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    uPVC windows for sustainable design

    Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA)

    Green Point Design, an architectural firm based in the Victorian highland tourist town of Daylesford aims to integrate best practice in energy efficiency and materials used in its sustainable building projects and has chosen vinyl windows on several occasions in the past few years.

    Principal architect of the firm, Eric Zehrung, described the challenges of a recent house that was a contender for the 2003 RAIA Victorian Architecture Awards.

    “The design brief called for optimal energy efficiency, but the block posed some challenges that made appropriate siting somewhat difficult. For example, it was steeply sloping, exposed to harsh winter winds, and had limited access to northern sun. Not all the decisions were made easily.” Eric said.

    In aiming for a sustainable building, the architects considered issues such as embodied energy, durability, and energy efficiency of materials. Vinyl windows consistently rate five stars under the Window Energy Rating Scheme.

    “For windows we decided on uPVC which don’t require trees to be cut down, and have excellent thermal performance. Of course timber and aluminium are the other options for windows, and sometimes we don’t have a choice. For example, we designed a house down along the Great Ocean road where we discovered that the local cockatoos had a certain taste for cedar – if you used it, they ate it!” Eric explained.

    Although not the final winner of the RAIA Awards, Green Point Design’s Daylesford house achieved excellent ratings in all categories of the ESD criteria. It received 21 points and five stars in the FirstRate House Energy Rating System – one of the highest scores that the rating service had ever awarded.

    “As a policy we never endorse any particular product – we maintain a position of independence and keep an open mind. Some decisions are difficult to make, though with the windows we had the confidence that they had very good physical properties for energy efficiency.”

    Green Point Design’s approach is a good example of selection on merit – a principle supported by the Vinyl Council of Australia , where products or materials are selected on the basis of their merits in terms of performance, environmental impact and cost for the particular project at hand. Sophi Macmillan, Vinyl Council Chief Operating Officer said, “PVC’s technical properties and life cycle attributes, such as thermal efficiency and durability, lend themselves to a variety of products that may positively contribute to sustainability in construction.”

    Eric adds, “Some decisions can even be agonising and certainly ‘sustainability’ is not always clear cut. Only future generations will really know if what we’ve done is sustainable.”

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