Fenestration refers to openings in a building, such as windows, doors, skylights, sloped glazing, curtain walls and storefronts, designed to permit the passage of air, light or people. These openings are called fenestra (singular) or fenestrae (plural) from the Latin word for windows and refers to any opening that allows passage from outside to inside.
In construction, fenestration refers to the arrangement, proportioning, and design of windows and doors in a building. But there is more to fenestration than simply specifying the location for windows or doors in a building. When you add openings to a building, it makes the structure weaker. This is one of the reasons why historic buildings had fewer and smaller windows than modern construction can accommodate.
Fenestration and practical concerns
Architecture is an art form that combines both design and functionality. If you look at many ancient and historic buildings, even the very impressive ones, they have few windows because fenestration would weaken the stability of the building’s walls. The more solid a structure, the more stable it would be; if you started adding openings for windows, they would weaken the stability of the building’s walls.
Thus, ancient builders struggled to erect large structures with many fenestrations or windows. With modern architecture and engineering and the advent of steel frames which are stronger and distribute weight differently, it is possible to create buildings with bigger doors and windows.
Fenestration is usually viewed as an aesthetic feature, but it also affects the performance of the building. For example, a strategically placed window can considerably reduce the usage of indoor lighting and thus save electricity. They can also be used for passive solar heating for reducing the workload on space heating systems.
How can you learn more about fenestration?
The Fenestration & Glazing Industry Alliance offers continuing education programs, online courses, and certification labels for products that meet their performance standards. FGIA was formed in 2020 by a merger of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association and the Glazing Industry Alliance.
Their Fundamentals of Fenestration program is an online introductory course. The coursework for their FenestrationsMaster Program covers a wide range of subjects including performance standards, product and material types, and code requirements. The group also has various how-to video tutorials, a library of resources on fenestration, and a section on green building information.
FGIA maintains an active involvement in codes, construction, and specification issues related to glass, windows, doors, skylights, curtain walls, and storefronts
What is fenestration consulting?
Fenestration consulting encompasses all aspects of specifying windows and doors in a building or remodeling project, but the term is often linked to projects involving the preservation of windows in historic buildings.
This requires a broader range of knowledge than creating specifications for windows and doors in a new building. From the historical perspective, the fenestration consultant needs to be knowledgeable not just about structure, but about window types and styles from the period, as well as frames, casements, hardware, and all accessory window parts.
The role of fenestration consulting in renovating historic buildings
Many factors such as poor design, moisture, vandalism, insect attack, and lack of maintenance can contribute to window deterioration, but moisture is the primary contributing factor in wooden window decay.
Water damage can come from joints or seams, or from cracked putty that allows moisture to escape. The sill of the window should be examined to make sure it slopes downward and away from the building and allows water to drain off. One solution for this, especially if the sill is flat, is to cut a dripline along the underside of the sill. It is almost invisible and will insure proper water runoff.
In evaluating windows as part of a historic renovation project, a fenestration consultant will review such things as window location, condition of the paint, condition of the frame and sill, condition of the sash, glazing problems, hardware, and the overall condition of the window.
If preservation is the primary goal, repair or restoration of the window will be first and foremost on the agenda for the fenestration consultant. Repair or restoration is almost always better than replacement, and once restored, historic windows should last at least three times longer than replacement windows. Wood has a far better insulating value than metal, and many old windows have high ratios of wood to glass, reducing the area of highest heat transfer.
And you don’t have to sacrifice energy efficiency in order to restore old windows, as the old windows can usually be made with insulated or high-performance glass options, and weatherstripping can be added to the project.
Hardware on old windows can be repaired or replaced as well while maintaining the authenticity and character of the current windows.
The skilled craftsmen at Architectural Window Restoration can bring amazing new life to old windows. They are seasoned professionals whose experience extends beyond fenestration consulting to full-scale management of your restoration plan. Contact us with information about your project, and you will receive a prompt response.