clamped in place by aluminium frames that interlock the adjacent frames, which are attached to the building with clamps, kind of like Lego.

This all sounds great, until you realize that heating and cooling expands and contracts, damaging these seals!

Realizing that 30 degrees in summer is normal and minus double digits hit in the winter, you can expect that these glass walls are in a constant state of flux, the inevitably will lead to “failure of the Window Wall” (gases allowed to escape).

Now, windows are designed with a certain amount of “give” to withstand these temperature fluctuations, but over time, the continual expansion and contraction of the glass panes and aluminum frames puts stress on the window seals and they begin to break down.

The seals ultimately fail and the gas escapes, rendering the condo unit thermally inadequate resulting in most of the window’s insulating value escaping from the window unit.

The gas between the panes is odourless and colourless therefore you won’t be able to detect that the seals are failing or have failed.

The inability for the units heat pump system (heating and cooling) to warm or cool the unit will ultimately result in excessive energy bills, not to mention discomfort!

Once the seals have deteriorated fog will form on the windows which is normally your first alarm bell!

The problem will be hidden for many years (other than you excessive heating and cooling bills) because the frames are packed with “desiccants” – moisture-absorbing crystals (similar to those little packages that come in powder drink containers.

They work to help absorb moisture during shipping and storage.

But you can rest assured that moisture entering through the seals will eventually overwhelm the desiccant, creating fog.

It is important that owners realize that the expected “service life” of the Window Wall unit is a fraction of the life of the building, thus owners are in for a rude awakening when these seals fail.

And the “fix” won’t be an easy one.

You see, owners will be financially responsible to replace them!

I have yet to see a “Efficiency Audit” or “Reserve Fund” even attempt to address this.

When one Window Wall fails in a condo building you can rest assured that the other are also failing or are about to fail, so entire building will have to be restored.

The condo corporation, without having prepared for this eventuality by building it into the Reserve Fund Study, could well go broke, imposing a “Special Assessment” on owners.

Realizing that we are talking about high rise buildings, replacement of these Window Walls will not be an easy or inexpensive thing.

If the condo corporation goes broke, 100% of the burden shifts to the owners, many of whom could well go into bankruptcy as a result of this potential six figure “hit” per unit!

So, the condo corporation fails due to the failure of the Window Wall system, and then the consumer goes bankrupt, and then the banks end up taking back the units.

A high percentage of condo units in Condoland are high ratio mortgaged, meaning they CMHC (“Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation“) is also on the hook, and should a bunch of these buildings (hundreds under construction at pretty much all times in Condoland) at the same time, we could see CMHC follow into bankruptcy!

So, the condo corporation, consumer, the banks, CMHC, all become mirror images and our entire economy hits a wall!

Now, in a Province where the only key economic indicators regarding employment rests in Civil Service jobs and construction jobs, I’m confident that you can see where we, as a Province may end up.

And I’m not sure that “may” is the proper word, as there is no uncertainty that suggests that the life cycle of these Window Walls will not run its course and in 15 years or so, this nightmare might awaken itself!

Realizing that this Window Wall technology introduced itself on the scene in and/or around 2000, that “normal life expectancy” of a few hundred buildings has already PASSED!

And that 15 – 20 year life expectancy is based on these Window Wall systems “being installed properly“!

So, in an unregulated residential condo industry, in a Province that acknowledges “an underground economy accounting for $15.3 Billion in annual economic activity in Ontario – $4.5 Billion of which in the residential construction sector” according to the Ontario Construction Secretariat, it seems pretty much logical to assume that a heavy majority of this would fall directly into Condoland.

They talk about the “fog of war“!

What about the “fog of Condoland“?

I’ve been preaching for years now about how absolutely dysfunctional Ontario’s condo industry industry is!

Haphazard efforts by the government to make it look like it is doing something to protect consumers has ended up a job . . . . a bad one, but a joke all the same!

Who is going to fix this mess?

Who is going to pay for it to be fixed?

If you are a condo owner or thinking of becoming a condo owner, you may want to get clarification on these questions.

The answers could literally structure your future!

I’m Charles

 

 

 

 

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