The earliest windows were literally holes in walls—maybe covered by animal skins, if the owner was ambitious, or the weather was chilly—and were useful only for allowing a little air and light into the living space.
Eventually, mankind found ways to make windows both more useful and more beautiful. The ancient Egyptians had shutters and cotton drapes, and the Romans actually used glass in their windows. Mullioned panes and stained glass designs came along centuries later to enhance windows and to show status and wealth. During the 18th and 19th century in Europe, a property tax based on the number of windows per dwelling, was a hotly protested issue. Property owners from that period sometimes closed in the window spaces in protest of the government “stealing daylight" by taxing it.
For most of the last hundred years, the biggest issues with windows has been planning for cross-ventilation in the days before air conditioning was common, and making sure the windows were closed before it rained in. Over the last few decades however, the door and window industry in America has evolved as a separate niche in the construction industry. Windows are generally considered a necessity and an amenity. They convey style, provide protection from the elements, enhance ambiance and conserve energy—and like any other building element, they require routine maintenance and replacement. The right combination of elements can mean the difference between filling a hole in the side of the building or installing an energy efficient architectural element that continues to add value and beauty to the property for years to come.
A Big Project
Replacing or repairing windows in a multi-storied, multi-unit condominium or co-op is a major undertaking for everyone involved. The board, the residents, the property management firm and the company selected to perform the work will need a coherent plan and excellent communication skills to keep the project on track and to minimize the disruptions for staff and residents.
According to the experts, windows generally have a 20- to 30-year life span depending on the window material and finish, and the elements they're exposed to. However, if windows were poorly or incorrectly installed, or if proper maintenance such as caulking and painting has been inadequate, replacement will be needed sooner rather than later. If maintenance has been thorough and diligent, the life of the windows may well be extended.