A Bite of the Big Apple: When it Comes to Fenestration, New York Bustles With Innovation

By Michael Collins

When you’ve been focused on the fenestration and glass industry as long as I have, you can no longer experience cities in the same way as other people. Regular visitors see buildings, but we see doors and windows. My trip to New York was no exception.

For example, New York City is home to roughly 2,000 churches, according to city government. Many of these were built in the late 1700s and throughout the 1800s, often featuring grand facades with soaring and concentric arches. These entryways would fall flat, though, were it not for their oversized wood entry doors—many dating to the original construction of these buildings. Their stout wood door systems provide a strong and unyielding stopping point as the eye is drawn inward along the concentric arches.

Rows of Opportunity

In New York, and other urban areas, massive opportunities exist to upgrade fenestration systems, regardless of a building’s place along the timeline of the city. My visit showed that even the most high-end commercial buildings suffer from outdated, improperly installed or under-designed door, window and glass solutions. No need for an engineering degree to make this determination, since simply standing near an inadequate door or window system allows one to feel the heat blazing through the glass and into the building. I’m confident that a wintertime visit to these same spots would highlight the inevitable other side of that coin, as cold spots develop. The U.S. market for retrofit fenestration, as well as technological enhancements such as electrochromic windows, is virtually unlimited.

The Grandest Display

One of the most ingenious window solutions we encountered in The Big Apple was put into place in the early 1900s, with the design and construction of Grand Central Station. The iconic train station was designed by two top architectural firms of the day that were forced by the Vanderbilt family to collaborate on the project. One firm wanted the train station’s office workers in the east and west wings to be able to access the opposite wing through hallways, eliminating the need to cross the busy train station floor. The other firm wanted that wall of the station to feature three massive archtop windows, allowing daylighting and ventilation in the days before air conditioning. In a spark of genius and creativity, both needs were met. The window systems were designed essentially as double-paned, three-dimensional spaces in which the two massive windows were sandwiched around glass walkways. These walkways, placed to connect the fourth and fifth floors of each wing, actually pass through the gigantic windows. A patient visitor can see the occasional pedestrian crossing through, dwarfed by these 30-foot-wide and 60-foot-tall works of engineering and design art. My family has become accustomed to me staking out unusual fenestration experiences, so my patience paid off with some pictures.

New York is, of course, only one of many showcases of fenestration excellence and opportunity. Every U.S. city of size provides a similar view. Again, where others see buildings, we see unlimited opportunities.

Michael Collins is an investment banker and a partner in EquiNova Capital Partners. He specializes in mergers and acquisitions in the door and window industry.
mcollins@buildingia.com

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DWM Magazine

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