Thursday, September 5, 2013

New Windows for the Courthouse

Nathan Mayberg reports in today's Register-Star that the Public Works Committee of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors voted recently to have Lothrop Associates, the architects for the courthouse renovation and expansion, design new windows for the building and get cost estimates: "Supervisors approve new windows for courthouse."

Many of the windows on the sides of the building were replaced a couple of decades ago with windows with vinyl panes that altered the intended fenestration. It would be lovely to have these inappropriate windows replaced with something that replicates the windows that were part of the original Warren & Wetmore design, but replacing all the windows in the courthouse seems rash, costly, and unnecessary. Having Lothrop Associates design the new windows is going to cost $36,200; the creation and installation of the new windows is expected to cost between $300,000 and $500,000.
The arguments for replacing windows are the usual ones. The original windows are thought to be not energy efficient, and they're old--more than a hundred years old. Although it has been demonstrated over and over that pre-World War II windows are superior to the replacement windows available today, and, with proper weather stripping, are as energy efficient as replacement windows, the message seems not to have reached the decision makers on the Board of Supervisors. They are convinced that new windows will save money on heating the building, but they have no concrete evidence how much money will be saved if any all. (Advocates for preserving historic windows calculate that, by the time the cost of replacement windows is earned back in energy savings, it's time to replace the windows again.) 

Another reason for spending $300,000 to $500,000 on replacement windows is noise. It seems judges have complained about outside sounds while court is in session. The principal source of this disruptive noise is lawn mowers. Hudson supervisor Rick Scalera (Fifth Ward) had a simple, cost effective solution to the noise problem: "Mow the lawn on Saturday."

New windows could push the cost of the courthouse renovation to $9.9 million--an amount that doesn't include the additional rent that would have to be paid to the Hudson City School District if the temporary courthouse must stay in the old Claverack School beyond January 2014. In light of this latest spending decision by the Board of Supervisors, Gossips recommends Sam Pratt's post, "What does Columbia County cost?"


  1. "Nayer also thinks the better insulated windows could save the county about $5,000 a year on heating costs."

    At $300,000 to $500,000 it will only take 60 to 100 years to recoup the investment (let's not quibble over inflation, value of the dollar, etc.)

    "'You can also mow the lawn on Saturdays,' Scalera said."

    And you're really only talking about six, maybe seven, months out of the year. What's wrong with Saturdays? Or, if not possible, identify who the judges are that are complaining (they're elected, remember?) and ask them where they stand on the extra costs.

    "Lothrop Associates, the project manager for the construction, will design the new windows, at a cost of $36,200."

    The window manufacturers will send out salesmen in DROVES to get this job. They spec and design the whole shooting match. Check it out. So, specifically, what is the design fee for? Perhaps the costs involved in presenting the proposed changes to the Historic Preservation Commission? [the sound of crickets]

  2. When this project began one would have thought issues like asbestos and windows as obvious issues to include.
    These 'add ons' are a red flag for 'professionalism.'