Repair versus replace, a second look : the windows of the tower at the University of Texas at Austin



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The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Buildings promote repair rather than replacement of deteriorated features when possible. Though replacement and retrofitted elements may provide improved energy efficiency with a minor impact on appearance, there is currently no guide for objectively considering the potential benefits of such treatments for historic buildings. In an effort to provide decision-making tools to those seeking to balance both preservation and economic/ sustainability concerns, this thesis will present an approach to weighing treatment options specifically for windows, including modifications for energy efficiency that are not specifically endorsed by the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards. This thesis explores the critical decision processes involved in selecting to repair or replace deteriorated historic windows, and examines those of the Main Building Tower of the University of Texas as a case study.

The steel windows of the Tower, which was completed in 1937, suffer from corrosion and are not performing optimally in terms of energy efficiency. An understanding of the history and significance of the building, the current condition and performance of the windows, balanced against project-specific goals and an evaluation of current treatment options for historic windows helped narrow the potential options for the Tower. Including a “decision tree” that assists users in selecting an appropriate treatment, this thesis maps the considerations necessary to arrive at an informed solution, which may be applied to other projects with varying existing conditions and project objectives.