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PreservationNation » Michigan Window Rehab Training Creates “Preservation and Rehabilitation Ambassadors”

July 20, 2009

I stood and cheered (and boy did the kids look at me funny) when I got to the part in this commentary about how we have convinced ourselves (to our detriment) that only “new, better, improved” will get us to a healthier, more energy-efficient future, and that getting things on-the-cheap is more important than “having vibrant economic communities based on self-sufficiency and wise conservation principles.”

It bothers me that we (I’m looking at you, Americans) seem to regard this planet as disposable.  Let’s just use it up and move to the moon.  That’s just not right.

PRESERVATION NATION BLOG of the National Trust for Historic Preservation:  Post by Nancy Finegood

America the beautiful, or America the throw away society?

DSC_0196Here in our country, there is very little that we value enough not to throw away. This value system extends from our consumer goods to our families to our very livelihoods. When you think about it, our current economic crisis is in part caused by our willingness to throw any and everything away. We have outsourced the manufacturing of all kinds of goods, as well as the creation of innovative new technologies. We have convinced ourselves that only “new, better, improved” are the labels that will lead us to a healthier, more energy efficient future. We have also convinced ourselves that getting it cheaper is more important than having vibrant economic communities based on self sufficiency and sound conservation principles.

To do its part in reversing wasteful trends in a throw-away-and-buy-it-new world, and to reinforce the values of skilled workmanship, self sufficiency, and creating opportunities for economic development in the local economy, the Michigan Historic Preservation Network, partnering with the City of Kalamazoo, offered a first-of-its-kind course on the rehabilitation of historic windows. More than 20% of the housing stock in the U.S. was built before the 1950’s. Many of these homes have features which cannot be easily duplicated. In fact, the next time you walk by a large Queen Ann with a wrap-around porch or look at a building with a protruding bay with rounded windows, be aware that the we have basically lost the expertise to manufacture curved glass for these housing applications.

The intensive, two-week historic windows rehabilitation course that we developed trained 12 individuals from diverse backgrounds (age, race, gender and Michigan geography) in skills which can provide them with a good source of income. In fact, unlike most businesses, a window rehabber can start a business with a minimal investment. What most individuals don’t realize is that old windows in good repair combined with storm windows are as energy efficient as any newer window product. Additionally, rehabilitation of an older window minimizes the amount of material that goes into a landfill by keeping the original window in place. Preservation work helps the environment and the local economy, all while maintaining our connections with the past.

Our students are enthusiastic about the skills they learned and will work as preservation and rehabilitation ambassadors. We must now create enthusiasm for local solutions to our local issues. I think the place to start is with our value system. We’ve thrown enough away. We still believe in miracles –  just ask Gregory Perry, the youngest student in the program at 18 years old. It’s now time for rebuilding, rehabilitating and preserving what is valuable within ourselves and our communities.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2009 10:13 pm

    It was my good fortune to grow up in a Queen Anne Victorian house which my parents have owned for the last 40 years. My room was called the ‘Round Room’, its curved windows and roof set above the wrap-around porch. The windows of my room were heavy plate glass and I was admonished repeatedly to never slam them as they were either irreplaceable or prohibitively expensive to replace (which is much the same thing). This wasn’t always easy as they were also raised and lowered by a sometimes fickle rope system buried deep in the window’s frame. Your observation that the people with the expertise to repair this type of window (or indeed any specialised architectural feature) are rare beings is more true than ever. My mother managed to find one or two over the years and the difficulty underscored the unique challenges faced by the owner of a historic home, especially those like my mother who wanted to preserve the house’s turn-of-the-century integrity.

    • Sabra Smith permalink*
      July 20, 2009 10:35 pm

      Anne: Send me one of those wonderful pictures that shows the exterior shape of the “Round Room” and I’ll post it. And I will either cut n’ copy your comment, or you can send along whatever reminiscence you’d like. Old houses live on; the history moves forward! I still go visit places we used to live — like the 18th century Federal in Maine, and even the mid-century Navy cookie cutter housing in Connecticut!

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