We have learned first hand over the last few years about the challenges of ordering windows from Europe. In one case there was a six-week delay in receiving the windows and in the second there was a gasket failure on a large number of windows. Fortunately, it was a non-critical item and the supplier very quickly remedied it. If the suppliers in each case had been less helpful it could have been a real mess. It can also be a real mess for a building owner ten years after construction if windows start to fail and there are numerous maintenance and energy issues.
It is a tough sell to get a building owner to write a check for 50% of a window order, send it off to Europe and then pay almost 90% of the total before seeing any window on site! The thought of transporting the windows across the ocean on a container ship and then by truck to Pittsburgh lacks the elegance in process that we want. We are all about buying local so that transportation energy is saved. I hear a constant buzz about how windows will shortly be manufactured in the US that meet Passive House Guidelines...
....that is a good thing but I am worried.
The problem is that I like the European windows and I do not want to give up their quality. I like their color options, their dual operation, and the quality of their hardware. I like the heft of their frames, the glass options, the material options and I like their profiles. I like pretty much everything about them. I especially like their price given these amenities. The European windows that I have used on past projects, even affordable housing, have been the same cost as the US equivalents. I open the European windows at one of these projects, I'm able to feel and see the quality and details... I don't want to give that up. Ordering the windows and guiding them through construction is a different matter....if the order comes in late, or is incorrectly made or broken in shipping it can be a significant problem. Many owners will not want to risk ordering from Europe. Maybe this is the chance for architects in the US to demand higher quality at the same time we are asking for higher performance.
In the past we have always been concerned with the quality of our windows, and sometimes we have been forced to use products that we know are going to cause our clients issues down the road. Windows are one of the most expensive line items in the construction budget; windows that are a poor quality mean future problems for building owners. So this is the chance for window manufacturers in the US to up their game. Let's encourage our US manufacturers to increase their quality and durability along with their performance!