I believe the most loving thing you can say to a person is “Look!” And the most loving stance isn’t a close embrace, but two people standing side by side, looking out on the world together. When we learn to look, we begin to see, really see. When we begin to see, we begin to care. And caring is the portal into the moral world.

-Kathleen Dean Moore in The Pine Island Paradox

When I was thinking of what I could possibly say about windows, this favorite quote from Kathy Moore spun to mind. We hope our Net Zero house provides some new windows on the American Dream and the alternatives. And maybe these will become a moral portal through which we see our role in this sacred Universe and revision how to better care for ourselves, our neighborhood and the greater good.

We got word before Thanksgiving that our windows had left the Panama Canal, heading for Seattle. Great news! We ordered them from the Intus window maker in Lithuania four months ago. Being the final components of our air tight envelope, our Air Leak Experts, Connor and Jorge, went to work in anticipation of their arrival. It’s a substantial learning curve for all of us, so there are pencil sketches all over the walls of our cave which will likely be discovered eons hence by some New World archaeologist, searching for signs of intelligent life. Anyway, the guys have learned how to butterfly and shape the Blueskin to make tight the window cavities.

Once the Blueskin is tight, then the flashings for the windows can be set in place with caulk, caulk and more caulk. Notice the flashings extend almost 5 inches outside the Blueskin in order to allow for three inches of Roxul Stone Wool insulation, an airspace and, finally, the corrugated metal siding, which will be installed after the windows.

As we were waiting for our ship to come in 6 inches of rain fell from the sky, leaving us to wonder if we’d been asked to build an Ark! Connor and Jorge did all their work astride the Mother of All Moats!

December 2, the windows did arrive after traveling 9,505 miles from Lithuania, through the Panama Canal to the Port of Seattle. “Why from Lithuania?,” you should ask. Please keep asking this question of domestic window manufacturers, because the quality just isn’t there yet…at least in a window we can afford in our budget.

To give you an idea of the cost, the ten Intus Eforte windows and two doors are $26,000 in our budget and these are reasonably priced! As in so many other facets of our Passive House learning curve, we rely on others who make a business of knowing where to find quality products. The windows and Zehnder Ventilator were sourced through Small Planet Supplies in Eugene, Oregon. They are the supplier of Passive House window our builder trusts and they carry certified windows from three window manufacturers: Tanner windows from Germany, Euroline Windows from Canada and Intus from Lithuania.

In short, these Intus Eforte windows and door frames are major beasts! They’re 3 1/4 inches thick. It’s hard to know exactly how to describe them, but try this: think of a granite kitchen counter top, the weight and permanence of it. Think of these frames as white molded granite! The stationary south-facing windows could not be lifted by Connor and Jorge alone. They had to recruit 2 others!!! The frames are actually uPVC (u for unplasticized), reinforced with steel u-channels:   It doesn’t contain phthalates or BPA, is recyclable and can be reshaped for new purposing.

The sealed space between the glass panes is filled with argon gas. Multiple locking points on windows and doors make for a tighter seal, compared with conventional doors and windows that latch at only one point. The frames are constructed to reduce thermal bridging and triple gaskets enhance air and water tightness.

There are the three essential functions of high performance windows in Passive House construction. The Intus Windows provide:

  1. Air and water tightness:
    • Triple pane with triple gaskets
    • Argon gas between panes
    • Multiple locking and latch points: doors latch in three places!!!!
  1. Insulating Value:
    • R-Value = 7.7 (3 1/2 inch fiberglass batt is R-11)
    • U-Value = .08 = the rate a window conducts non-solar heat: lower is better
    • Single glazed U-Value = 5
    • Double glazed U-Value = 1.6
    • Construction of frames minimizes thermal bridging
  1. Solar Heat Gain (maximize heat gain in winter, minimize in summer):
    • SHGC (Solar Heat Gain Co-efficient) = .4 (fraction solar heat admitted)
    • Low-E Coatings: metallic oxide on glass surface acts like a sieve or filter
    • Some particles block long-waves (heat) while allowing short waves (light)
    • Other particles allow maximum light & minimize heat transmission

When the guys hoisted the last of 12 windows and doors into place, it started looking like a real house. Or a real castle I guess, what with the moat and all. One thing the crew discovered as soon as all was closed in: you have to open the door to talk. Two people standing, one inside and one outside, with a window between cannot hear each other, even shouting!!!!

One day, after that last window was installed and everything started to get more cozy and home-like, Jorge decided to eat his lunch on the dining room floor. He pulled his Jorge Foreman Grill (!) from his lunch bag and began to grill a grilled cheese sandwich. Some of the joy of building this house is knowing the builders. Connor and Jorge have done all the hole-plugging, windowing and finish work the last couple of months. Connor’s family lives down the street where they have a pirate ship in the back yard (a story for another day). Jorge lives across town now, but he came to this country from Honduras about 10 years ago. In August, after a 2-year wait, he was finally able to get his daughters here, one month before his eldest started school at Mac High.

Talk about a new window on the American Dream. The Donald would have us build more walls. I heard on the news that, in this month of December, as we retell the ancient tale of Love Incarnate and no room in the inn, 10,000 more refugee children have crossed the Mexican border from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, sent by their parents who cannot keep them safe at home. Over grilled cheese and window caulking, I asked Jorge if he watches the news and listens to Trump and the Republicans and what does he think. Of course he knows the news. He simply says they don’t know what it’s like. His daughters are here. The family is together. Their presence is the new window through which we can see a more kind and generous future.

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