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The Critical Need For Mockups in Historic Window Projects

Mockup Historic Windows

Successful Preservation Project Management: Using Feedback Loops During Project Design.

How to effectively preserve buildings while eliminating uncertainties, risk and the change-orders plaguing most preservation projects.

In any profession, success requires knowledge, tools, and techniques used in the right sequence and at the right time. The preservation of an object – whether a musical instrument or a building – shares creative aspects with the process used to design and create the object, but also has its own set of specialized skills that must be adapted to the project at hand. Anyone trying to shoehorn preservation into a construction mold will not even understand what is possible.

Only through an investigative mockup with all parties involved can the potential of the project be unveiled and the team dynamics and ballet of interrelated skills be choreographed to produce the desired goal. There is a process to conservation that sets it apart from new construction. Failure to recognize the need for this process or to put it into practice wastes time and money, but also can destroy rather than save our heritage as the object is cut to fit a design conceived without an adequate understanding of the challenges ahead.

Contractors have said to me that preservation is so expensive and time consuming, and that they could tear down and rebuild the structure from scratch quicker and cheaper than restoring it. I’ve heard this many times. Of course they couldn’t build the same building.

They really have no idea how it was put together. That’s usually where the exchange ends: they go back to their linear world of new construction and I back to mine.

While their statement bothers me, it does have something interesting behind it: we know more about a building that is yet to be constructed than the building standing in front of us. How can that be?

A new building is drawn out in detail, plan views, sections through. Every aspect is already designed, it’s cost known when construction starts. The old building we are standing in front of is not what it seems to our senses. We only see surfaces. Surfaces on top of what?

Watching most preservation projects lurch from crisis to standoff while wracking up astronomical change orders justified under the “unknowns” of a preservation project reminds me of using Google Maps with the wrong filter. It would be like getting in your car and keying the directions to your meeting in an hour only to be shown a 17-hour trip. If you were alert, you might recognize you had your route set on walking mode instead of directions by car. Instead, the common wisdom in preservation these days apparently is to continue on a tortured journey and claim the only way to work on historic buildings is to add at least a 30 to 50% allowance to the budget for “risk mitigation,” rather than question whether the charted route is awry.

But there is another way; one that does not use off-the-shelf products and new construction procedures. The right process creates a feedback loop where new information that is discovered while working on the building is able to be woven into the project in real time. That process is the Mockup,


There is a common misconception when it comes to historic windows that they need to be replaced to help with energy saving. Even though replacing the original windows with more “energy efficient” windows may help save on expenses, it rarely makes a difference in the long run.

The argument that modern windows are more energy efficient than older windows fails to consider the conservation of embodied energy and reduction of environmental cost. Although smart windows may seem very eco-friendly, even manufacturing new windows has a cost on the environment and leaves an old usable window to waste.

Fittings ought to be used for as long as they are in working order, especially in these times when we are facing challenges of global warming. Most historic windows are made of durable material that can last for as long as the building itself with mere maintenance. Replacing the original windows in a historic building should always be a last resort.

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Taking a hands on approach, Leeds Clark, Inc. offers historic window and door mock-up services to architects and owners of historic buildings and residences. Leeds Clark, Inc. works close with the architect/owner to produce a historic window or door mock-up, whether that be via the restoration of or the replication of, prior to the historic window or door preservation/restoration effort beginning. This allows all parties involved a finished historic window or door product they can inspect and approve. If there are any changes to the specifications needed during the mock-up phase, corrections can be made during the planning stage prior to the preservation/restoration effort commencing. Tom Clark believes this approach allows the architect/owner the opportunity to establish a firm budget and helps address problem areas up front to help avoid project delays and endless change orders.

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