Preservation Solution? Reversible Exterior Window Shades?

What do you do in the dog days of summer? Hide from the sun, of course. Remember the end of the school year during review and finals when classrooms would be sweltering? Large pull down shades could help control the temperature and industrial size fans, but it was still hot.

Quite often when historic school buildings are renovated for modern use, the ceilings are dropped and windows altered in order to provide better climate control. So, what would you think if you saw this building?

Black River High School in Ludlow, VT

At first glance it looks like the upper sash of these windows have been blocked, presumably because ceilings are lowered. Black River High School in Ludlow, VT

Every window has the same alteration.

Every window has the same alteration.

Closer viewing.

Closer viewing.

Another angle for inspection.

Another angle for inspection.

Except, the material seems to just be pinned or screwed in from the outside. And in fact, that’s just what they are. After peering into a window, it was evident that the ceilings had not been dropped and the upper sashes remained.

Closer view.

Closer view.

Interesting, yes? The questions I’d ask is (1) Why on the outside, rather than the inside, as the facade is drastically altered still; (2) How long ago were these installed?; (3) How easy can they be removed?; (4) Is the purpose for climate control?

What do you think? Is this a good preservation solution? If it’s completely removable and reversible, does that change your mind? Does this have the same effect on the exterior that dropping the ceilings has on the interior?

And for more imagery fun, if you haven’t seen the new instagram account @preservationfail, check it out. Would you call this a preservation fail?


6 thoughts on “Preservation Solution? Reversible Exterior Window Shades?

  1. Jim Grey says:

    When the 1931 elementary school I attended was renovated, with the requisite dropped ceilings added, they used a very interesting approach: they angled the dropped ceilings up toward the windows. Here’s the room in which I attended Kindergarten waaaaay back in 1972, modernized:

    James Monroe School

    Notice how the angled ceiling doesn’t meet the top of the windows — but a gap is left so that all the light is not lost. And then there’s no need to cover the windows outside, and the facade looks as it ever did (but fresher).

    If you’re interested, here are photos from throughout the renovation that I took:

    James Monroe School
    • Kaitlin says:

      Hey Jim, thanks for the links. An interesting approach. I don’t like drop ceilings, but I suppose that’s a fair compromise if there isn’t another option.

  2. marylandis says:

    I have a friend who admits to being a member of “the level shades society,” meaning that she can’t stand everything not being exactly in its place–lined up if you will. So maybe whoever came up with this idea wanted to be sure there was a symmetrical look to the facade. If one teacher wants the blinds up, another down, another in the middle, well you see how that would create an aesthetically unsatisfactory result!

  3. Chris says:

    Not very attractive, I agree, but they are reversible. Putting the shades on the outside would be more effective in preventing heat build-up through the glass, I’d think. Although that may not be as much a concern in Vermont, but I did known a church in Virginia which had similar coverings. I remember seeing a lot of operable exterior shades in Oslo. Would have thought they’d jam in the snow or cold, but apparently people there are happy with them.

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