Most high-rise condominiums today are constructed with floor-to-ceiling glass windows but, is this the best method of construction?
They are not energy efficient and strain HVAC systems, which can lead to expensive retrofitting for future condo owners.
Cold weather outside and moisture inside causes condensation on the inside of windows, which can end up in window frames causing rust then expansion of the frames.
This same moisture can run off onto floors providing an environment for mold and mildew.
So why do it?
Realtors love floor-to-ceiling glass because units show well and are easier to sell, particularly when the weather outside is sunny or snowing.
Developers love this method of construction because it is less expensive and more quickly completed than alternative methods.
The first set of problems could be dealt with using better windows, which contain three panes of glass rather than two with argon gas between the panes. Add a reflective coating on the outside of the exterior pane and you have a better window, albeit a more expensive one.
Building Codes Could Change
Recently here has been discussion of revising building codes to prevent the use of floor-to-ceiling, uncoated, two-pane glass windows. This wouldn’t affect existing buildings, of course but informed prospective condo buyers who may have read about the possibility of revised codes may become wary of buying units in such buildings in spite of the spectacular views.
Both the CBC and Toronto Star have recently done pieces on the problems with floor-to-ceiling glass.
Many developers are looking at alternative construction methods.
One such method, though best suited for mid-rise buildings (three to 12 stories) is cold-formed steel framing (CFSF). It has the advantage of speed of construction and cost savings similar to floor-to-ceiling glass construction. CFSF usually employs punch windows, which may not show as spectacularly to prospective buyers but are much more energy efficient.
If prospective buyers are well informed, if they have read or heard that there may be changes in the code however, this method of construction could actually have more appeal.