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Philibuster: Postcards from the future

Warning: this column may contain forward-looking statements.

July 5, 2022  By Phil Lewin

Climate change has resulted in governments like Canada’s developing road maps for energy usage where somewhere around the year 2050 our species will no longer be contributing to planet change and the destruction of life as we know it. They really, really desire everyone to buy into and to adopt these better performance levels.

But, will it happen? Additionally, can it actually happen or is this merely pipe dreams? 

Being a curious person and wanting to determine if the market aspirations both could and would be achieved (and we would therefore have a planet to leave to future generations) I decided to look into my crystal ball to actually see the future. Unfortunately, the crystal has acquired a stress crack and is awaiting warranty replacement. But, have no fear! I have an oddball neighbour who owns a somewhat modified Delorian which I (ahem) borrowed, knowing I could return it seconds after taking it and before he discovered it was missing. Here is what I learned on my trip to the future. 

You’ll be happy to know the world is still habitable, if not always pleasantly so, but let’s talk about windows before Patrick fires me.

VSU? Vacuum seal is still somewhere in the future. This appealing technology still costs too much compared to alternatives and durability over time is still suspect.

Ultra-thin triples (and quads, too)? Works just fine, particularly when centre lites sit in U channel spacers so they aren’t adding extra seal points that add to the risk of seal failure, However, the technology is still more expensive than regular glass, harder to handle without specialized equipment and its sole benefit is for manufacturers who have stubbornly refused to modify their designs to accommodate one to 1 1/4-inch sealed units. I should also mention that it requires krypton gas to maximize its insulation benefit and other industries have grabbed control of this resource. (Elon, Elon, Elon…) Not to mention, many suppliers are in the still unstable eastern European theatre of bad manners and violence.

Gel-filled sealed units are 2054’s darling of the R&D crowd and, while performance is great, cost not so acceptable.

Yes, you guessed it. Triple with two or three low-E surfaces (not utilizing the most internal surface, thank the stars) is still the technology of choice. You’ll be pleased to know that combinations have been perfected that actually allow you to see through the glass without thinking you’re wearing sunglasses. The biggest issue is that glass has gone through the roof in price as supply is still not able to keep up with demand. This has led to a fight to limit the size and quantity of glazed surfaces per residential unit after decades of architects trying to make us all live in glass houses and engineers doing what they can to get the market to ignore the architects. And government is…well, not much has changed there.

Speaking of government, they finally realized they don’t have enough of our money to bribe us into upgrading our windows and have resorted to focusing on tightening performance standards in codes. Since it is easier to enforce standards in new construction, the price of older homes, which is even in 2022 going through the roof, receives another jolt as supply of slightly cheaper, un-renovated housing is declining. Somewhere around 2040 a government push to actually force homeowners to upgrade windows (among other energy-using components) was tried and failed. If you think the trucker’s convoy was threatening, wait until the homeowner revolt of 2043!

I hope my trip helps you in your decision-making going forward but, remember, if I’m wrong, my research suggests that if you try to sue me inflation will wipe out the value of the award before you can collect.

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